In Tenerife

EU tackles Spain over various refusals by hospitals to accept European Health Card (EHIC )

Not a specifically Tenerife story, but one which will be of concern to many. There have been several reports of a valid EHIC – European Health Card – being refused in Spanish hospitals with a credit card demanded in its place, and with patients told to reclaim the money on their insurance. Now, the EU is taking legal action against Spain over the flouting of regulations that require the card to be accepted. The EU Commission has formally asked Spain for comment, a required first step for a legal process which could eventually lead to a sanction. This is thus confirmation that the cards must be accepted, and so if anyone finds theirs refused, they should ensure that the rejection is officially recorded.

The EHIC is explained by the EU HERE. It is a free card that provides access for EU nationals to medically necessary, state-provided healthcare during a temporary visit to any other EU country, as well as Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Treatment or medication is free for the patient at the point of use, with costs reclaimed by the visited nation from the home country of the patient.

16 Responses to EU tackles Spain over various refusals by hospitals to accept European Health Card (EHIC )

  • Janet as i understand it there are three diffirent types off hospital in Spain the first being totaly free as in the national health service in the uk a mix off free and private and totaly private.
    People need to be aware off this never having the need to visit a hospital in Tenerife i wondered what ones in Tenerife should be accepting your EHIC card. David

  • Good question, David. My understanding is that El Mojón, above Los Cristianos, which is a state hospital, should accept the cards without question. It is currently just an A&E (and outpatient) unit, however, so any referral would be to one of the two state hospitals in the north (Candelaria and HUC – despite the name, they are both on the outskirts of Santa Cruz on the TF5). This hospital in El Mojón is the hospital that there is so much fuss about – it will eventually become the main southern Tenerife state hospital.
    There are two other main hospitals in the south, namely Hospitén Sur (the so-called “green hospital) in Playa de las Américas and the Quiron (formerly the USP) Costa Adeje in San Eugenio. The first of these is mixed: it sees casualty attendees as state patients or private, and then transfers state patients who need referral to one of the north hospitals; private patients are treated in-house. EHICs should be accepted here for initial consultations on an A&E basis. The San Eugenio hospital is fully private and I wouldn’t expect EHICs to be accepted.

  • Janet , wrt the “Green Hospital” – I have had several experiences via my wife an elderly tourist friend and a resident worker.
    My elderly friend (82) took ill and we organised an ambulance to take her to Green hospital where she only had her bank card (no EHIC) as she was insured via her bank account – they deducted €300 Euros initially before admitting her , the claimed they couldn´t trace her bank – RBS !- the took €1000 a day for 3 days treatment .She eventually got her money back via her bank Insurance .
    My wife had occasion to gohaving broke her wrist in a fall and presented her EHIC card and they tried to insist she had insurance and must use it -my wife refused , saying she had no insurance ( she did but was adamant that they treat her under EHIC) – they admitted her and treated her, with operation for 2 days but several times, in her ward bed ,the ” front of house staff ” phoned her harassing her for her insurance details . The actual medical staff could not have been more pleasant and helpful and even issued a permission to fly document free !
    Another friend who works here and pays her social also went there in last few weeks with a broken wrist and they tried to demand €200 up front despite showing her medical card,which she refused , she was treated and subsequently referred to El Mojón .

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  • Perhaps if it didnt take several years to get paid for this they would be keener to take EHIC patients
    I cant remember where i eead it but it aparently take several years to get paid

  • Yes, there’s been a lot of comment about greed, but I understand it is this sort of problem that is actually at the root of the issue.

  • Hello Janet, I was interested in John’s comments, and would be interested in being put in contact with him about the 2 incidents he’s described. I have been researching an article about healthcare in Spain after having previously written on the subject for the Observer in 2006 and 2008 (see below), and also for the Daily Mail.
    I’ve done a lot of reading in the Spanish newspapers about ‘health tourism’, and it seems there is a widespread view amongst politicians, doctors, health chiefs in Spain that Brits and other EU citizens are making trips to Spain especially for the high quality and speedy healthcare. I’m exploring this whole subject (again) and am trying to report on it from all angles — which is v difficult!
    In response to the EC procedures against Spain, the Health Ministry replied that the only complaints it has come across are from ‘no other country but Britain’ and therefore ‘Britons must use valid EHICs and take out travel insurance.’ It has denied anyone with a valid EHIC has been refused free emergency care’, so John’s anecdotes would be very useful.
    my email address is

  • Hi Jackie, hopefully John will see this and respond directly. I’ve put your email address in your post for you.

  • Thanks Janet , I have sent an email to Jackie.

  • That’s great John, please do (you or Jackie) let me know of any follow up. I’d be most interested.

  • I’ve sent Jackie some information , unfortunately she is looking for some names to publish and my wife doesn’t wish to publish her name .
    If anyone else has any experiences with EHIC and are happy to have their name published then please contact Jackie at link above .

  • Here`s Jackie´s latest article in Mail on Sundayon the issue , unfortunately she hasn´t been able to include any Tenerife stories as no one want´s their name published .

  • As I’ve said before, though, it’s somewhat misleading, because although some hospitals have refused to accept the EHIC, they are either private hospitals, or part private. They are allowed to charge unless the patients say up front they want to access the state part of the hospital. Most emergency cases don’t know this, of course, and that’s very unfortunate, but not the hospitals’ fault.
    The Mail wants people to believe that the hospitals are doing this because “Spain is hard up”, but the money doesn’t go to “Spain” because the hospitals are private! They’re doing it because they are private and need the funds and have to wait too long for the Spanish Government to refund them.

  • Janet ,my wife´s experience in the “Green Hospital” was that although she showed her EHIC they still insisted on her giving private medical insurance details , even after her operation as she was recovering after surgery – they still demanded an up-front payment even for EHIC( as well as private insurance )

  • Can you provide me the full contact details for the State Hospitals in Santa Cruz please.


  • They are HUC and Candelaria, links in the names to click on for full details.

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Janet Anscombe
Tenerife News
March 2015
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