Everyone who lives in the UK that travels to Europe should get a European Health Insurance Card otherwise known as a EHIC.
They are free if you apply online, by telephone (0845 606 2030) and are normally delivered within 7 working days. If you apply by post, they may take longer to arrive. But the good thing is that they are valid for 5 years. (Do not make a payment to any unauthorised company for this service)
Everyone needs to have their own EHIC, and it allows you to get free or reduced cost state healthcare and it will also cover pre-existing medical conditions. Each EEA country has specific guidance on how to access healthcare or claim refunds.
It covers The European Economic Area (EEA) is a free trade zone between countries of the European Union (EU), Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.
The regulations on access to healthcare in the EEA also apply in Switzerland. (http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/countryguide/Pages/EEAcountries.aspx)
If this EHIC is so good, why do you need to apply for travel insurance too ?
Holidaymakers in Europe could have their travel insurance claims rejected if they do not have a valid EHIC card.
"Some insurers will refuse your cover if you failed to travel with a valid card," warns Bob Atkinson, travel expert at Moneysupermarket.com. "Some other insurers will waive the excess on claims where you have an EHIC card and used it for your treatment. It is vital that you have an up-to-date EHIC card and a full travel insurance policy when travelling in the EEA area."
I have an EHIC card, so why does everyone say that I also need travel insurance?The card covers medical costs, but sometimes not all of those.
The following that are NOT covered by EHIC:
- Rescue services (eg from a mountain in a ski resort)
- Additional accommodation and travel costs if you need treatment or if you need to get back to the UK
- Accommodation you have lost through being in hospital
- Repatriation to the UK
- Support and advice through 24-hour helplines with multilingual staff
- Private hospitals if state ones are not available
If you are older and finding it hard to get affordable travel insurance, you may want to consider a policy called EHICPlus. This is essentially a top-up policy and covers all costs for treatment in a state-run hospital, along with private ambulances and repatriation to the UK, and the usual non-medical stuff on a travel insurance policy such as possessions and cancellations. It is very affordable for pensioners, has no upper age limit and the single trip cost is from £16.45. (Note: almost everyone must complete a screening questionnaire that may well bump up the cost.)