Last updated 1st May 2023
In all the excitement of visiting or moving to Tenerife, it is easy to overlook one of the most important things you may need (but hopefully never will!)….Medical Cover!
Many travellers and Expats tend to take for granted the availability of medical care in their home countries. But how do you ensure your medical needs are suitable covered whilst In Tenerife?
There are basically 3 routes to obtaining medical cover in Tenerife:
- Obtaining care under the Spanish national health system. This is only available to non-Spaniards under certain circumstances, such as having an employment contract, or being properly registered as self-employed, or being unemployed but having accrued rights due to your previous employment spell(s), or having pension rights in Spain (or having transferred and re-registered your foreign pension rights here);
- Taking out Health Insurance (or Travel Insurance for short-term visitors). There are many providers and options for private health insurance in Tenerife, so care must be taken to study the small print and ensure that the cover offered is right for you.
- Obtain an EHIC card (or GHIC card for UK Nationals).
If you are an EU national or legal EU resident, a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) allows you to receive state-paid healthcare in any other EU country as well as in Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. An EHIC grants you the same level of cover as citizens of any other EU country in terms of state-provided health insurance. In many cases, this means you will receive free healthcare.
Since Brexit, the U.K. has introduced its own version of the EHIC card, the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). This card works in the same way to its predecessor, allowing UK citizens to access state healthcare whilst visiting EU countries.
Officially, the EHIC and GHIC cards are a not intended as a substitute for travel insurance and cannot be used for planned medical treatment in the EU. However, many travellers find that they cover most emergency situations where medical cover is likely to arise during short trips to Tenerife.
How Does the EHIC Work?
If you have an EHIC, then when you travel to other EU countries, you will benefit from the same healthcare rights as citizens of that country. If citizens or legal residents of that country receive free healthcare, you will also receive treatment free of charge. Or even where fees do apply for any procedure or coverage, those fees are usually substantially reduced.
In What Countries Can the EHIC be used?
- For EU citizens, you can use the European Health Insurance Card in all countries of the European Union, as well as in Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.
- For legal EU residents (but not a citizen), then your EHIC card will work in EU countries but not in Denmark, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
- For U.K. Nationals, you can use your GHIC in all EU countries, but not in Denmark, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
You can apply for the EHIC if:
- You are a citizen of an EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland, and you are registered with that country’s public health insurance.
- You are a legal resident of an EU State and you are registered with public healthcare.
- You are travelling for a short period of time, such as for tourism.
How to Obtain your EHIC card?
To obtain an EHIC, you must apply to the relevant healthcare authorities in your country of residence. If they are unable to issue an EHIC at short notice, then they should issue you with a provisional card.
The application procedure will vary depending on your country of residence, but an online search for EHIC (or GHIC in the UK) will quickly reveal the details..
Will they charge me for an EHIC / GHIC?
No, if you apply directly with your state healthcare provider and avoid re-seller websites, the card will be issued for free.
What Medical Care Does the EHIC Provide?
The EHIC covers all necessary treatment by public healthcare providers. This includes doctor’s visits and doctor-directed hospitalisations (small daily fees may apply), prescription medication and ambulances. N.B. as Spain’s national health system does not include free dental care for working-age adults, neither will your EHIC card.
N.B. Some services are not necessarily free and may be subject to fees (often reduced or subsidised), depending on the country. Sometimes, you have to pay at the time of treatment and then claim a refund afterwards.
Does an EHIC Card Cover Pre-Existing Conditions?
If you have a pre-existing medical condition and you need treatment for that condition whilst in Tenerife, the EHIC card will cover the costs. Make sure that you seek treatment in a public hospital or consult with a doctor operating under contract with the national healthcare fund, as private clinics and hospitals will not typically accept the EHIC card on the same terms.
Does the EHIC Cover Me whilst Pregnant?
An EHIC will cover basic maternity care or an unplanned/premature birth during your visit to another European country, but it will not cover you if it is established that you travelled abroad just to deliver your child in your chosen country.
What is Excluded from the EHIC?
An EHIC card will not cover any of the following:
- Planned medical treatment. If you travel to another EU state specifically to receive medical treatment or consult with a particular doctor, coverage will be refused.
- Planned birth. As stated above, if you travel to another EU country with the main intention of giving birth there, the EHIC card will not cover you.
- Private Medical treatment.
- Cosmetic or Esthetic surgery.
- Repatriation or evacuation costs.
How To Use the EHIC?
At the moment of arriving for treatment, simply present your EHIC card to the healthcare provider. Depending on the country, you may need to pay a fee, or treatment may be completely free.
Does an EHIC Card Expire?
The duration of your EHIC depends on the country that issued it. In most cases, it is valid for between 1 to 5 years. The card itself usually shows the expiry date.
How to Renew an EHIC?
The process to renew your EHIC is basically the same as when you first applied. You can typically apply or renew online, by post, or in person. The renewal process should however be quicker/simpler given that they already have your details registered from the first time.
What are the Differences Between EHIC/GHIC and Travel Insurance
An EHIC only covers medical treatment by public healthcare providers, so if you need to be admitted to a private hospital, you would have to shoulder the entire cost yourself. Travel health insurance, on the other hand, covers medical treatment in both public and private hospitals as well as additional trip-related losses. The EHIC also doesn’t cover repatriation, nor items such as travel delay cost, lost items etc.