A guide to the EHIC and why you need one

Tuesday, 11 September 2012 03:14

Do you have an EHIC?

Do you have an EHIC?

If you look on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's website, you will see a section entitled 'Staying safe and healthy' and under this section you will find information on the European Health Insurance Card.

Introduced in 2006, the EHIC replaced the old E111, yet despite its importance, very few people understand what it is and why they need it.

As the name suggests, the EHIC is a health insurance card, however, it is not a substitute for travel insurance for pre-existing medical conditions. It is imperative that you take this point on board, otherwise you could find yourself in serious trouble should you need medical assistance while abroad.

Essentially, the EHIC is a document that entitles you to state-funded healthcare in all countries in the European Economic Area along with Switzerland.

At this point it is important to note that state healthcare is not free in all countries as it is in the UK. While some countries do provide free medical care, others do not. What the EHIC does is grant you access to the same healthcare facilities as natives of the country.

Those who are normally resident in the UK and are over the age of 16 are entitled to apply for an EHIC, which can be done via the NHS website. There may be restrictions in place depending on your nationality, so you should check the NHS Choices website to learn more.

There are companies that offer services where they can secure the EHIC for you for a fee. These firms should be avoided, as the EHIC is completely free anyway.
It is important to be aware that a single EHIC card will not cover an entire family. Each member of the travelling party should have their own card. If you have children under the age of 16, you should apply for your EHIC and list them as your dependent.

The EHIC may entitle you to the same level of treatment as insured nationals of the country you are in, however, it does not mean you should forego travel insurance.
It will not cover you in the event you need to be airlifted to hospital or if you need to be repatriated to the UK, it only protects you while you are having treatment in the country you are visiting.

In addition, it affords no protection with regards to your luggage or for journey disruption or missed departure.

Travel insurance, on the other hand, will protect you in the aforementioned situations provided you take out the appropriate level of cover and declare to your insurer about any pre-existing medical conditions you have, where required.

It is therefore essential that you shop around and look at different policies that fit your criteria.

In these difficult times, it can be tempting to go for the cheapest policy you can find. However, cheapest does not mean the best and you can often find that the cheapest products come with the highest excess, so if you were to make a claim, you would have to pay more towards the costs incurred than you would were you to have chosen a better product costing slightly more.

A holiday is a chance for you and your family to spend some quality time together and with the appropriate travel insurance and an EHIC in place, you can relax knowing you have a safety net in place.




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