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Health assistance abroad

The EU gives a lot of attention and consideration to health issues in many policies, i.e. social and labour policy, environment policy and Single Market.

The free movement of citizens implies the right to obtain medical care anywhere within the EU. The mutual recognition of social safety rights by Member States ensures the immediate availability of health care services in case of sickness or accident for every citizen being temporarily abroad, within the EU: the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) makes it easier to obtain all this. EU citizens being abroad have the right to be assisted exactly like national citizens of that Member State, with the exception of high specialisation services. The same regulation has been extended, by agreement, to Swiss, Norway, Island    and Liechtenstein.

EU citizens have also the right to move to another Member State on purpose to get medical assistance in case they need specialised treatments they cannot obtain in their country within a reasonable time frame. In such cases it is better to ask previously for detailed information on authorization, reimbursement limits and procedures by the national health authorities.

The European Health Insurance Card is needed to obtain treatments and to get reimbursement more quickly: it is necessary to ask for the EHIC before moving abroad. Since 2004 the EHIC has substituted other forms (such as the E110,E111), it is therefore important to have it at every travel abroad.  It covers all the necessary medical cares, while before only urgent cares were assured. The EHIC is issued by the Ministry of Economy to every person registered to the National Health System. For long stays in another Member State (for study or work reasons) the E106 Form is foreseen for those who have the residence in the foreign country.

Two fundamental principles have been introduced about health:

- Same rights for everyone: anyone in case of a temporary stay in a EU Member State can receive the same level of assistance.

- Direct access: everyone with the EHIC can go directly where he/she can get the necessary medical assistance, and has the right to be treated according to the same rules applicable to residents, with the exclusion of specialised services.

It is also advisable to have an extra medical insurance policy, covering the possible additional expenses related to the sickness or accident, like travel and subsistence.

For what concerns vaccinations: they are not requested within the EU, but there can be recommendations in particular cases, so it is better to be well informed before leaving.

It is possible to travel with medicines used on a daily basis. It is however advisable to travel with the medical prescription requested to buy the medicine, it is not always accepted in foreign pharmacies, but it can be useful to get a new prescription at a foreign medical structure.

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