If you’re an EU citizen and are planning to travel to Europe, alongside your passport and euros you must remember to pack your European Health Insurance Card, or EHIC. Your EHIC will entitle you to receive medical treatment in any country in the European Economic Area and Switzerland on the same financial terms as if you lived there. This could end up saving you thousands of pounds, because without an EHIC you would be treated as a foreign national and required to pay full price for your medical treatment.
Each EHIC card will only cover one individual – you cannot get a ‘family EHIC’ – and so your children will each need their own cards. Any child who resides in the UK can be granted an EHIC.
It’s easy to apply for a child EHIC card because unlike applying for a child’s passport you do not have to provide lots of identification or certified photographs. If you are a parent and your child is aged 15 or under and is in full-time education, you can apply for an EHIC on behalf of your child. It is possible to apply for an EHIC if you are not the child’s parent, but you would need the parent’s permission to do so.
The application for a child’s European Health Insurance Card is straightforward and can be completed online. Simply provide your (the parent’s) details, such as your name, address, date of birth and national insurance number, as well as the details of your child (their name and date of birth). If you have more than one child, you will need to fill in the details of each child, because they will each be sent their own card. If your child already has an EHIC that’s about to run out of date and you are applying to renew it, you will also need to provide your child’s PIN (Personal Identification Number) which is printed on their existing EHIC card. If you don’t have the PIN, you might not be able to apply online.
Your EHIC will be valid for five years, which is the same length of time as a child’s passport is valid for, so if you apply for your child’s EHIC card at the same time as you apply for their passport then it should be easy enough to remember to renew it on time. You can renew it at any time during the six months before it is due to expire. Your child’s EHIC should arrive within about a week of your application. If only some members of your family need their EHIC renewed at a particular time then you should fill in your EHIC application form with all of the detail of all of your family (even if some have EHIC cards that are still valid) so that all of your family members remain ‘linked’ in the system but only those cards that actually need renewing at that time will be renewed.
Travel insurance is still important to buy, because your insurance policy will pay for private medical treatment (which would not be covered by your EHIC), as well as covering you for other potential losses such as lost or stolen belongings, flight delays and so on. You should be aware, though, that if you have to receive medical treatment and do not have your EHIC card, it is possible that your travel insurance policy may not reimburse you (because you could have received the treatment at a lower cost). If you do have an EHIC, you may find that your travel insurance company will waive the need for you to pay your excess if you make a claim against your policy.