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Europe wears its heart on a card

EU citizens issued with health insurance ID from 1 June

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European citizens will be issued with pan-European health insurance cards from 1 June, the EC announced today. The cards could replace national health insurance cards, if member states so choose, but are more likely to be issued separately.

For now, the card will merely be an identifier, but the EC says that future versions of the card may well include a chip. This will greatly facilitate exchange of information between Member States and reduce the risk of error, fraud and abuse".

When this happens depends on how the first roll-out goes, and "the development of technological systems that allow exchange of information without changes to the architecture of national systems".

The cards will replace the current E111 forms, which have to be completed every time a trip is made (see update below). These cover emergency and ongoing medical treatment of serious condictions such as diabetes.

Countries already signed up to issue the card are: Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Spain, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Estonia and Slovenia. These will introduce the card on 1 June or opt for a gradual implementation.

The Taoiseach and President of the European Council, Bertie Ahern urged remaining member states to sign up as soon as possible: "The Health Insurance Card is a very tangible manifestation of an initiative by the European Union which would have real, practical benefits for its citizens." ®

Update

The implementation of the E111 forms varies from country to country. In the UK, for instance, once a form is issued it is valid for life, provided it is not lost. In Ireland, they are issued with a one year validity. Our thanks to vulture eyed readers for clarifying.

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