Can I Go Abroad To Receive Medical Treatment Using My EHIC?

Medical tourism has become increasingly popular in recent years, particularly as prices for cosmetic surgery across Europe have dropped in comparison to the UK and America. Your EHIC card is designed to be used in a medical emergency while you are travelling. Therefore, it does not cover the cost of cosmetic for surgery abroad or travelling specifically to undergo a medical procedure abroad.

In some instances, you might be able to access NHS-funded medical treatment abroad using your EHIC card. This is only possible in countries belonging to the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland. You will only be able to receive this treatment if you meet certain eligibility criteria and go through two already specified routes which are explained below:

The first route is known as the S2 route. It is a medical treatment funding arrangement which is established between the NHS and a state healthcare provider in another country. Even if you meet eligibility criteria and are able to receive medical treatment abroad, your EHIC may not make you exempt from paying a proportion of the costs. This varies depending on the country where treatment is being sought, so you will need to complete thorough research to know exactly what costs you could face.

The second route for medical treatment abroad is the EU Directive route. This is an arrangement for funding between you and the NHS, which means that you will have to pay any upfront costs for medical treatment and then you will be refunded by the NHS. An extensive, but not exhaustive, list of the medical procedures available abroad using the EU Directive route is available on the NHS website. It includes serious medical procedures such as spinal surgery and treatment for heart disease. Again, you’ll need authorisation from the NHS that you are able to receive medical treatment abroad and be refunded for the expense prior to having the procedure.

So, unless you have explicit permission and approval from the NHS, you will not be able to go abroad for medical treatment of any kind using your EHIC card. There are usually exceptional circumstances for treatment to be authorised and there are a considerable number of criterion which must be met prior to travelling for medical treatment. Even then, patients may not be exempt from paying for their treatment or surgery.

If you are considering medical treatment in Europe regardless of the cost, be sure to do your research beforehand. There are many risks associated with receiving medical treatment or cosmetic surgery abroad, including language barriers, the facilities failing to meet the required standards and failure to receive adequate aftercare when you return home. It is important to remember however, that the European Health Insurance Card will only cover you for emergency medical treatment that you receive abroad – not planned medical treatments.