Have you heard about the agreement between the UK and the EU to allow British people who fall ill overseas to get state medical cover? Awareness of EHIC – which was previously known as E111 – is fairly high among travellers to Europe. The problem is that there are lots of misconceptions about EHIC which could cost travellers dear if they were unfortunate enough to need medical attention overseas.
1. EHIC Gives free medical care in Europe.
This is the most common misconception, and probably stems from the fact that here in the UK, treatment is free on the NHS. EHIC means that you’re treated the same as a resident of that country when getting state healthcare. Every European country has a different system, and in many you will be expected to contribute towards the cost of hospital stays or diagnostic tests. You won’t be able to claim back any of these costs from the NHS either as the rules on this changed in 2014.
2. If I have EHIC, I don’t need travel insurance.
This isn’t really true either. EHIC will only cover the cost of emergency treatment. If you fall on holiday and break a leg, EHIC will cover the cost of the diagnostic X-ray, the doctor’s time, and putting you in plaster. It won’t cover any physiotherapy, costs of rearranging your flights home or any follow up treatment you might need. Remember too that travel insurance covers for many other things such as losing your bag or your flight being cancelled.
3. If I have travel insurance, I don’t need EHIC.
This is partially true. Travel insurance goes above and beyond what EHIC offers, and will often pay for private treatment in an emergency. If you apply for an EHIC to cover the basics, many travel insurers will give you a discount. Some insurers even insist on it as a condition of cover.
4. EHIC covers everywhere in Europe.
This is almost true. As well as the countries which are in the EU, EHIC arrangements cover the countries which are outwith the EU, but within the larger European Economic Area, such as Switzerland and Norway. It will not be valid in the Channel Islands, Isle of Man or Monaco. Popular holiday destinations such as Morocco, Turkey and Egypt are not in either the EU or EEA and EHIC is not valid there.
5. You only need to apply for an EHIC once.
EHIC is only valid for five years from the date of issue, and the expiry date is printed on the card. You can renew the cards online if they get close to expiration date. Old documentation such as the E111 form are very out of date and won’t help in an emergency.
6. You have to have your card with you to get state healthcare.
This isn’t strictly true, but not having your card or passport with you when you try to access state provision can cause lengthy arguments back and forth with medical staff, which is probably the last thing you need. It’s always easier to keep the card and photocopies for every member of the family.