Travel Insurance is often another added expense to our holiday. In this guide, we’ll take a look at when it’s okay to travel with just an EHIC card and when you are better off forking out those extra pounds for the added protection that travel insurance offers.
EHIC travel insurance
The European Healthcare Insurance Card, or EHIC for short, is a card which can be used to receive free or reduced price medical treatment in 31 European Union and European Economic Area countries. The EHIC replaced the earlier E11 card in 2005 and is available for free.
Which countries can you use the EHIC in?
The EHIC card can be used in 31 different countries. There are some important places excluded such as The Channel Islands, The Isle of Man, Monaco, San Marino and The Vatican.
It is really important to remember that the health care that is available with the EHIC card in each country will be different. You are entitled to the same healthcare as the citizens of that country. This includes the national health service but not private healthcare. You do need to bear in mind that quality of care provided is not consistent as each country has its own healthcare system and standards and those can vary quite a bit depending on which EU country you are travelling in.
In some European countries, you may be expected to pay for the treatment upfront and then ask for a refund. In other cases, you may have to pay a proportion of the treatment yourself. Also, you can only have treatment in public hospitals. You can check the different conditions in each country on the NHS Website.
What is exempt from the EHIC
The price of medical care in other countries is rising every year. The average cost of treatment in a European country is now just over £2000 and its rising by 6.25% every year. Simple procedures such as treatment for an earache can run into hundreds of pounds.
Thankfully, the EHIC card covers you for most eventualities although it doesn’t cover everything. Perhaps most importantly, it doesn’t cover repatriation so if you die abroad your family will be left with a costly bill. The cost of repatriation can cost up to £17,000, although the average is around £3000. If you are ill abroad you would need to pay for your travel home by yourself. If this includes medical treatment onboard the flight this would also not be covered.
Treatment for routine dental treatment also isn't covered under the scheme.
Included in EHIC treatment
- Illness and Accidents
- Pre-existing Medical Conditions
- Maternity Cover
- Treatment for Routine Medical Conditions
Excluded from EHIC treatment
- Private Health Care
- Non- Emergency Treatment
- Loss and Theft of Luggage and items
Do I still need travel insurance If I have an EHIC card?
Even if you have the EHIC card it is most likely that you will still need to take out travel insurance to make sure that you are fully covered in the case of a medical emergency.
As we’ve already mentioned there are important medical exclusions from the EHIC card such as repatriation and private health care. You may also have to pay all of the money up front and have it reimbursed or pay a proportion of your treatment. If you don't have this money to pay upfront then it is imperative that you top up your EHIC travel insurance with a private travel insurance policy.
Also, the EHIC card only covers you for medical emergencies. It doesn’t cover theft and loss of your luggage, delays or rescue. So, if you want your baggage to be protected you'll need to take out a travel insurance policy which covers your personal belongings.
There have also been some reports of countries, such as Spain and Greece, refusing EHIC, especially in the parts more populated by tourists. The European Commission issued a report which stated that in some cases individuals were asked to sign a medical consent form which effectively meant that they agreed to private treatment. We would recommend that you are especially careful about what you sign, make sure the documents are translated for you and make sure you are being treated under the public healthcare system.
We’d definitely recommend having both the EHIC and travel insurance to make sure that you are covered in every eventuality. That way, if you are unlucky enough to be denied treatment you can be treated privately. Having travel insurance will give you complete peace of mind.
Sadly if you don't have insurance, or you're not covered for the condition, it's highly unlikely you'll be reimbursed. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Will the EHIC card be affected by Brexit?
The EHIC is an agreement between countries in the EU and European Economic Area. Brexit may affect this in future, but nothing's likely to happen until we actually leave the EU. For now, you can carry on using the scheme as normal.
How to apply for an EHIC Card
The EHIC card is very easy to apply for. It takes about 7 days. Every member of your family who is travelling will need their own EHIC card. Parents can submit an application on behalf of their children under 16 years old and their partner. If you already have an EHIC card you should check the expiry date on the card so that you know when you need to renew.
You can no longer apply at your local Post Office or at the doctors as you could with the EH11. However, You can apply in a number of quick and simple ways:
- Apply on the NHS Website directly.
- You can also call the dedicated EHIC Card phone number and complete the application form over the phone. Calling can cost up to 10p per minute from a landline and between 3p to 40p from a mobile.
- You can download the form on the NHS Website and send the form in by post. Once you have completed the application you can send it to:
Send your completed form to...
NHS Business Services Authority
European Health Insurance Card
152 Pilgrim Street
Newcastle Upon Tyne
In order to apply you will need to provide:
- full name
- date of birth
- valid passport
- National Insurance or NHS number (England and Wales)
- CHI number (Scotland)
- Health and Care number (Northern Ireland)
People who aren’t citizens the UK, EEA or Switzerland will need to apply by post and provide photocopies of their proof of residence and passport or ID from their home country in order to get the card.
EHIC travel insurance scam
As mentioned above the EHIC card is free. However, there are some websites out there who have been trying to scam people into paying for it. The websites in question, e111.org.uk, thejwsgroup.com/ehic service, ehic.uk.com and ehiconline.com set themselves up as handlers of applications and copied the EHIC brand in order to trick customers into paying to sign up for the card with them. The companies were charging around £10 to process the EHIC application.It seems like one of the companies is still in business although they have made their website much more transparent, while the rest have been closed down by the OFT.
How to get Travel Insurance
There is a range of companies who offer travel insurance that can cover your needs no matter what kind of holiday you are going on.
You can check out our guides to travel insurance or use an insurance comparison site to compare prices before you buy.Remember to always check the terms and conditions of your policy to make sure that everything is covered.
Travel Insurance Guide