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No-deal Brexit health insurance warning for British tourists

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Written by: Emma Lunn
15/10/2019
UK-issued EHICs will cease to be valid overnight in the event of no deal by 31 October.

Travellers have been warned that European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs) could become worthless overnight if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal.

The EHIC entitles British citizens access to state-provided medical treatment in other nations in the European Economic Area, along with Switzerland. Depending on the country, healthcare is either free or at reduced cost.

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, EHICs issued in the UK will cease to be valid, leaving holidaymakers to pay for any treatment they may require. If a deal is agreed, EHICs should remain in operation until December 2020.

But GoCompare Travel Insurance has issued a reminder that regardless of the future of EHICs, travel insurance is vital for UK citizens travelling abroad.

The high cost of emergency medical treatment abroad is the main reason why people arrange travel insurance. According to industry data, most travel insurance claims related to medical costs. Last year, insurers supported 153,000 people in need of emergency medical treatment abroad, at a cost of £209m, with the average medical claim of £1,368.

The government has stated that it wants to keep the EHIC as part of future trade negotiations with the EU. However, according to reports by the BBC last week, only four countries have agreed to cover UK travellers if there is no deal.

Spain and Belgium have agreed to continued reciprocal arrangements. Portugal has passed a no-deal law which guarantees, until the end of 2020, that UK tourists can access healthcare if they show their passport. Ireland will allow UK citizens access to healthcare on the same basis as they currently have whether there is a deal or not.

Sally Jaques, spokesperson for GoCompare Travel Insurance, said: “If EHICs cease to exist, tourists will have to foot the bill for medical treatment in the countries previously covered by the scheme. If they’re not insured, they’ll have to find the money out of their own pocket – which would be a struggle for most people.

“Medical costs can quickly escalate. Last year the average insurance medical claim tipped £1,300, but bills can be much, much higher. Insurers have already warned that if EHICs are withdrawn, travel insurance premiums will rise to reflect increases in the costs of medical claims.

“The disappearance of EHICs would hit people with pre-existing health conditions hardest. EHICs cover treatment of chronic or pre-existing medical conditions and consequently, if EHIC arrangements end, people may struggle to get affordable travel insurance for European travel.”

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