Travel Insurance and the EHIC card revealing the truths and the myths


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EHICFor many travellers, especially those whose children have flown the nest, travel is easier and more convenient than ever. You can fly anywhere in the world or just spend a couple of winter months in a warmer part of Europe. This is a wonderful time of life and a great time to explore what the world has to offer.

However, it is only going to be enjoyable if you are fully prepared and are clear about the risks involved with foreign travel; at least as far as your health and personal property are concerned.

Truths and Myths about EHIC cards

It seems to be a popular myth that if you have a current European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), there is no need to take out travel insurance because all of your health needs will be taken care of with this little free piece of plastic.

Myth 1: The EHIC card works anywhere in the world
So the EHIC card is like your passport, you can show up in any hospital in the world and present your EHIC card and the hospital will offer you the best quality care available until you are fit, well and ready to get back to your holiday. In truth this is not anything like the case. The EHIC card can only be used within the EEC, it is of no use whatsoever on other continents such as Africa or North America.

Myth 2: The EHIC card gives me complete health cover in Europe
If you are going to the Mediterranean for two weeks, which is in the EEC, you may think that all your health needs will be covered. If that were true it would be wonderful, but the fact is that you will only be entitled to the same level of emergency care as a person from that country. Therefore if it is normal in that country to pay for a visit to the doctor and for prescriptions, then as an EHIC card holder, you will have to pay.

Myth 3: I can go see the doctor if my existing illness starts to flare up
The EHIC card does not entitle you to non-emergency services; the card is intended solely for use in what could be termed emergency situations. Basically you are covered if you need to be rushed into ER, you are not covered for anything that is not urgent. Bear in mind, that is the EU government committee’s conception of urgent - not what you might consider to be urgent. The EHIC is strictly for emergency care.

Myth 4: All EEC countries will honour EHIC cards
In theory this is correct, but in reality it is not always the case. There have been infrequent but sustained news reports of hospitals in Spain, Greece and Portugal either simply refusing to treat EHIC card holders and making them pay cash before treatment, and,  more dubiously, ambulances driving past public hospitals to reach private hospitals where payment will be demanded.

Myth 5: EHIC cards never expire
It is true the old E111 never expired, but the EHIC has a lifespan of five years after which it must be renewed. So you must make sure that your card is up-to-date for a least the length of your holiday.

See also Remember to renew your EHIC card

For more information on travel insurance for the over 50’s and tailored policies for those with pre-existing medical conditions why not visit Columbus Direct.

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  • CymroArall
    over 2 years ago
    Have been unable to see any reference to what happens in case of Brexit next March