What is the European health card and how to apply for it?

With a little advance planning, you can protect your health when traveling and avoid unexpected medical bills . The European health card is free and entitles you to free or reduced-cost treatment in certain European countries. Find out in this article how to apply for or renew a European health card.

Why do I need the European health card?

The European Health Insurance Card is valid throughout the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland . The EEA is made up of the member states of the European Union plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

When you use the card to receive public health care in Europe, you do not have to overpay your insurance policy . The European health card also covers pre-existing medical conditions that are not covered by your European travel insurance . For example, if you need to receive treatment for a heart condition in the UK, that treatment will be available if you need it when you show your card. However, you cannot specifically travel to any country in Europe to receive treatment using this card.

In the event that you are pregnant and need treatment, your European health card will cover both routine and emergency treatment while you are abroad.


Although it is worth having the European health card, keep in mind that health systems vary from one country to another and it is very likely that they are different from the Spanish system. The European health card does not provide private medical treatment abroad, or other services such as rescue at sea or in the mountains, an emergency flight home or accommodation if due to an accident or illness you have to delay your trip back home. Some countries may even charge cardholders for ambulance services, doctor visits, prescriptions, or specialized medical costs. Prices may vary and you may need to make a contribution to start your treatment. You should bear in mind that there are some areas within the EEA where the European health card is not valid, such as the Republic of Cyprus.

When does the European health card expire?

The European health card is valid for two years, after that time you must renew it, for that you must be aware of the renewal date, since without the card it could be expensive to receive medical treatment. The expiration date is shown on the card, you can renew it up to six months before the expiration date.

How to request the European health card?

You can request the European health card online and without having to use a digital certificate, except in cases where you need to certify why you have to transfer your health benefits abroad, for example, if you apply for it for the first time, if you are unemployed, if You collect a non-contributory pension or if you have recognized the right to health care because you are a person with an income limit, in these cases you will have to go and request it in person at one of the Social Security Information and Attention Centers.