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What is a European Health Insurance Card?, picture of a passport and european health insurance card

For any European residents looking to travel, work, or study within the same continent, knowing what you’re covered for in the event of emergency medical care can be confusing. Will a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) suffice to cover any necessary treatment, or is private health insurance required as well? Here, we’ll take a closer look at the EHIC and cover its pros and cons so you can be informed about your rights before you travel.


●   So, what is a European Health Insurance Card?

●   How Much Does a European Health Insurance Card Cost?

●   Is an EHIC a Replacement for Health Insurance?

●   What Does the European Health Card Cover?

●   Where Can the EHIC be Used?

●   Conclusion

So, what is a European Health Insurance Card?

The European Health Insurance card (EHIC) entitles European citizens or those working or studying within the continent to receive free healthcare when travelling – or at least pay reduced costs.

Anyone with an EHIC needs to keep their card on them at all times, similar to your bank card or passport. Should you require emergency treatment whilst travelling within Europe, you’ll also need to keep any records of your visit to a healthcare facility. These will include any receipts, prescriptions, or bills. Some charges are unavoidable, but in most cases of emergency treatment, you’ll at least be entitled to claim back some of the costs.

The European Health Insurance Card is being phased out following the UK’s Brexit vote. This is in favour of the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). If you’ve never had an EHIC or your existing card has nearly expired, you must apply for a GHIC card instead.

How Much Does a European Health Insurance Card Cost?

Both the EHIC and its replacement – the GHIC – are free to anyone eligible. This includes those residing in Malta who are covered by state healthcare regulations. If you’re looking to apply for a card for the first time or need to update your existing card, you can apply directly through the NHS. Avoid any other means of applying as independent operators will likely charge a fee for their service. 

Maltese residents can only apply for a EHIC, this can be done online or download the MT Health Entitlement mobile app via the Google or Apple app store. Alternatively, the application can be accessed through the Maltapps mobile application under Health & Community Care.

Is an EHIC a Replacement for Health Insurance?

In a word, no. Both EHICs and GHICs will cover certain aspects of healthcare, but not every eventuality. As a result, it’s an excellent complement to having private insurance but not a replacement. For example, if you fall seriously ill and require repatriation back to Malta, an EHIC won’t cover such an occurrence.

Furthermore, different EU states have differing rules regarding their own healthcare systems. Fall ill in one particular country, and you may be covered under the terms of your EHIC. However, fall ill elsewhere and your card may not cover your costs.

For peace of mind and insurance to cover most eventualities, considering private health insurance for yourself and your family is a must.

What Does the European Health Card Cover?

The European Health Card and its GHIC replacement cover what is deemed to be emergency healthcare. This is a type of treatment that you cannot postpone until you return home. However, the ultimate decision regarding whether that healthcare is considered an emergency lies with the country in question. 

State healthcare differs in quality across Europe and in terms of what’s provided for free within the boundaries of a particular country’s healthcare system. It’s worth checking out the specific rules of the EU country you’re travelling to before you go and then discern whether you feel sufficiently covered.

An EHIC won’t cover you for medical tourism, such as travelling precisely for a particular pre-planned treatment. The key word here is ‘emergency’ – the card is designed to give you the same healthcare rights as residents of the European nation you’re visiting. If citizens of a particular country have to pay for a specific treatment, you’ll have to also, even if that treatment is free elsewhere.

Where Can the EHIC be Used?

The EHIC can be used across any state within the European Union. In alphabetical order, the union includes the following:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

It can also be used in Switzerland if you’re a UK, Swiss national, or EU citizen. Neither an EHIC nor a GHIC can be used in Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Norway. This means private insurance will be necessary for most persons visiting those nations.

Remember, if you’re travelling with a partner and/or dependents, they’ll need an EHIC or GHIC of their own. You should also consider a family health insurance plan if coverage is needed beyond the confines of the European card.


To summarise, a European Health Insurance Card is a must-have for anyone travelling within Europe. But it’s important to remember that it won’t cover every eventuality. Be sure to consider an additional form of health insurance besides owning an EHIC to ensure you’ll have the necessary cover while you’re away from home.

Begin your own search for the right plan by looking through our clear and transparent benefits on our health insurance page.

GasanMamo Insurance is authorised under the Insurance Business Act and regulated by the MFSA.