For a system which covers 28 countries, EHIC runs remarkably smoothly. The cards look the same wherever they are issued, and the system has been so widely adopted that there aren’t many hospitals which aren’t familiar with it. However, there are a few issues which travellers might come up against.
We Don’t Accept That Here
Some hospitals have been known to refuse EHIC cards, insisting that travellers have another type of travel insurance instead. This is particularly an issue in Spain, where it has been known for hotels to work with hospitals on a commission basis. Know your rights and stick to them – insist that you’re taken to a state hospital, and ask that you are treated under the EHIC agreement. Often the issue can be clarifying what sort of hospital you are in, and this isn’t always as straightforward as it might appear. Having a native speaker to translate can be very helpful in these sorts of situations.
Brexit Means You Can’t Use EHIC Any More
Again, this isn’t true. The situation regarding EHIC and Brexit is still unclear. As negotiations continue the future may become clearer, but until the day when the UK leaves the EU, the agreement for reciprocal healthcare will continue unchanged. Don’t be fobbed off by an administrator or doctor in a hospital overseas telling you that Brexit invalidates your EHIC. It doesn’t – at least not yet.
I’ve Lost my EHIC Paperwork
One of the most common problems is when people have applied for their EHIC, and have then lost the paperwork, or left it at home. Then when they are admitted to hospital, they think their only option is to pay privately as they can’t prove their EHIC entitlement. The Overseas Healthcare Team at the NHS is there to help you. During office hours they are there to issue emergency treatment certificates to cover your care, or help with lost and stolen cards.
Assuming Cover is the Same as at Home
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that exactly the same things are covered by EHIC as under the NHS. Dental care except emergency extractions might not be covered, or physiotherapy, and even if you are entitled to free prescriptions in the UK, you might not be in Greece or Spain. Don’t be embarrassed to ask what you are entitled to as a state patient and what you will be expected to pay for.
Not Entitled Under EHIC
EHIC is designed for people who are only overseas temporarily, either on holiday or travelling for business. If you are planning on being overseas for a longer period to study or to live in another EU country permanently, you might have to arrange some other sort of healthcare insurance. There are agreements between the NHS and other state healthcare providers for residents who are overseas for prolonged periods, so do your research based on your reasons for travelling overseas, and what country you are going to be living in.