Is the EHIC enough when travelling to Europe on holiday?

Posted in General on 19 August 2015

With all the excitement of going on holiday such as picking exciting destinations and choosing between hotels, it is sometimes all too easy to overlook the importance of travel insurance, especially when travelling to European destinations.

While there is protection afforded by the European Health Insurance Card (also known as the EHIC), it doesn’t always give you the protection you may need when going on holiday.

The EHIC is free to residents of the European Economic Area (EEA) countries and Switzerland, so don’t be fooled by who websites charge a fee for it. Remember though being part of the scheme is not automatic and you will need to apply for it. The NHS website lets you apply for free by calling 0300 3301350 or online here:

Something else to remember is that the EHIC does expire; you card is valid for 5 years, so if it has been a while since you got your card you may want to check to see it is still valid for the dates that you are travelling. An EHIC can be renewed up to 6 months before the old one expires.

The EHIC is only valid within EEA countries and Switzerland; it will not cover you for any emergency medical treatment outside this area, unlike some 5% of people who thought you could use it outside of the EEA. Obviously a travel insurance policy like Voyager Travel Insurance is valid for whatever area you have purchased it for.

Another common misconception with the EHIC is that it means that all medical treatment is free as it would be in the UK. The EHIC simply means you receive medical treatment the same as a local resident of that country would, so if a resident would have to pay for treatment or prescriptions then you will have to as well. The EHIC only covers you for treatment in government or state-run hospitals. If you have a visit from a private doctor or end up in a private clinic or hospital the EHIC unfortunately will not cover you, meaning you are 100% responsible for the cost of your medical treatment. Travel insurance will, providing your claim is valid; will pay all your medical expenses. The NHS has created a useful country by country guide for what is covered by the EHIC in your specific European destination.

The true importance of travel insurance really only hits home when there are tragic cases where people are injured or become ill overseas and are faced with huge medical bills. One of the key things that is not covered by the EHIC is medical repatriation. This is where someone is brought back to the UK to receive treatment under the NHS. This is can be extremely costly, in the tens of thousands of pounds, if there is the need for an air ambulance or an escorting doctor for the patient from Spain for example. Likewise the EHIC doesn't cover the cost of bringing back the mortal remains of someone who has unfortunately passed away whilst overseas, leaving their grieving family to pay the bill.

We hope you enjoy your travels this summer and that you have appropriate medical cover in place for whichever country you are travelling to. Call Voyager today on 01483 562 662 to protect your trip or buy online here.

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