The European Health Insurance Card or EHIC as it is better known has proved to be invaluable to make UK nationals in case of an emergency when they are travelling in the EU. While it has been replaced by the GHIC after Brexit there still are categories of individuals that qualify for the UK EHIC. However, the EHIC/GHIC per se does not offer a comprehensive health package.
A study found that almost 80% of UK nationals take their EHICs with them when they are on a trip to Europe in comparison to only 53% that get travel insurance as well for the trip. That places a large number of individuals at risk of expensive treatment if they fall ill or have an accident and need to visit a private healthcare facility.
Where can the EHIC be used?
All UK nationals can use their existing EHIC (until it’s valid) in any of the EU nations except Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Denmark or Iceland.
EU citizens with a valid EU card can use it in the EU countries and also Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Norway, and Iceland.
Non-citizens who have an EU resident permit are not permitted to use their EHIC in Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Denmark, or Iceland.
EHIC holders are eligible to get treated at any state healthcare clinic or facility when in the EU without having to shell out a large sum of money. In case of any sudden medical emergency, an individual can visit any state-affiliated doctor or hospital and get treated using their EHIC. However, unlike in the UK, healthcare may not be completely free as many EU countries need their citizens to pay a sum towards medical costs. The costs will not be too expensive but the same as what the locals pay.
While having the EHIC is a boon of sorts it also has its shortcomings as becomes evident when treatment is required at a private healthcare facility or doctor. On many an occasion, an individual may be holidaying at a location that is far away from state healthcare facilities with access only to private hospitals and service providers. In such cases where immediate medical attention is needed without waiting to visit a state hospital, all the expenses will have to be borne by the individual.
One of the biggest issues that an EHIC holder will face is in an emergency medical situation where the EHIC will offer no coverage. In situations where an emergency rescue from a mountainside or remote area is needed the EHIC will be of no help. From paying for the rescue helicopter to getting treatment at any private facility will come up to thousands of pounds in expenses. Likewise in any situation where it is necessary to be medically repatriated by an air ambulance back to the UK, the cost will be prohibitively high and all will need to be paid for by the individual.
While these kinds of expenses come up occasionally one cannot get complacent and think that it will not occur with me when on a trip with just your EHIC card. There is a better option to ensure that you have complete coverage for all types of emergencies using travel insurance. Get a comprehensive travel insurance plan on a trip to any EU country and you will be insured for all the mentioned costs including flight cancellations, lost or stolen luggage etc. Therefore, the next time you plan a trip to any country in the EU do not just rely on your EHIC but also make sure to get adequate travel insurance so that you are covered for any eventuality.