EU health cards ‘no substitute for proper travel insurance’
The EHIC, which can be used in the 27 EU countries as well as Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, entitles holidaymakers to the same state healthcare as a citizen in that country, including prescriptions, treatment costs and hospital stays.
However, the European Commission has announced it is investigating growing complaints that Spanish hospitals, specifically in tourist areas, are turning away the EHIC and asking for travel insurance details and a credit card.
Beth Macer of payingtoomuch.com said people need to ensure they have both a travel insurance policy and the EHIC: “When travelling within the EEA (European Economic Area), it is not sufficient just to rely on the EHIC to cover you. People have the misconception that the EHIC will cover all eventualities and that it is an alternative to travel insurance.
“However the EHIC should/will only cover necessary medical treatment from state healthcare providers, which may not always be free. It will not cover repatriation should you need to be flown home, and will not cover baggage or cancellation.”
Last month research from comparison site, Gocompare.com, revealed that holidaymakers were risking big medical bills because of confusion over EHICs.
Nearly half of British holidaymakers thought the EHIC gave them free emergency medical care anywhere in Europe and nearly 1 in 10 believed cardholders got free medical repatriation.
Jeremy Cryer, head of travel insurance at Gocompare.com, said: “An EHIC is an essential card to carry with you on holiday in Europe but it’s no substitute for having proper travel insurance.
“Having one might mean that you don’t have to claim on your travel insurance and pay an excess and some insurers will even waive the policy excess for medical claims where you’ve used your EHIC but where it doesn’t cover the full cost of your treatment.
“Having an EHIC may help you to access free or, more likely, discounted emergency medical services whilst abroad but it’s not a guarantee that you won’t have to pay anything, and it certainly won’t be any help if you need medical repatriation to the UK, the costs of which can run into thousands of pounds.”
The European Commission advises that travellers with an EHIC card should where possible insist on being treated under the publicly financed health system and refuse to sign anything they do not understand.
They should keep all receipts and documents.
If holidaymakers don’t have an EHIC, or don’t have it with them, they can request a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) from the relevant health body in their home country. This can usually be faxed or e-mailed to them.