Summer is just around the corner. That means many of us are looking forward to our annual holiday. If you’re travelling abroad then that’s even more exciting. However, it also means more planning. You’ll need to book flights and accommodation, brush up on the language, culture and places to see, buy your foreign currency, make sure you’ve got all the clothes and other items you’ll need and, of course, make sure you’ve got appropriate travel insurance.
We admit that last point isn’t quite as exciting as shopping for beachwear and looking up the best restaurants. In fact, it may seem like an unnecessary expense if you’re only going to Europe and you have an EHIC. But in fact, you need both, as we’ll explain.
What is an EHIC?
EHIC stands for European Health Insurance Card. It’s free to all UK residents and gives you the right to access state-provided healthcare (equivalent to our NHS) in any European Economic Area country, as well as Switzerland. That includes any country in the EU, as well as Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland. Essentially the EHIC is what used to be known as an E111 and it can be applied for online. It is not currently affected by Brexit.
What is covered?
An EHIC should give you access to any essential medical treatment you require until you are able to return home. This includes treatment for pre-existing conditions and routine maternity care, but you won’t be covered if it’s thought you went to the country in question specifically to give birth or receive treatment.
An EHIC should give you access to any essential medical treatment you require until you are able to return home
Your EHIC allows you to be treated on the same basis as a resident of the country you are visiting i.e. you might have to pay a patient contribution (also known as a co-payment). You may be able to seek reimbursement for this when you are back in the UK, up to the equivalent cost on the NHS.
What isn’t covered?
An EHIC doesn’t give you access to private healthcare and if the country you are in doesn’t provide the treatment you need on the state, then an EHIC won’t be much help. An EHIC means you will be treated just the same as if you lived in the country you are visiting in terms of healthcare. You won’t be given any special privileges.
Why do I need travel insurance?
The NHS categorically states that the EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance and strongly recommends you carry both. Travel insurance covers you for non-medical situations such as lost or stolen property; missed or cancelled travel connections and emergency flights back to the UK, none of which are covered by an EHIC. In addition, an EHIC is not valid on cruises and won’t cover you for costly private rescue operations, such as mountain rescue if you are on a skiing or hiking holiday. Your travel insurance can be extended to cover this, as well as any private medical care you may require.
In fact, many insurers now require you to have an EHIC before they will sell you a travel insurance policy, while others will waive the excess if you have a valid EHIC. So the short answer is yes, you need both in order to have peace of mind and a happy holiday.