Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Between a rock and a hard place

You will have seen in the press information about the changes that Spain has made about our eligibility to obtain an EHIC card.

Changes to the EHIC system will come into effect on March 1, 2010.

These changes will affect those persons who are in receipt of a state pension or long-term incapacity benefit who receive free healthcare in Spain under the current E121 system.

At present the health cover provided by the Spanish authorities under this system is paid for by the UK government, under the changes it will mean that people who are in receipt of this service will have to obtain their EHIC cards from the relevant UK authority.

Cards currently being issued will only last until the end of February.

Expat residents who receive healthcare under other agreements will not be affected by the changes and will be entitled to EHIC cards valid for one year from the date of issue.

The only criteria for obtaining one of these cards is the applicant must hold a valid SIP healthcard and have proof of identity.

If I am reading this correctly, those of us who enjoy free health care as pensioners will no longer be able to get an EHIC card to entitle us to free treatment when travelling to other European countries e.g. the UK.

The suggestion seems to be that you should get your EHIC card from the country where you obtain your pension i.e. the UK.

That's OK because you can apply for a card online at this address:-


but then you read the section - Who Can Apply? which states:-

If you are a UK resident, you are entitled to medical treatment that becomes necessary, at reduced cost or sometimes free, when temporarily visiting a European Union (EU) country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. Only treatment provided under the state scheme is covered.

However, to obtain treatment you will need to take a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with you. Please note: Not all UK residents are covered in Denmark, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. Click on the 'Health Advice for Travellers' link below, if you are unsure whether you are covered.

People who are ordinarily resident in the UK are entitled to a UK-issued EHIC. It is not valid for people who are going to live abroad. There are some restrictions, depending on your nationality:

  • UK and other EU nationals, stateless persons and refugees are covered in all EEA countries and Switzerland. However, if you are a national of Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, your EHIC is not valid in Switzerland.
  • Nationals of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are covered in all EEA countries but not in Switzerland.
  • People who do not have UK, EU, EEA or Swiss nationality are covered in all EU countries but not in Denmark, Norway, Liechtenstein or Switzerland. In Iceland, these people are covered for emergency treatment only.
  • Swiss nationals are covered in all EU countries but not in Liechtenstein or Norway. In Iceland they are covered for emergency treatment only.
  • Dependants of EEA nationals who are ordinarily resident in the UK are covered in all EEA countries and Switzerland, irrespective of their own nationality.

So we can’t get an EHIC card here in Spain after February next year and we can’t get one from the UK as it stands at the moment. So what happens if we fall ill in another EU country? Unless this situation is sorted out, I imagine that we will be asked to pay for treatment.

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