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Risky to travel without the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

by Sharron Livingston
EHIC European Health Insurance Card

Half the UK’s holidaymakers could be in for a nasty surprise on their summer holidays this year, as new figures reveal only 50% of Britons hold a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

The EHIC card offers healthcare in other European countries should a British citizen fall ill or become injured.  It offers the peace of mind that if the worst happens, British holidaymakers will be treated with the same level of healthcare as a citizen of the country they’re in.

Everyone resident in the UK should carry an EHIC card with them when abroad in Europe, yet only about 30 million Britons have signed up. It covers them not only in the EU but also Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

Gill Mulley of Southampton says:

You never know what’s going to happen when you’re on holiday. I managed to break my foot while on holiday in Slovenia last summer. Luckily I had my EHIC card with me, so it was really easy to get the care I needed locally before I returned home to the UK. The hospital was excellent, and all the treatment was free.

It’s important to check the validity of your EHIC card before people travel, as cards have to be renewed every five years. Many countries expect patients to pay towards their treatment, and even with an EHIC people may be expected to do the same. That said, people can seek reimbursement when back in the UK if you can’t in the other country.

Europe Minister Glenys Kinnock comments:

The EHIC card is one of the great advantages of the UK being part of the European Union, as it offers British citizens the same consumer protection as others in the  EU. The benefits of EU membership extend beyond healthcare, to other aspects of our summer holidays such as mobile phone charges and safe sunscreen.

It should also be remembered the EHIC isn’t an alternative to travel insurance – it doesn’t cover private healthcare or the cost of things such as mountain rescue, repatriation to the UK or lost or stolen property.

To apply or renew your EHIC card, visit www.ehic.org.uk


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