Every year, more than 45 million UK residents head off overseas either on holiday, business, and to visit friends and family. For UK residents travelling to Europe, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is a useful addition to travel insurance.
How the card works
The EHIC was first introduced in 2006 and replaced the E111 form. It gives the card holder access to state medical care in all 27 countries of the European Union and the four members of the European Free Trade Area - Lichtenstein, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.
The thinking behind the scheme is that access to state medical care should be available throughout the entire EU to all EU citizens. An EHIC does cover pre-existing medical conditions and routine maternity care, as long as you are not specifically going abroad with the intention of giving birth overseas.
The EHIC card does not provide you with cover outside of the 31 countries of the EU and EEA. There is some public confusion here. In the past Abta has come across examples of visitors to Turkey or North Africa incorrectly relying on their EHIC.
If in doubt as to which countries accept an EHIC check the NHS website.
Here is a warning - a number of official looking websites, most of which appear above the NHS site when you do an internet search, offer to help you apply for your card for a charge. There is no benefit in using these sites as applying through the NHS site is free, a very straightforward process and the card is usually issued without significant delay.
Families should be aware that everyone, including small children, will need their own card.
If you have a serious accident or illness and need to be flown home for specialist or long-term care in the UK, the cost of this will not be covered by an EHIC card. However, it would be covered by travel insurance, which is why it is essential to have both. Air ambulances can cost anything between £15,000 and £30,000 depending on the length of the flight.
Remember also that if you have travel insurance, you are also entitled to be treated in a private hospital, which may be a more appropriate option, and all your medical expenses will be covered up to the limit on your policy. These medical expenses, particularly in the USA, can quickly run into very substantial sums of money and a good quality annual worldwide policy is well worth it.
The average cost of medical treatment overseas is £2,040, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI). Recent examples include £49,000 for a coronary bypass and emergency flight home from the US, and £9,000 for a woman who suffered a severe allergic reaction on holiday in Cyprus.
Different levels of travel insurance cover are available at different prices. So, depending on the policy, it can cover lost luggage, stolen goods, and delays and may also cover you for extra costs if you are stranded overseas owing to bad weather or even an ash cloud.
Additionally, it may cover you for cancellation charges if you fall ill or are made redundant. This is why it is important to take out a policy at the time of, or shortly after, booking.
If you would like a quote for travel insurance, please contact us on 0161 406 6786.