February 25, 2024

Your healthcare in Europe: Everything you need to know

Your go-to guide for how to access healthcare in Europe. We cover what you’ll need for shorter stays, the pros of health insurance and how to access your new European country’s national healthcare system.

You’re planning to buy a dreamy European ski chalet! But in between finding your favourite apres-ski bar and choosing what colour to paint your new bedroom, one of the essential things to think about is how you are going to access healthcare abroad. This article is specifically designed for British citizens hoping to buy a ski home in Europe.

Will the UK GHIC cover me?
As a UK citizen, you are entitled to a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which will cover you for trips to Europe of less than 90 days. This is a replacement of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) – if you still have one, you can use it until it expires. This lets you get necessary state healthcare in EU countries, on the same basis as residents of that country.

It may be free or require an equivalent payment to that which a local resident would pay. It would cover: emergency trips to A&E, routine maternity care, and treatment for some long-term healthcare conditions. Notably, the UK GHIC does not cover ski or mountain rescues. Find out more here.

Health insurance:
Given that skiing comes with risks as well as thrills, relying on a UK GHIC may not fill you with confidence. Plus, with national healthcare systems varying in quality, many prefer the assurance provided by having health insurance.

Despite the UK no longer being part of the Schengen Area, you can find health insurance that covers healthcare both in EU countries and the UK.

Furthermore, even if you’re someone who skis as smoothly as you walk and never catches a cold, having health insurance has become part of the criteria for some of Europe’s most popular long-term visas. In Spain, health insurance with full coverage is a requirement of the digital nomad, the golden and the non-lucrative visas.

You can check visa requirements for the visa you are after at SchegenVisaInfo.

What kind of coverage can I get?
The type of health insurance that you get is really dependent on your needs and those of your family. For example, health providers ALC’s most popular package is the Bronze+ Plan, covering the essential costs of in-patient, day-patient and out-patient treatment.

For a 50-year-old based in France the price of this would be £262 per month. Costs do increase for pre-existing health conditions.

An S1 form:
Are you a British citizen planning to spend your golden years in a European ski chalet? When you leave the UK, you will have to inform your GP and you will no longer be entitled to free medical care.

However, if you are going to be drawing a UK-based pension from an EU country or Switzerland, then you can fill out an S1 form. This will give you access to the national healthcare system in your new country, funded by the UK.

Posted workers can also fill out an S1 form. It will not give you free healthcare as you would have had in the NHS but will enable you to access the national healthcare system as a citizen of that country would. Find out more here.

Accessing national healthcare for long-term stays:
If you are planning to move to your European ski chalet full time (and you are not a retiree or a posted worker), it may still be possible to register for your new country’s national healthcare system. For example, in Italy, if you are employed or self-employed you can register with the national healthcare system, this is called ‘iscrizione obbligatoria’.

If you are not working or paying social security, then you can gain access by paying a yearly fee (‘iscrizione volontaria’). See more here.

In France, if you have been a resident for three months, then you can apply for PUMa (Protection Universelle Maladie), this will give you access to the healthcare system on the same basis as a French citizen. To start the process, you will need to visit your local CPAM office. If you are employed, you can do this as soon as you start work.

Once registered, you’ll get a ‘Carte Vitale’ (a national health insurance card), which you can take to the pharmacy, doctor, or specialist. In the interim, it is a good idea to be covered by private health insurance.