New research reveals that with the help of a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) thousands of people travelling around Europe could avoid having to pay an excess if something goes wrong and they need medical treatment.
More insurers are beginning to get rid of excess charges (the initial charge that you have to pay when making an insurance claim) for customers who made use of one of the EHIC while they were travelling.
GoCompare.com talked to 743 insurers that offered single-trip policies. Of these 671 of them said that they would reduce excess fees as much as all the way to zero if people made a claim.
More insurers are also beginning to refuse paying for treatment entirely if travellers visit a country that accepts EHIC but don’t use their cards when they get sick or hurt and need medical attention. You can use your EHIC (or E111) to receive free or discounted medical treatment in any country within the EU, along with Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland. The EHIC is a free card that ensures the holder receives the same level of medical treatment that a citizen in the country would get.
Bob Atkinson says that if you’re someone who takes more than two trips a year then you may get more value from an annual policy. You just need to ensure that the policy in question can cover you in every country that you expect to visit.
While the card itself is free that doesn’t mean that your treatment always will be. It may also not cover excess costs such as hospital transport or the cost of repatriation to the UK in the case of a severe emergency.
Alex Edwards, spokesman for travel insurance at GoCompare.com, says that you shouldn’t consider an EHIC as an alternative to travel insurance. An EHIC only gives you access to state-provided medical treatment and it doesn’t mean that your medical care will be provided for free. There are countries that will require you to pay at least some of the medical costs yourself. The EHIC may also not cover the cost of medical care if you are taken to a private facility. Such facilities are commonly, perhaps strategically, located near many holiday resorts.
Your EHIC will last for five years. Millions of cards expire each year, with five million expiring in the past year alone. You can apply for or renew your EHIC online through the EHIC website.
Will the EHIC be Affected by the Brexit?
With the UK voting to leave the European Union many are now wondering if this will affect the EHIC and leave millions of Brits without help paying their medical costs. The good news is that the EHIC isn’t confined to the European Union. Instead it applies to the European Economic Area (EEA), which is why it is valid in countries outside of the EU such as Slovakia and Norway.
This means that the EHIC is likely to still apply as long as the UK remains in the European Economic Area. Mr Edwards said that there is currently no way to tell for sure however. It’s entirely possible that UK citizens could be left paying for medical bills in the EEA by themselves. The UK making an agreement with countries in Europe to continue EHIC, or even come up with a new scheme entirely, is also possible.
The UK already has a reciprocal healthcare agreement with a number of countries that aren’t a part of EHIC including Australia and Russia. There’s no need to worry right now though as EHIC, along with other EU provisions, will apply for at least the next two years. So there’ll be at least some warning for British travellers.