NB: The information below was published before the UK left the EU on 31 December. The British Government says that you can use an EHIC until the end of 2020, which is the end of the Transition Period. They confirm HERE that if you’re visiting an EU country and your visit starts before 31 December 2020 but continues after it, you can continue to use your EHIC until the end of your visit to that country. They also stress that an EHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance, and so it is essential to ensure you have both before you travel. The future of the EHIC system is still to be determined in whatever negotiations take place on the future EU-UK relationship, with the UK Government confirming that discussions are underway on health care arrangements for British visitors to Spain.
The Department of Health and the British Embassy in Madrid have jointly produced the above video on how to use the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in Spain. There is much confusion over this, not helped by some hospitals making it difficult for patients (link) to use their card.
To be explicit, the EHIC can only be used in public hospitals, and so in Tenerife this means the Spanish state system El Mojón hospital in Chayofa above Los Cristianos, or the mixed private-state Hospitén Sur (usually called the Green Hospital) in Playa de las Américas. The EHIC cannot be used in the wholly private Quiron Costa Adeje in San Eugenio.
The EHIC entitles the card holder to any medically-necessary treatment that cannot wait until they return home, but it is important that you read THIS page to ensure that you understand the way in which even part-private hospitals deal with the EHIC versus insurance issue, and THIS one to learn about what the EU is doing about Spanish hospitals too often refusing to accept the cards.
It is also important to understand that the card, which is issued by EU countries to all their citizens, is only for those who need medical attention during a temporary visit outside of their home countries. It is to be used either in an emergency, or if repeat or sudden treatment is required for a condition that cannot wait until the patient returns home. In other words, it is not for residents. Residents must either be registered with a state doctor, or buy private medical insurance, or see a private doctor.
Those resident in Spain should apply for a Spanish European health insurance card – a Tarjeta Sanitaria Europea. The exception is resident British pensioners: they have cover through an S1 issued by the UK which confirms that the UK will cover medical care provided by Spain: since their cover is provided by the UK, they need a UK EHIC. Applications for a pensioner’s UK EHIC must be made by post rather than online because they don’t live in the country which pays for their healthcare. There are links for both TSE and EHIC on my Links page HERE.