UK residents travelling to Europe should carry an up-to-date EHIC card. This card doesn’t cost anything and should you fall ill in any of the 28 EU countries, it entitles you to free or discounted medical care. Yet half the British population don’t have one.
This valuable perk is the result of an agreement between countries in the European Union and European Economic Area. And though the vote for Brexit may have an impact some time in the future, it is unlikely to happen for at least to years. So, in the meantime take advantage of this scheme.
How does EHIC work?
EHIC stands for European Health Insurance Card and gives entitlement to free or discounted medical treatment at state-run hospitals and GPs anywhere in the European Union as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
If you should fall ill, you can expect the same access to treatment as the locals.
So treatments are free?
You will receive the same treatments at the same cost as a citizen of the country. What they receive for free, a British EHIC card holder will receive for free. What they pay for you will pay for in the same way. It is a reciprocal agreement.
Sometimes you will be asked to pay a proportion of the costs. These are known as patient contributions. Since July 2014 rules have changed meaning you can no longer be reimbursed for these contributions.
It’s important to be aware that if you are travelling specifically to be treated, the EHIC won’t cover you. See the NHS website for more information.
Can I dispense with travel insurance?
Absolutely not. While you should have an EHIC for the valuable protection it gives you, medical care is not always free. Or you may need to be treated privately. That’s when your travel insurance cover will kick in. Also, your travel insurance will cover you for far more than medical expenses.
How do I know when to renew?
An EHIC has an expiry date and you can check yours by looking for the expiry date on the bottom right. If it is out of date, then renew immediately.
NOTE: Do not Google this as you may be diverted to an imposter site which could charge you. This is a scam as EHIC is available for free at the official www.ehic.org.uk
If you wish to speak to someone, call 0300 330 1350
Are all countries offering the same level of free or discounted treatment?
As services can vary from country to country the European Commission has produced a free app which gives useful information for each country. This includes information on where to get treated, how much it will cost and explains what to do if you lose the card.
After you have downloaded the info, it stays on the phone so you can access it even when you don’t have WiFi.
What about the kids, should they have one too?
To apply you must be over 16 but everyone in the family needs their own card. To apply on behalf of a child include them as a dependant in the relevant section on the application. They will receive their own card.
What if I don’t have the card with me at the point of receiving treatment?
You may be asked to pay for the treatment you receive if you don’t have it. So have it on you at all times, even on the beach or by the pool.