19 Jun 2012
EHIC – myths and truths
It always surprises me how many people have either never heard of an European Health Insurance Card – or EHIC – or simply never bothered to get one. And more worryingly, how much inaccurate information there is about them.
If you live in the UK (with a few exceptions) and are travelling within the EU (with a few additions), this little card could be a very simple way to save you a lot of money if you need healthcare abroad. I’ll be applying for one for the mini traveller as soon as I have the details – name, sex, that kind of thing – but if you’re an EHIC novice, here’s a few myths busted about the card.
MYTH: It gets you free healthcare across Europe:
No – and yes. The card entitles you to the same level of care as residents of the country. If they get it free, you should too. But you could end up paying some of the fee upfront and claiming it back, paying a proportion or being restricted to certain hospitals and registered doctors.
MYTH: It’s too expensive/complicated to bother getting:
Nope! The card itself is free and you just need to fill a form in online – if you’re using a site that’s trying to charge you, go to the official site.
MYTH: It never expires
No again. Unlike the old E111 forms, the cards do expire after five years – you can renew (for free) up to six months beforehand.
MYTH: You don’t need this and travel insurance
No and double no. An EHIC can be great for everyday health problems, but for something more major, you definitely need proper insurance – for example, if you needed to be flown back to the UK. What’s more, travel insurance covers a multitude of other problems, from lost luggage to cancelled flights. What they do do is work well together.
MYTH: That’s all you need to know
There’s plenty of other odd quirks – for example, you’re supposed to have the card on you at all times, so it’s worth keeping in your purse rather than a hotel safe. It also won’t cover you if you go abroad specifically to have health treatment. Children need their own cards, but they’ll be added as a dependent so you have to apply for them. And while UK residents can apply, residents of the Channel Islands and Isle of Man can’t – but you do get cover in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland as well as the EU.