Before the European Health Insurance Card was made available to the general public, United Kingdom residents, who were planning to travel to countries in Europe such as France, Germany and Spain, on holiday had to complete what was known as an E111 form to receive medical treatment for free or at a reduced cost.
The old E111 form was a large A4 sheet of paper which was the predecessor to the European Health Insurance Card. If holiday-goers wanted to access medical treatment for free, or at a reduced cost, they had to fill in the form by hand as no online alternatives for completing the form were available for the old E111 at the time. They then had to take it to their local post office and were expected to carry it around with them every time they went on holiday abroad. This was regardless of where the person was travelling to whether it was on a skiing trip in the Swiss Alps or a ferry across the North Sea to Holland. With it being a thin A4 sheet of paper, the E111 form was inevitably vulnerable to being damaged. Another notable disadvantage of the E111 form was that only one form was allowed per family. This made it very difficult for families to decide who should carry the form and made access for family members who didn’t have it on them as a result of this decision impossible. Despite its many flaws, the law dictated that the E111 form had to come on holiday with you if you were able to access medical treatment if you ended up needing to do so. In 2004 it was concluded that the paper based E111 form needed to replaced and by 2006 it was replaced with the European Health Insurance Card.
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC for short) gives holiday goers the same rights to state provided health care in other European countries for free or at a reduced cost. However, unlike the old E111 form, people can apply for a European Health Insurance Card online. After having their online application approved, applicants for the European Health Insurance Card receive their cards by post in three to ten working days and don’t need to travel to their local Post Office. The online application service gives people the option to additionally apply for a partner and up to four children on one single application. Like the old E111 form, holiday goers are expected to carry their European Health Insurance Cards on them while on holiday abroad. However, unlike the old E111 where only one form was allowed per family, each family member has their own individual European Health Insurance Card which eliminates the risk of someone not having a card in their possession due to only one family member having a card. The European Health Insurance Card is considerably smaller in size than the old E111 making it easier to carry around while on holiday and is made of plastic, not paper, making it less susceptible to damage than its predecessor.