Applying for an European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is an easy and free way to make sure that you have health coverage when traveling in European Economic Area (EEA) countries, including Switzerland. You are eligible for an EHIC if you are a UK/EU/EEA or Swiss Citizen, and the card offers a way to ensure that you have access to medical care when traveling in the EEA and Switzerland. With your card, you can access state healthcare for free or reduced costs, and it also covers treatment until your return to the UK. If you’re traveling to Belgium, there are a few things you should know about what your EHIC provides when you’re on holiday in Belgium.
Belgium offers both public and private healthcare, and the complex health system can be challenging to navigate, particularly if you are uninsured or traveling from abroad. The EHIC offers some peace of mind, as it ensures there is a structure in place to give you a certain degree of coverage.
Keep in mind that the UK EHIC only covers public costs, so be careful when arranging medical care as private costs can’t be reimbursed. There are generally fees associated with public medical care in Belgium, however, it is possible to have these reimbursed while you’re in the country. If you are at a clinic or hospital you need a receipt, and make sure you ask your doctor for an official form (attestation de soins donnés/Getuigschrift voor verstrekte hulp). At a pharmacy you need your prescription stamped, and the pharmacist should issue you with a receipt. This paperwork, along with your EHIC, entitles you to reclaim up to 75% of the costs of medical care. Some dentists will also accept part payment if you show your EHIC, but you need to check in advance. Hospitals generally charge around 15 Euros as a fixed fee, however, presenting your passport and EHIC should help avoid further fees. Ambulances are not covered by the EHIC, and are generally not reimbursed.
In order to claim your refunds you need to go to the local Sickness Fund Office (Mutualité/Ziekenfonds) with your EHIC, along with copies of your receipts and your prescriptions.
There are some treatments that can be arranged in advance before traveling to Belgium, in particular Oxygen Therapy and Dialysis. You should speak to your local provider to make arrangements for your travel, and keep in mind that there are some costs that the EHIC will not cover. The EHIC does cover any unexpected maternity care, but does not cover the costs if you are traveling explicitly to give birth in Belgium or to seek medical treatment.
In the event of an emergency, the phone number is 100 or 112 and is free of charge on any phone. While many emergency services speak English it may be helpful to have someone on hand who speaks French or Dutch. The Belgian health authority will determine what treatment is considered necessary and can’t wait until your return to the UK.