The European Health Insurance Card has come into circulation today (1st June 2004). The aim of the card is to simplify procedures for accessing the healthcare system in another Member State.
Which Member States will introduce the card?
The European health insurance card will be introduced in all Member States. Those countries that request it – particularly those that do not have a national health insurance card – can make use of a transition period up to the end of 2005. By the end of 2005 all Member States will use the card. Current indications are that Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Spain, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Estonia and Slovenia are all intending to introduce the card from 1 June, though in some of these countries it will be phased in gradually, so not everyone will have one from 1 June 2004.
What will the card be used for?
From 1 June 2004, the card will replace the paper forms used to access healthcare during temporary stays in another Member State.
Currently a new form has to be applied for each time a trip is made. In some countries, it is required to present the form to national authorities before treatment is allowed.
With the health card, it will no longer be required to complete all the forms each time a person travels abroad, and bureaucratic procedures will be greatly reduced and simplified. Treatment will be available on production of the card. The period of validity of the card will be a decision for each issuing Member State. So, for example, if a British visitor on holiday in France breaks his leg, he can, on production of the health card, receive treatment. What changes will it make to the system of co-ordination of social security? The system will remain as present, with the Member State that has treated the individual being reimbursed by that individual’s home social security institution. However, some changes have been made to simplify the existing entitlements, giving all persons certain rights to access to medically necessary care.
What the card will do is speed up the reimbursement system, by avoiding problems with incomplete or illegible forms and reducing administrative costs.
How do I get a European health insurance card?
If your Member State is one that is introducing the card from 1 June 2004, you should approach your national social security institution or its local branch to see what measures are put in place at national level to distribute the card. Can I use the card to travel to another Member State specifically for treatment?
The card will only relate to necessary care, such as breaking a leg, a tooth falling out, catching a virus, or on-going care for a serious medical condition such as diabetes. It will not cover someone who decides to have treatment for a condition in another Member State. That treatment will only be provided with the agreement of the person’s insuring institution or national social security administration. Who will be entitled to have a card?
All people who are insured under or covered by a social security system of a Member State and eligible for care in that Member State can benefit from the rules on co-ordination of social security and so are entitled to the European health insurance card.
Will the scope of the card be extended?
In long term intention is that the card will be issued with an electronic chip to greatly facilitate exchange of information between Member States and reduce the risk of error, fraud and abuse. There is no fixed timing for either of these future phases, which depends on the evaluation of the first roll-out of the card, and the development of technological systems that allow exchange of information without changes to the architecture of national systems.
Will national social security systems be able to keep their national health cards?
A number of Member States already have national health insurance cards and they have the option to incorporate the elements of the European health insurance card into their national card, or issue separate European cards.
Will the card carry personal information about the patient?
The card is about making access easier and getting reimbursements more quickly, not carrying information about health status, condition or treatments. Personal information about the card-carrier – e.g. blood type or medical records - will only be included insofar as the European health card is delivered as one side of a national card, and the national card already contains such information. Not all Member States issue national cards, and few Member States that do include personal health information.
Will the card look the same whichever Member State it is issued in? A common model with a distinctive European symbol will be used by all Member States. This is to ensure immediate recognition of the card by all those involved in the health system, irrespective of where the cardholder is staying. The obligatory information will be the minimum necessary and its presentation will be standardised to enable it to be read, irrespective of the user's language, by superimposing fields.