Most of us have heard of the European Union, but what about the European Economic Area, or the European Free Trade Area? When it comes to EHIC, it’s very important that you understand which countries are part of the EHIC system, and which countries lie outside.
EHIC is a system used by the European Economic Area countries (EEA). There are 32 countries which are part of the system, including the United Kingdom. The other 31 countries are the members of the European Union, plus Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. If you are travelling to other parts of Europe such as Croatia, Ukraine or Serbia your EHIC card will be useless and you will require other travel insurance to cover you if you fall ill. If you’re heading further afield and outside Europe entirely, EHIC will not be accepted. Some countries, such as Australia, New Zealand and some smaller Caribbean islands, have separate reciprocal health agreements with the UK.
There are some other anomalies within Europe which might catch travellers out. Neither the Channel Islands nor the Isle of Man are part of the EHIC system. As a UK resident travelling to Jersey you can take advantage of a reciprocal agreement with the UK, but people using a French, Italian or Greek EHIC card won’t be able to get treatment. Similarly, the small European states of Andorra, Monaco and San Marino aren’t part of the EHIC system either – worth bearing in mind if you’re skiing in Andorra or heading to Monaco for the Grand Prix weekend and hoping to use EHIC cover to bring the cost of your travel insurance down.
You’ll need to present your EHIC when you attend A&E or go to see the GP in one of the EHIC countries, so make a point of packing your EHIC in your luggage along with other important paperwork.