The European Health Insurance Card is an essential addition to your travel plans, but don’t think that because you have the card you don’t need to worry about travel insurance. You should organise both things before you travel, or your holiday could come with an unexpected and expensive sting in the tail.
The EHIC travel insurance entitles you to the local level of treatment received by citizens in the countries belonging to the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland. So technically, if it is free for the locals then your European Health Insurance Card should get you free treatment.
However, it is worth checking this before you travel as in some cases, even with an EHIC card you can only access reduced cost treatment and will still have to pay a substantial amount for major treatment.
Essential travel equipment
The EHIC card replaced the old E111 in 2006, and the EHIC card has now become as important as a passport for many UK travellers that have found themselves in need of treatment in a foreign country.
The EHIC application also only covers immediate and essential medical care, essential treatment for pre-existing conditions and routine maternity care, providing you did not travel abroad specifically to give birth in a foreign hospital. Insurance covers a variety of other essentials, including transfers to and from the hospital, costs incurred as a result of extending your stay and changing your flights and even, in extreme cases, repatriation to the UK.
In the event of a serious incident or illness, this can all be essential and will cost a significant amount of money if you haven’t taken out proper medical insurance. The EHIC card is a great innovation that will help you secure treatment that could otherwise cost an eye-watering amount of money, but it is no replacement for travel insurance.
Treatment is not guaranteed
There have been instances where even basic treatment has come at a cost too, and France and Spain in particular have been known to issue bills before agreeing to treat patients in need of emergency treatment. It may be possible to reclaim this money, but it will be a lot simpler to do this with proper insurance in place.
There are other instances where proper travel insurance is an absolute must. If you are a fan of extreme sports, for instance, and injure yourself while skiing or diving, then you can incur costs for your transfer from the site of the accident to the local hospital, as well as other costs that simply aren’t covered by your European travel insurance card. If you haven’t taken out a proper insurance policy that was designed with these sports in mind, you can find yourself with a frightening bill.
Get both the card and insurance
So if you are planning to travel, the EHIC card is absolutely vital as it can save you a fortune and help you access essential medical care without worrying about receiving a bill, depending on the country you are visiting. Travel insurance is just as important, though, so make sure you get both before you travel. It’s the only way to enjoy total peace of mind.