As a resident of the EU traveling and skating across Europe, the minimum you can do to ensure that you will get the required medical attention in case of an accident, without ending up with a huge hospital bill, is to have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
In this post, I’ve compiled all the information you need to know about EHIC. Read through to know where to get yours, how it works and what it actually covers.
Be a good friend and share this post with your skate buddies, so that they can also learn about the EHIC card for themselves.
Why you shouldn’t travel without the European Health Insurance Card
The European Health Insurance Card allows you to receive medical treatment in most European countries as you normally would with your national health insurance card in your country of habitual residence.
It is issued totally free of charge and the only criteria of getting one is to be insured or covered by a statutory social security scheme in your own country.
A passport, an ID card or a national health insurance card are often not enough to get “free” health care in a foreign country. That is why you need EHIC.
Basically, the EHIC card is a document which proves that you are covered by a statutory social security scheme in your own country. If you don’t have it, the foreign hospital providing you with health care can’t know if you’re covered or not. So, as a precaution, they will charge you for the treatment.
Where to get your EHIC card
The EHIC card is issued by your national health insurance provider. You can obtain yours by visiting their office personally, as well as ordering it online on their website by filling an application form.
Follow these 3 steps to locate the correct EHIC application form for your country:
- Visit the European Commission website
- Find your country on the list of flags and click on it. You will be presented with a hyperlink to the official website of your national health insurance provider.
- Click the link to visit your national health insurance provider’s website.
- Once you’re there, look around for “Apply for your card” button (or something similar) and follow their instructions (fill in the form and submit).
Get your EHIC card on time (!)
In my country, it’s advised to order the EHIC card at least four working days prior to a trip.
In case if you forget to order your card in time, you can still visit your national health insurance provider and ask for a certificate which will temporarily replace the EHIC card.
List of countries where EHIC has you covered
The European Health Insurance card is valid in 28 member states of the EU and 4 member states of the European Free Trade associations (EFTA). This includes all of the European countries with the addition of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
- The European Union (EU)
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
- The European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland
Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein (EEA countries).
However, it does not apply to The Chanel Islands, Isle of Man, Monaco, San Marino and The Vatican, but these are not popular skate destinations anyway.
Furthermore, if your EHIC for some reason is not recognised by the authorities in the European country you are visiting, you can request your home insurer to call the doctor or the hospital where you are treated.
Know what you can expect in a foreign country
In case you will need to use your European Health Insurance Card on a skate trip, you will receive state-provided healthcare treatments. This will be provided in the same manor as it would be to a local resident.
EHIC also covers treatments of chronic or pre-existing medical conditions, but be sure to consult with your insurance company before your trip.
EHIC does not cover rescue or repatriation services (flying you back home) nor does it cover dental treatment that can be delayed until you get back. It also does not cover any travel related incidents such as stolen property or lost luggage.
This means that EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance.
It would be best to also think about getting a valid travel insurance policy before you start your trip.
Because health care systems vary depending on the country, you should check with your national health care provider to find out what exactly is covered in the country you wish to visit.
Important tips that can save you loads of hassle in case of an injury
First and foremost make sure you have your European Health Insurance Card and your personal documents (passport or identity card) on you at all times.
This is important especially when you’re attending a longboard event in a foreign country.
Often times at the events skaters spend a long time waiting in the ambulance for their friends to finish their run, go to the campsite/hotel and search for their documents and EHIC.
Save yourself the hassle and be responsible, have it with you on the track.
Best thing to do is to tell your friends where you keep your documents. A good idea is to also have a responsible friend in charge of the car keys (they may need to drive or follow you to the hospital).
The next important tip is to always have some spare cash at hand.
It is true that the EHIC insures you get free treatment, but that’s not always the case.
In some countries you may be expected to pay the bill upfront. You can however claim a refund once you get back home. In this case, save the receipts and all of the paperwork. Once you’re home safely, get in touch with your insurance company.
Moreover, you may also be asked to pay a percentage of the state-provided treatment. This means you may also need to pay for prescription costs, also known as co-payment. This may not be refundable.
As mentioned previously, the card is free, so please note that if you order it through a business or a non-official agent who wants to charge you for it, it’s probably a scam.
A very useful tip for those who already have their European Health Insurance Card is to always check the expiration date before you start your trip. The EHIC can be valid anywhere from 1 month to 5 years, depending on your health insurance status.
- Order your European Health Insurance Card at least 4 working days prior to your trip
- Check the expiration date before you leave home
- Always and I mean always, have your documents and EHIC on you
- Let your skate buddies know where you keep your documents
- Always carry some spare cash on you – you might need to pay for your treatment
- EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance – it’s best to get additional insurance
- If you find yourself in an emergency during you skate trip in Europe, dial 112. This is the European emergency number and is valid in all EU/EEA member states
That’s it for now…
If you have any questions or think something’s missing, let us know in the comments below. Also help you friends learn about EHIC by sharing this article with them.
Thank you for reading, now go out and skate and keep it safe!
Disclaimer: Please note that you should double check all the rules according to your country and inform yourself properly via the official EHIC webpage. Information provided in this article can eventually become outdated in case if EHIC regulations change. We will make sure to check and update the website with the new information. The featured image of this post represents a Slovenian version of EHIC and has been altered in order to protect the privacy of the card owner.
Additional editing by Mihael Zadravec.