A total of 150,000 Maltese citizens hold the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), with claims for medical expenses abroad since 2004 totalling €400,000, the government said yesterday.
The card is one of the benefits of EU membership as it covers citizens traveling on short visits to European member states as well as Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
Cardholders are entitled to free public medical services or to benefit the same public health services as citizens living in the country visited in cases of emergency.
The foreign ministry’s Entitlement Unit issued more than 28,000 Euro health cards this year, with 4,600 between mid July and mid August alone.
It is the Maltese government that foots the bill, with €400,000 incurred since Malta joined the EU, although more bills are still pending. Likewise, the government bills other governments for every foreign EHIC holder receiving treatment here.
In cases where Maltese citizens are billed for specific services, they are then considered for refunds by the Maltese government against receipts.
However, the card does not apply in cases where travelers go abroad with the aim of receiving medical treatment or for a medical opinion.
The ministry clarified that the card cannot be used in private hospitals or clinics and advised on getting private insurance anyway before going abroad given that not all countries offer free health services.
Individuals can apply through www.ehealth.gov.mt by using their e-ID, or download an application from www.sahha.gov.mt and sending it to the ministry’s entitlement unit. Applications are also available from local councils. The ministry said it takes at least 15 working days to process them and send the respective cards, advising travelers to think well ahead of their scheduled departure.
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