What is the European Health Insurance Card and how do I apply for it?

There are many reasons for moving to European territory: the tourist attractiveness of countries, their university facilities and international exchange programs to study abroad, the thirst for discovering a new culture, learning another language, a taste for adventure, a temporary job… For example, almost 50,000 students were able to benefit from the Erasmus program in 2017, a figure which continues to increase each year, as does intra-European tourism.

This exceptional period that we are going through with COVID-19 and subsequently the decision on containment measures, unfortunately, reminds us of how essential it is to be insured in the event of unforeseen events, illnesses or accidents when traveling abroad. foreign.

In June 2004, the European Union set up the European health insurance card (EHIC) in order to simplify administrative procedures and ensure the coverage of medical care in Europe. The card provides access to health care during a stay abroad in a European country for all persons affiliated with a social security system of an EU country.

What is the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)?

Since January 1, 2016, anyone who works or resides in France on a stable and regular basis has the right to have their health costs covered by Social Security. Depending on the scheme to which the person is affiliated (general scheme, social scheme for the self-employed, agricultural social mutuality, special schemes, etc.), the terms of reimbursement may be different.

The Vitale card certifies your affiliation and your rights to health insurance. It contains all the administrative information necessary to take charge of the rights of the insured. From the age of 16, each person receives their personal Carte Vitale on which their photo appears. Note that it is also possible to request it for children over 12 years old.

In the event of temporary stays (travel, business trips, linguistic or cultural stays, etc.) in Europe, the European health insurance card takes over from the Vitale card to cover costs and reimburse them. Unlike the Vitale card, each member of a family must have one, including children.

This coordination agreement for access to the public health system applies to the 27 member countries of the European Union: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Denmark, Spain, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Czech Republic, Romania, United Kingdom (at least until 31 December 2020, during the transition period) and Sweden. It extends to the 4 Member States of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) which are Norway (except for the Svalbard archipelago), Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland.

For nationals of a third country, i.e. not belonging to the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA), and Switzerland, the EHIC cannot be used when temporary trips to Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland.

The validity period of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in France is 2 years. Deadlines vary by country. If the duration does not cover your entire stay, it will be useful to anticipate the renewal of the European health insurance card two months before the expiry date (notified on the back of the card) on your Ameli account, “my steps” section.

It is important to note that in the event of a prolonged stay abroad you risk losing your rights to French social security. The period of validity of your EHIC, like that of your children, cannot exceed the duration of your rights to health insurance.

A lost or stolen European insurance card, what to do? Thanks to the Ameli account, you can declare the loss or theft online and the new EHIC will be automatically ordered and renewed. You can also make your declaration by telephone by dialing +33 184 90 36 46 from abroad.

What is the European Health Insurance Card used for?

How does Social Security work abroad? What does the European Health Insurance Card actually cover? Are the procedures for reimbursement of expenses carried out under the same conditions for all member countries?

Here are the answers to these questions:

Thanks to the EHIC, access to the public health system will be guaranteed in the country in which you are staying. Unexpected or urgent care will be covered, but also chronic or pre-existing illnesses, pregnancy, and childbirth. If you are traveling to receive scheduled care, it is imperative that you submit a request for reimbursement via the “Portable document S2: Right to scheduled care” form to your health organization.

Please note that depending on the legislation and formalities in force in the country of stay, the methods of reimbursement for treatment differ.

In some cases, the insured will not have to pay medical expenses upfront. A part remaining at your expense, called co-payment, could possibly be paid on site as well as “daily flat rate” costs in the event of hospitalization. Also, be careful of overruns of fees charged which may not be reimbursed.

In other cases, the service is chargeable, you will have to make the advance. The request for reimbursement can be made on-site to the competent Social Security organization of the host country. For hospitalization abroad, a discharge slip issued by the hospital services will be required.

You can also complete your file to be reimbursed on your return to France with all the supporting documents, accompanied by the cerfa form n°12267*04 “Care received abroad”.

It is strongly advised not to go abroad without a European health insurance card. Let’s take the example of hospitalization for an urgent care without having the precious card, you may have to advance several thousand euros. In this situation, remember to keep your paid invoices that you must attach to your reimbursement request, as well as form S3125 “Care received abroad” from your health insurance fund.

How to get your European health insurance card?

Obtaining an EHIC card is entitled to health insurance and benefitting from medically necessary care is very simple. Indeed, the card is free, individual, nominative, and very easy to obtain from the health insurance organization. There are many ways to apply for a European health insurance card. As accessible as it is, it is necessary to anticipate the card request a few days before your departure from the host country.

How to apply for EHIC?

Application for a European card online: from your Ameli account, provided with your social security number and your secret code. If you have forgotten the password, along with your Social Security number and your date of birth, a temporary code will be sent to you via the email address you provided when creating your Ameli account. An Ameli application for smartphones and tablets is also available. On the home page, a tab “My steps in 2 clicks” offers you to order the card.

Multi-service terminals are also available at the reception points of the primary health insurance funds (CPAM). To find the location of your closest terminal to your home, on the Ameli website, type in your postal code.

You have no Internet access and no ability to move around. Contact one of the advisers by telephone on 3646 with your Vitale card, from Reunion, dial 0 811 300 974, from Guadeloupe, dial 0 810 103 646, from Martinique, dial 0 820 222 555, from abroad dial +33 811 70 36 46. You can also make the request by post.

In view of its great accessibility and its free nature, it would be a shame to deprive yourself of the EHIC for each member of the family. You will thus benefit from health cover for your stays within the European Union and possible coverage without advance payment in the event of hospitalization.

The time required to obtain the European health insurance card

Even if only 2 clicks are enough to order the card, the CPAM tells you that your card will be sent to you within 10 days. But really, how long does to have the European health insurance card? For greater caution, it is recommended to anticipate at least 20 days before departure (a minimum of 15 days).

Imminent departure and you have not received your EHIC card, what should you do? A provisional replacement certificate for a period of three months can be requested from your primary health insurance fund. This is an online document to be downloaded in your personal space.

Can you go abroad only with your European health insurance card?

Faced with the increase of more than 5.4% in world tourist flows in 2018, the report of the National Center for Care Abroad (CNSE) reaffirms the crucial need to consolidate the conditions for supporting this mobility.

Many situations today, unfortunately, demonstrate the importance of additional travel insurance.

Indeed, the EHIC does not cover repatriation assistance, private care, so-called comfort costs (single room, television, telephone, etc.), or even all of the health expenses incurred in certain countries. The remaining charge can be very high. The European card issued entitles you to health insurance within a specific framework (as a reminder: unexpected medical care, emergency). In some cases, your mutual health insurance may cover part of the costs depending on your level of coverage indicated in your contract.

Before you leave, it is essential to check the status of your health insurance coverage for a trip, particularly in the European Economic Area.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also invites travelers to have an assistance contract or travel insurance to cover all health and medical repatriation costs.

French social health protection is one of the most competitive within the EU. France devotes 9.1% of GDP to sickness and health care expenditure compared to 8.1% of GDP allocated to the European average. According to the 2018 report by the Department of Research, Studies, Evaluation, and Statistics (DREES), household out-of-pocket costs as a proportion of health expenditure are relatively low in France at 6.8% compared to other countries such as Spain (24.2%), Portugal (27.7%), Greece (35.5%) and Latvia (41.6%). The quality of the French Social Security service is exceptional, which is far from being the case in the majority of EU countries.

For some countries, additional travel insurance is therefore very strongly recommended for a temporary stay in view of the very high costs of intervention, rescue, and hospitalization.

Please note that if you are a national of a country outside the European Union and you are traveling within the territory of the Schengen area, i.e. the 4 EFTA member countries and the ‘EU with the exception of Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Ireland, Romania, the United Kingdom, for a maximum period of 90 days, the Schengen visa will allow you to move freely in each Member State of this territory. If you intend to visit a State or several States of the Schengen area, for holidays, a professional project, a business trip, a cultural or sporting event, for medical reasons, studies and research (etc. .) and you must apply for the Schengen visa. Schengen visa insurance is mandatory in the context of a Schengen visa application with a minimum cover of 30,000 euros to ensure in particular emergency medical expenses and assistance in the event of repatriation.

As you may have discovered, the EHIC has many advantages when traveling within the European Union. The easiest way is to always have it on you whenever you travel outside your country of residence. However, it is essential to also know the limits of the EHIC. It will not always be sufficient to cover your health costs abroad. It also does not cover assistance services (such as repatriation) and even less damage caused accidentally to others (civil liability). So remember to complete your coverage with good travel insurance to leave really protected!