European Health Insurance Card in Spain: what is the EHIC and how do you get one?

The EHIC is called Tarjeta Sanitaria Europea (TSE) in Spanish / Gtres
The EHIC is called Tarjeta Sanitaria Europea (TSE) in Spanish / Gtres
31 October 2018, Redaction

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is a personalised card that gives the holder the right to receive medical assistance during a temporary stay in any of the countries of the European Union, the European Economic Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway) and Switzerland.

What is the EHIC for?

Basically, the EHIC health card grants you access to healthcare anywhere in Europe, the same as you would get on the NHS. The medical bills are paid by the tax system of the country you’re from, not the country where you receive medical attention. It’s essential to have one in case of emergency when you’re on holiday or if you live in Spain.

How do you apply for a European Health Insurance Card?

You should apply for the card from the country where you’re registered as a resident. If this is the UK, you’ll have to apply through the NHS; if it’s Ireland, you can do it through the HSE.

If you are an ex-pat resident in Spain (i.e. you have a residence permit), you can apply for the card if you have a permanent or long-term employment contract. In Spanish, it is known as the Tarjeta Sanitaria Europea or TSE. You can apply for it by filling in your details on this Spanish-language website.

If you have a temporary employment contract or a work placement in Spain, you are entitled to a 90-day Provisional Substitute Certificate (Certificado Provisional Sustitutorio or CPS).

Will the EHIC be valid after Brexit?

After Britain leaves the European Union, there will be a transition period up to the end of 31st December 2020, during which time the European Health Card will still grant all the same benefits as before. After this time, it is unclear whether the EHIC will continue to be valid for UK citizens in Europe; there has been a provisional agreement that UK residents could still receive the same medical care while abroad in the EU, but this part of the negotiations has not yet been finalised and formally ratified.

What health issues does the European Health Insurance Card cover?

  • First, it is important to know that the EHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance. It doesn’t cover private healthcare or costs such as the return flight to your country of origin or the loss or theft of your belongings.
  • It does not cover your expenses if you travel for the express purpose of receiving medical treatment, only problems that may arise during your trip.
  • It doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the service will be free of charge.
  • If you receive medical help while abroad but you’re not on a holiday, but rather changing your country of residence, you don’t need the European Health Card to receive medical assistance; you must register with the EU form S1, which you can get through your insurance provider.
  • It does not cover repatriation (transfer to the country of origin).

The card is meant to cover urgent medical assistance for illnesses or accidents, but it also covers the aggravation of chronic diseases, such as asthma, heart disease, cancer, etc. If you travel while pregnant, the EHIC/TSE covers the necessary treatments, including giving birth while abroad in the EU. However, if you plan to give birth in another country, you must apply for authorisation to do so.

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