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Check EHICs before travel, warns Gocompare.com

Cherry Reynard
Written By:
Cherry Reynard

Holidaymakers need to check their European Health Insurance Cards before they travel, as around 4.5m cards will expire this year.

The EHICs ensure people receive the same level of state medical care in their destination country as would be provided at home. Medical treatment may be provided for free or at a reduced cost in all European Economic Area (EEA) countries including Switzerland, all 27 members of the European Union (EU) plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

The Gocompare.com research found that 92% of single trip travel insurance policies charge an excess on medical claims. However 90% of those would waive the excess on claims made for medical care when an EHIC had been correctly used in a participating country. The figures were similar for annual multi-trip policies.

The EHIC is free to most UK residents of British, EU, EAA or Swiss nationality. They last for five years and each member of a travelling party, including children, must have their own card.

Travellers can apply for an EHIC free of charge at the dedicated website. Cocompare.com warned that some official-looking websites found via search engines will try to charge as much as £24.99 to manage an EHIC application.

Gocompare.com found that there was still some confusion about the extent of the cover provided by EHIC cards. Its research showed 54% of UK holiday makers believe an EHIC entitles them to free medical care anywhere in Europe, while 6% believe the card entitles them to free medical care worldwide.

Caroline Lloyd from Gocompare.com Travel Insurance, said EHICs should be a complement to, rather than a replacement for, medical insurance: “Holidaymakers should always arrange suitable travel insurance to ensure they’re covered for medical treatment and repatriation if necessary. £1m of medical cover should be fine for most situations but some policies offer £5m or more as standard. For minor accidents and illnesses, and as long as you go to a state run hospital or healthcare centre, an EHIC could save you having to pay out too much, or anything, for treatment. Look at an EHIC as complementing your own travel insurance rather than replacing it otherwise you could end up with a hefty medical bill if you have an accident or are taken ill abroad.”