Are you shortly about to head off on European getaway? You are probably planning on taking your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with you and feeling confident that its all you need if you get ill. But wait. That is not actually the case.
There is an awful lot of confusion surrounding the EHIC – what it is and what it entitles you to while abroad.
The public can be forgiven for making this incorrect assumption as the title of the card in itself is misleading. Including the word “insurance” leads you to believe that is what it provides. Indeed, 50% of the public think it provides insurance for free medical treatment if you fall ill. A further 7% think it entitles them to flights home, while 5% think the cover extends beyond Europe to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, all of this is incorrect information.
So to shed some light on the situation we’ve put together this handy factsheet on what the EHIC does do and what you need in addition.
- The EHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance. Before you leave for European climes, you need to take out a travel insurance policy as well as carrying your EHIC. Failure to take out a travel insurance policy is likely to land you with big charges in the event you have an accident or become ill.
- The EHIC only entitles you to access the same level of medical care as those who live there. This means that while some care is free, many countries do not provide free healthcare for its residents, so where they have to pay, you will need to pay too.
- Most UK residents are able to get an EHIC for free. It is accepted in all 27 European countries as well as those countries who do not belong to the EU but are within the European Economic area including Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
- You cannot use the EHIC outside Europe or in the event of an emergency, which requires you to fly home.
In summary, the EHIC allows you to access medical care in European countries, but it does not insure you against emergencies or injuries. Neither does it allow you to access healthcare for free, where it is paid for by natives.
If you would like more information about the EHIC or would like to apply or renew yours, then you can do so through NHS Choices. They also provide a country by country guide which enables you to find out exactly what you can access in the country you are travelling to before you leave.