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The EHIC and Irish government websites

The European Health Insurance Card is dead handy, providing access to healthcare for EU residents while travelling in Europe — it’s definitely worth having one.

There were a few reports in the Irish newspapers last week of an announcement by the Health Service Executive, warning of “a bogus website” which charges a fee of EUR22 to process applications for this:

The HSE also warned that the site is asking applicants to submit detailed financial information. “It has come to the attention of the Health Service Executive that Irish residents are being targeted by a website which is unnecessarily charging people to apply for EHIC cards. The bogus site concerned — — is not connected to the HSE,” said the HSE in a statement.

I’d link to the HSE’s press release on the topic, but it’s down, apparently — and that’s pretty indicative of the problem. You see, I’ve been trying to apply for one of these recently.

The HSE has been announcing that there’s no need to use this “bogus site”, since we can just use the “real” site at to apply for one. Here’s what they neglect to mention:

  • (a) that unless you’re a pensioner you can’t apply for one online — you have to print out a form, fill it in, and post it to your local health office.
  • (b) there’s no indication on the site as to what exactly your “Local Health Office” may be, just a long list of mysterious locations.
  • (c) in order to apply, the form demands that you supply all that ‘detailed financial information’ — namely your name, address, date of birth, proof of residency, and PPS number — anyway.
  • (d) the “bogus site” isn’t really all that bogus after all.

If they had a simple and usable online application process, perhaps they wouldn’t be plagued by other sites attempting to offer that service for what is really a quite reasonable EUR22 fee?

This is a pretty frequent phenomenon on Irish governmental websites; a half-assed attempt to bring governmental services online, resulting in shiny informational sites, full of clip-art of smiling people talking on the phone, which all come down to a bottom line of “print this out and post it in” or “call this number” — business as usual. Having said that, at least I can generally still get a human on the phone, which still beats dealing with US government agencies, I guess!

BTW, I notice the HSE claim that it only takes 10 working days for an EHIC to arrive using their system. I applied for mine 3 weeks ago, and there’s been no word yet…