When it comes to planning a cheap holiday, the excitement of finalising travel plans and accommodation arrangements can sometimes cause you to overlook some of the important finer details, such as travel insurance. Yet protecting your health is not only vital, it’s also completely free. The European health insurance card, or EHIC, grants you free or discounted medical care in all 28 EU countries and also covers you for treatment of pre-existing medical conditions whilst abroad.
We spoke to director of the National Travel Health Network and Centre – NaTHNaC – which has been commissioned by Public Health England and provides health information for health professionals and travellers.
You can apply online for the EHIC at www.ehic.org.uk and look forward to your holiday safe in the knowledge that your family’s health will be taken care of:
- Every year, people living in the UK go on more than 60 million trips abroad. Most of them have safe holidays, but inevitably some get ill or have an accident and need medical treatment while they’re away. The EHIC entitles you to reduced-cost, sometimes free, medical treatment in most European countries in these unfortunate cases. Some insurers now insist you hold an EHIC and many will even waive the excess if you have one.
- You should know that the EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance. It will not cover any private medical healthcare or costs such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, being flown back to the UK, or lost or stolen property. It’s important to have both an EHIC and a valid private travel insurance policy.
- Every family member requires a card and even children must have their own. You must be over 16 to apply for a card and to apply on behalf of a child simply include them, as a dependent, in the relevant section of the application and each family member will receive a separate EHIC.
- There are several easy ways to register for a card which are entirely free of charge – you can apply on the EHIC website or simply call the automated EHIC application service on 03003301350. Be wary when applying through unofficial websites as you may be charged. For a small fee, the Post Office will check your completed application form and forward it for processing.
- The EHIC does not cover you for any treatments such as dental care – which can be delayed until returning home – nor does it cover those who have visited a country for the purpose of obtaining medical care. The EHIC covers healthcare that is normally covered by a statutory health care system in the visited country, and you should be able to get the same treatment as a resident of the country you’re visiting.
- If you need emergency medical attention in a country that accepts the European Health Insurance Card, even if you’re in a state-funded facility, you may have to pay for some of the cost of the consultation, treatment or medication.
- If you’re venturing outside of the EU to countries who have no healthcare agreement with the UK, you are strongly advised to take out comprehensive medical insurance before travelling. These countries include Turkey, Canada, the United States and Mexico, most Caribbean islands, South America, the Middle East, Africa, most of Asia – including India, Thailand, Japan and Hong Kong – and the whole Pacific region – except Australia and New Zealand.