Family holidays are supposed to be relaxing and carefree, but anyone who has ever travelled with babies and small children knows how quickly children can become ill or have an accident. Many parents will have heard of the EHIC system, which gives European citizens access to state healthcare across Europe at greatly reduced rates or free of charge, but there is still a great deal of confusion about how the system works and who needs to apply for the cover.
EHIC is not automatic
Many parents who have heard of the EHIC system simply think that their passport will suffice as identification, and that showing a British passport in a French or German state hospital will allow them to access care. This is not the case. EHIC cards are always required to access state healthcare, except in the Republic of Ireland. This is because there is not an exact crossover between people who are eligible for a British passport and people who are eligible for EHIC. The application for your EHIC cover can be done online and only takes a few minutes, but has to be done before you travel and not while sitting in the German doctor’s waiting room or in a French A&E department.
Children Need Their Own Cards
The main confusion around babies, children and young people and EHIC stems from the fact the system which EHIC replaced, the old E111 certificate, was issued to a family and listed every member of the family on one piece of paper. This system worked well for family holidays, but less well in other situations where a parent needed to travel on business at the same time as one of the children were off on a school trip. It also didn’t account for more complex situations where children may be eligible for reciprocal healthcare and parents may not be due to their residency status. When EHIC was introduced in 2004, it was decided that everyone should have their own card in order to make things simpler. So when you are applying for EHIC, you need to list every member of the family. When applying you don’t have to fill in a separate form or online application for everyone, but you must list everyone you need to be covered, and give all the basic details such as name, address, date of birth and NHS or CHI number, which you can obtain from your GP.
It’s possible to book holidays and even flights for children who have not been born yet, only completing the child’s full name, date of birth and gender once they have been born. This cannot be done with EHIC. In order to apply for EHIC cover you need the child’s unique NHS number (CHI in Scotland or H&C number in Northern Ireland) and this is allocated to the child in hospital when they are born. The number will be on the paperwork you are given from the hospital, or in the “red book” where your baby’s immunisations are recorded.