Getting Health Care Abroad 

As a patient in the EU, you can seek medical treatment in another EU country and may be entitled to have the costs of your treatment reimbursed by your home country. It covers healthcare costs, prescription and delivery of medications, and medical devices. The reimbursement will be up to the costs of that treatment in your country. In the EU countries where care is free, patients need to be informed about their reimbursement.

You have the following rights:

  • If you are entitled to treatment in your home country, then you have a right to be reimbursed when you receive it in another country.
  • Your level of reimbursement will be up to the costs of that treatment in your home country. If the treatment is cheaper abroad, the reimbursement will reflect the real price of the treatment.
  • You may choose either a public or private healthcare provider.
  • For some treatments (certain in-patient or highly specialised services) you may be required to get authorisation from your own health system before receiving the treatment abroad.
  • You have the right to be informed by the country of the reimbursement tariffs.
  • If you are facing a medically unjustifiable waiting time for treatment at home, then authorisation must be granted. In this case, you may even be entitled to a higher level of coverage for your healthcare costs.
  • In some cases, you need to ask a prior authorisation: 
  • Healthcare which involves overnight hospital stay
  • Highly specialised and cost-intensive healthcare
  • Serious and specific cases relating to the quality or safety of the care provider by the provider itself.

You can ask permission in advance from the national health authority in charge of reimbursement. Member states are required to set out publicly which treatments are subject to such authorisation.

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is a free card that gives you access to medically necessary, state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in any of the 27 EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, under the same conditions and at the same cost (free in some countries) as people insured in that country. It means that it covers any unforeseen treatment when you’re temporarily abroad. Cards are issued by your national health insurance provider.

For more information, please contact your national contact point and visit the European Commission webpage on cross border care, guide on patients’ rights, and the Directive 2011/24/EU on patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare. In 2021, the European Commission has launched an evaluation of the Directive and may decide to revise the rules patients’ rights in cross border healthcare.