Home Horizon So what’s the real deal on EHIC cards?

So what’s the real deal on EHIC cards?

by LaurettaCWright

One in ten UK adults who've been abroad in the last five years have used an EHIC card to get free or reduced cost medical treatment whilst travelling in Europe, according to research by Gocompare.com travel insurance.

However, although it is a ‘must-have' piece of kit for a European trip, the research revealed that the vast majority of UK holidaymakers over-estimate the benefits an EHIC card can provide, with 70% believing it entitles them to free emergency medical care anywhere in Europe and 6% believing it will get them free emergency medical treatment anywhere in the world.

Unfortunately, although an EHIC is extremely useful, can save you money on emergency medical expenses and even reduce or cancel out your excess on some travel insurance medical claims, its benefits are not as comprehensive as many people think.

[bctt tweet=”Although an #EHIC is useful when travelling, its benefits are not quite so comprehensive ” username=”LaurettaCWright”]

For example, 7% of holidaymakers responding to the survey believe that an EHIC would entitle them to medical repatriation by air ambulance if they were seriously ill or injured in Europe. In reality, you will need a good travel insurance policy or generous friends to pay the several thousand euros it would cost to bring you home under medical supervision.

In research carried out before the EU referendum, 23% of UK holidaymakers felt worried that a Brexit would mean they would lose valuable medical protection provided by the European Health Insurance Card.

What's the deal?

The EHIC is an initiative of the European Economic Area (EEA) rather than the European Union (EU), so whether or not UK citizens will keep this reciprocal benefit depends on how deep the Brexit goes.

Regardless, nothing will change until the Article 50 negotiations to separate the UK from the EU are concluded, which could be two years or more.

Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are members of the EEA but not the EU, and all three accept the EHIC so the UK could possibly take this approach. Switzerland is neither a member of the EU or the EEA but still accepts the EHIC as part of the single market.

Also, the UK already has reciprocal deals with a number of countries, including Australia, Israel and Russia, under which visitors can receive free urgent treatment. So even if it was no longer part of the EHIC initiative, it might agree similar deals with EU countries.

The card with benefits

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is free to most UK residents. However, residents of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are not eligible for EHICs.

An EHIC entitles the bearer to the same level of state medical care provided to eligible nationals of the EEA country they're travelling in. This means that the treatment may be provided for free, or at a reduced cost, in all EEA countries and Switzerland.

The EEA includes all 27 members of the European Union (EU) plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. The EHIC is not accepted in Turkey as it is not a member of the EU or the EEA.

However, the provision of state care varies from country to country; healthcare and treatment may not be free and you should not expect to always be treated as you would if you visited your NHS doctor or hospital.

When it comes to medical repatriation, the EHIC is of no use at all. An EHIC does not cover the cost of being flown home under medical supervision from any destination and the government generally does not pay for British holidaymakers to be flown home unless there are very unusual circumstances.

In addition, there are still plenty of online companies charging anything from £14.99 to £35.00 to ‘process' applications for an EHIC, despite it being a very straightforward ten-minute job on the official government website at ehic.org.uk


Tracy 14th October 2016 - 3:01 am

Insurance or protection matter is always tricky. None of them can actually one cover for all needs even from the government one. So each person ideally to have more than one usually.

Marie 13th October 2016 - 4:14 pm

It is SO important to read up on what is included in your travel insurance. That’s why I sometimes choose different insurance providers for different trips as an American citizen. If I am going scuba diving, I am sure to choose one that covers potential injuries – which most don’t! But often I will choose another provider for general travel to ensure that I get the most coverage possible. Thank you for sharing this useful information with your readers – so good to keep people informed!

Susanna Kelly 13th October 2016 - 7:35 am

Thanks for all the helpful info. I am sure many will benefit from this. Brexit is all very confusing, but it sounds like they are going to maintain almost everything from before, which might mean these medical benefits. I live in Germany and our health care system is very different than the rest of the EU, but I am covered almost every where I go!

Kristina - I Left Home 13th October 2016 - 7:31 am

Wow this is so informative and very important info. Travel insurance can be so stressful to get – knowing if you are getting the right one etc.
As a Canadian I have never heard of something like this. Ill definitely have to look more into this, maybe we have something similar. It’s so important to be insured while travelling! Just in case!!
Kristina – I Left Home recently posted…Penang, what will be left ?My Profile

Candy 13th October 2016 - 4:48 am

I have only purchased traveler’s insurance once, but really need to do it for every trip. The older I get, the more I think about how important this is 🙂

Adrienne Lee 13th October 2016 - 3:35 am

Very informative. I wish we had something similar in the United States.

Samantha O'Brochta 13th October 2016 - 2:21 am

I didn’t know about this at all, but I guess it doesn’t affect me too much as an American, but I’m sure my UK friends might now know.

Erika Bisbocci 13th October 2016 - 12:57 am

I’ve never gotten travel insurance for one of my trips and am realizing more and more as time goes on that I’ve been playing with fire. Knowing what your insurance covers, however, is really important! This article is very informative and useful for those wanting to know the benefits and limitations of EHIC cards!
Erika Bisbocci recently posted…Gamlastan, Royal Palaces and the Stockholm ArchipelagoMy Profile

admin 13th October 2016 - 5:49 am

Thanks Erika

Anju 12th October 2016 - 10:12 pm

This is a very informative post, shedding light on an important but less known topic! thanks for sharing 🙂

Yanica 12th October 2016 - 10:07 pm

Very informative and well-written, well done!

Naomi 12th October 2016 - 10:04 pm

staying healthy on the road and knowing where to go and what you’re intitled to concerning medical bills is so important. I have overseas health insurance and travel insurance but I must confess I am not 100% aware of what they cover or not

admin 12th October 2016 - 10:23 pm

Thanks Naomi – you are so right – really helps if you know what to expect when the unexpected happens!


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