23 Aug 2013
When an EHIC is not enough
I’ve written before about the EHIC, aka the European Health Insurance Card – a fantastic free way to save a lot of money on healthcare abroad.
But while a surprisingly high number of people don’t seem to know about them and their benefits if you’re travelling within Europe, there’s also plenty who think it’s a passport to unlimited free medical treatment. Which it isn’t (see the earlier post for what it does and doesn’t do).
It’s always worth being certain of your rights before you travel. Otherwise if you’re ill in a foreign country, and told your EHIC isn’t enough, would you be certain enough to argue?
It’s all the more important as some countries are failing to abide by the rules. The European Commission has started legal proceedings against the Spanish government after hundreds of UK travellers with an EHIC were asked to pay in cash or claim on their insurance at public hospitals – or were simply turned away. And Spain isn’t alone.
What you should be entitled to is emergency treatment for new and pre-existing conditions, in countries that are part of the reciprocal Health Agreement, says Lauren Stovell at MedicalTravelCompared.com, a travel insurance comparison site aimed at those with a pre-existing medical condition.
You can see the full list of those countries (and more information) at the official EHIC site.
However, some holiday destinations may not have public hospitals nearby – and the EHIC is not accepted in private hospitals. So you’d have the choice of a journey at your own cost to be treated somewhere for free, or a big bill to be treated privately.
And it’s worth bearing in mind that if you did end up spending time in hospital, even if medical care is covered, other costs from rescheduled flights to extra accommodation (or worse, medical repatriation) won’t be.
The company’s answer (and obviously they have a vested interest) is to have comprehensive travel insurance as well.
But I have to agree with them – whether you’ve got a pre-existing condition (and pretending you didn’t when you make a claim is a bad plan) or not, apply for your EHIC and get insured as well.
After all, wouldn’t you rather be doubly covered than not at all?