There are numerous questions surrounding the European Health Insurance Card; what it does, how to apply for one and who needs one being among the most popular queries. In short, a valid EHIC card entitles its bearer to access state healthcare when staying in a European country on a temporary basis (on holiday, for example). The EHIC card is great if you are looking to find medical help before being flown back home and means that the healthcare you receive will either be free or offered at a reduced cost. So, why do US citizens not qualify for an EHIC?
The EHIC card is able to be attained only by people in countries within the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland. The decision to offer countries under the EEA means that all of those traveling from outside of these countries will need travel insurance that covers them when requiring medical attention. That being said, it is also recommended that all of those travelers who are moving between EEA countries also carry with them relevant travel insurance. While an EHIC card does cover you for some medical assistance, it is not considered to be a straightforward alternative to travel insurance.
Something to keep in mind is the fact that a European Health Insurance Card does not cover primary medical costs in situations like mountain ski rescues in European countries. It also does not cover you for necessary flights back to your home country or lost or damaged luggage. The EHIC card is also not valid on cruises. As every country has its own rules and health systems, you should also be prepared that not all medical care will be entirely free! It is important to look into a country to country guide when traveling to have a better insight into what an EHIC card will cover.
Applying for an EHIC or renewing your existing card is vital for those people who are members of the EEA and who are looking to travel within other countries also part of the EEA. An EHIC card should also be applied for on behalf of a child under the age of 18 in exactly the same way as when applying for an adult. If you are looking to apply for your own EHIC or want to replace an existing E111 card (the old version of the European Health Insurance Card) then do so here: https://www.ehic.co.uk/.
Your EHIC card can be used for existing medical conditions such as asthma, for example, and is ideal should you require routine maternity care when abroad. The EHIC card should not be mistreated and it is not recommended for you to travel specifically for giving birth abroad or for those specifically wanting to seek medical treatment. If used as a way of maintaining your peace of mind when traveling throughout Europe, you will find the EHIC card to be invaluable should any medical emergency occur.