EHIC in Iceland
It is now an essential part of travelling to have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). These little blue cards are indispensable to any European traveller. Owning a valid EHIC entitles citizens of the European Economic Area and Switzerland access to state provided health care schemes at a significantly reduced rate or even free of charge depending upon what treatment is required. The EHIC in Iceland should not be used as a replacement for travel insurance, however the card holder is covered in the event of an emergency as well as any pre-existing/ongoing medical conditions such as diabetes. Europe is an incredibly diverse continent and it is worth noting that health care can vary considerably from country to country. If you do suffer from any ongoing medical conditions, it is important to check ahead of travelling that the country of your choice has the care you require and what you will be entitles to.
Although Iceland is not a member of the EU it is still a participating country in the EHIC scheme due to it still being a member of the EEA (European Economic Area). The Icelandic health care system is universal and is mostly funded by public tax money; this is divided between hospitals, institutes and clinics. There are only 2 hospitals in Iceland, which may seem inadequate when considering the size of the island. However, despite Iceland being approximately 40000 square miles in area, a lot of the island is uninhabitable and the population is only 329000. Both of these hospitals are held in high regard as not only are they very efficient, they have excellent, highly trained staff and possess all the latest medical equipment. Iceland also has several health institutions which are basically somewhere between a GP clinic and a small hospital. These institutions can cope with most health care needs so receiving the medical attention you require is more attainable. There are also some community based centres on the island which are similar to GP surgeries in the UK.
Although Icelandic health care generally has a good reputation, it is worth taking into consideration that it can sometimes take longer to reach specialist care when comparing it to some other countries in Europe. It is also worth noting that in a recent poll it was found that Iceland had the highest life expectancy in Europe.
As an EHIC holder you will be entitled to all of the public health care facilities mentioned above. Should you require any emergency medical assistance the emergency services number in Iceland is 112. Many people in Iceland speak English, especially those who work with the public. However, it is always a good idea to take a phrase book with you. This will be invaluable should you need to communicate your medical needs effectively with any medical professionals.
It is not a good idea to travel to Iceland without a valid European Health Insurance Card. Iceland can be quite an expensive place for tourists so not adding to that with unwanted medical costs can be a weight lifted.