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…

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  1. Posted August 21, 2006 at 16:49 | Permalink

    That’s very weird. I applied for an EHIC online only a few weeks ago, none of those requirements or problems at all. I just needed my P60 and that was it. As ever, I got to it via OASIS and the link I followed to was this one, I just filled in the details available on the form from here, picking the “continue with EHIC application” option and lo and behold one arrived about a week later!

  2. ben
    Posted August 22, 2006 at 00:09 | Permalink

    Is this basically the “E-111” form of days gone by?

    Of course, I don’t need any form or card to access quality public healthcare services here in Calif… oh, wait.

  3. Posted August 22, 2006 at 09:32 | Permalink

    It wouldn’t accept the application on line from me because I don’t have a medical card, so it becomes a paperful process.

  4. Posted August 22, 2006 at 09:52 | Permalink

    A list of all Health Centres is available from the OASIS website’s Service Finder application; which can be used to search for any Public Service in Ireland.

  5. Posted August 22, 2006 at 13:34 | Permalink

    Colm — yes, does indeed seem to be an online form that would do it nicely, if it could be used. However, as the page notes, you’re not supposed to use it unless you have a medical card or a Drugs Payment Scheme card already, which I don’t.

    Ken — thanks for those links. I don’t think they’re relevant, though — and in fact as far as I can tell it just reinforces my point!

    The EHIC site talks about ‘returning the application by post to your local Health Office’, not your local ‘Health Centre‘, although what the difference is is beyond me. It then gives a totally different set of addresses — note that the two locations on the “Health Centre” list for Dublin 7 are Lisburn St and Benburb St., whereas the one location for “Health Offices” on the EHIC site in Dublin 7 is in Rathdown Road!

    Ben, yep, it’s an E-111 with new, different, less-efficient bureaucracy as far as I can tell. ;)

  6. Posted August 23, 2006 at 00:12 | Permalink

    that list of public services in Ireland is nowhere near complete. There are many other types of services that aren’t listed there.

  7. Posted August 30, 2006 at 19:43 | Permalink

    oh — an update, fwiw: the card arrived, 3 1/2 weeks later.