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Until the day the UK officially exits the EU, travellers and expats living across Europe will still be able to use their EHIC to receive medical treatment in countries signed up to the scheme. If Britain leaves the EU with no deal, the EHIC may no longer be valid.
An European Health Insurance Card is a medical card – which can be used throughout the EU, as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland – that entitles you to treatment in state hospitals at the same price as the residents of the country you are visiting. Simply put, if they get free treatment, you get free treatment.
The card does not cover repatriation to the UK – so in the event of the need for extra seats on a plane, or an air ambulance, that would not be covered. People travelling abroad are strongly advised to take out separate travel insurance.
For example, if you are planning a sports holiday and an accident were to happen your emergency medical treatment will be covered under the EHIC, however, it will not cover for mountain or ski rescue. If you become unwell or injured whilst in an area with restricted access, your travel insurance will cover any reasonable rescue costs – providing you have paid the appropriate additional premium for the activity you are undertaking.
EHIC covers treatment of a chronic or pre-existing condition if the symptoms flare up during your holiday and a visit to a healthcare professional becomes necessary. It also covers routine medical care for people with pre-existing conditions that need monitoring.
It is important to check with your doctor before planning to leave the UK.
Despite speculation throughout 2019, it has been confirmed that the EHIC will only be valid until 31st December 2020, unless you are already on a trip on Dec 31st – in which case the EHIC card will cover you until you get back to the UK.
Travel to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein will change from 1 January 2021. You’ll still be able to go the EU, but you will have to check a few things, and possibly apply for extra documents.
Things you may need to do before you go include:
• checking your passport
• getting travel insurance that covers your healthcare
• checking you have the right driving documents
• organising pet travel – contact your vet at least four months before you go.
Before you book your travel, you need to check that both adult and child passports have at least six months to run before they expire.
Over 20% of ALL holidaymakers have needed to seek medical treatment when abroad. The risks of travelling without comprehensive travel insurance are very real. To give you an example of a claim, surgery in Greece which needs your repatriation back to the UK, could result in a bill of up to £25,000.*
The EHIC is purely a medical policy, while travel insurance covers many other areas.
• EHIC does not always mean free treatment – where it doesn’t, travel insurance usually covers it.
• State hospitals might not be available – While in the UK emergency treatment tends to be on the NHS, do not assume this type of coverage will always be available. You may be taken to a private hospital.
• Cancellation – if you need to cancel your holiday before you go
• Medical expenses – for illness and accidents when you are abroad
• Personal accident – for death or permanent disablement
• Curtailment – when needed to cut your holiday short
• Lost documents – cover for passports, tickets etc
• Possessions & baggage – for lost and stolen bags including contents
• Personal liability – when an accident caused by you affects a third party
Research from the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) reveals that the average traveller spends around £12 just on magazines and sweets at the airport. To put that figure into perspective, if you’re an adult under 65 travelling to France on a cycling holiday for 1 weeks you can get a policy including cancellation cover from just £16.80* through SportsCover Direct.
So it is now even more important to have get a Sports Travel Insurance policy in place before you go on holiday.
*Price based on one person aged over 18 travelling to France for cycling tour (non-competitive) for one week with no medical conditions. Prices correct at the time of publishing.