Applying for an EHIC is a top priority for anyone planning a holiday in Europe. By owning a valid EHIC, you will have access to any public healthcare required and will be treated on the same basis as a resident from the country you are visiting. Although many travelers will have done the sensible thing and already have an EHIC card, it is quite common to put it away and forget about it ‘til the next holiday we take. It’s funny that, even though we nearly always check the expiry on our passports, EHICs tend to be forgotten about. Not only that, there is a common misconception that EHIC’s do not have an expiry date. But actually, it is equally important to check the expiration on an EHIC, as it is a passport. Passports need to be renewed every 10 years whereas EHIC only remains valid for 5 years, so you need to keep a check on it. Statistics from the NHS (whom are the official government body administering EHIC cards in the UK) show that over 7 million cards expire in 2016.
Making it essential to check your EHIC well in advance of your holiday. Should you fail to renew the card in time, you could be faced with large, upfront medical fees in the event you require medical care due to accident or illness. It is important to note that despite the recent referendum and the UK’s vote to leave the EU, EHIC entitlement remains unaffected. The EHIC system will remain the same until the UK formally leaves the EU, which could be 2 years from now.
Spike in EHIC Expiry
The 7 million cards expiring in 2016 is a huge number, especially in comparison to other years, even in 2015 or 2017. Nobody is sure as to why there is such a huge spike in expiries, but it does mean travelers need to be organized and prepared. When you think about this 7 million on top of the usual volume of new applications in a year, it’s going to be no good leaving renewal until the last minute. Your application may not be processed in time and you won’t be covered on holiday. The EHIC can be renewed with anywhere up to 6 months left on its validity. The additional 5 years will simply be added on to the card. It is a good idea, if there is less than a year left on your EHIC, to make a note of it on your calendar or in your diary. This way you will remember to apply at the right time with a ehic renewal application form, which you can get online.
What if my EHIC has expired?
So the worst-case scenario is you don’t notice your EHIC has expired until you are in need of medical treatment abroad. Even though this is not ideal there is still something that can be done. In this eventuality you can apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) from the NHS. You can do this by applying over the phone to their Overseas Healthcare Team. However, you will need to catch them during their office hours and you must provide them with the details on your expired EHIC. The PRC will then get sent directly to the healthcare provider, letting them know you are eligible to be treated as an EHIC patient. Remember, only public healthcare is covered so make sure you make it clear you wish to be treated by a state doctor or hospital. By keeping a check on your EHIC and keeping it up to date, you will have greater peace of mind and will avoid any unnecessary stress.