A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) should be at the top of your list of essentials when preparing for your holiday or travels abroad.
The card entitles you to the same cover a resident of that country would receive in a medical emergency and gives you access to state-provided healthcare if you become sick or injured.
They are free to UK residents, and may be used in all 27 European Union countries, including Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.
Despite being free and enabling Britons foreign healthcare at a significantly discounted rate, well over half of people in the UK don’t have one at all. Some 5.3 million people have cards that expired within the last year.
You can renew or apply online via the EHIC website, or you can print an application form from the NHS website.
Using a EHIC Card Alongside Travel Insurance
The EHIC should be used alongside travel insurance for optimal cover. As many as one in five Brits travel overseas without insurance, according to figures from the Association of British Travel Agents.
Since the EHIC card only allows you to access emergency medical treatment, taking out travel insurance is essential, as there are many other potential costs that could leave you severely out of pocket.
Relying solely on the EHIC card also offers no protection against cancelled flights or lost luggage, which are often covered by travel insurance policies.
It is vital that you have the correct insurance when booking a holiday. Although we all want to enjoy our holiday and not think about the ‘what ifs’, it is always best to be prepared in case you do suffer an injury.
Always check that the policy includes everything you want to do.
What Happens to The EHIC Card After Brexit?
Concerns have arisen regarding whether Britons will retain EHIC cover after Brexit. If EHIC cover is discontinued, UK nationals may face hikes in travel insurance costs, as providers absorb the cost of all medical treatment.
According to the UK government, there is a strong possibility the EHIC card will remain available to Britons after Brexit, saying: “The EU should be keen to keep Britain on-board the EHIC scheme, as we return billions in health costs and funding to the EU.”
The UK’s EHIC service explained: “EHIC helps support its many tourism destinations like Spain, which relies on British tourism to keep local economy healthy.
“Loss of EHIC membership will see British tourists go to non-EU destinations or stay at home”.
In March Brexit secretary, David Davies, cast doubt on whether the scheme will continue, saying that Brits will “probably” lose access.
The future of the EHIC card is subject to the wider Brexit negotiations, but it is likely to remain in operation for about another two years.
If you’re injured in an accident overseas, you could pursue a compensation claim here in the UK.
Call Slater and Gordon’s travel litigation lawyers on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online.
From outside the UK please call +44 20 7657 1555.
Nicola Rostron is an associate solicitor specialising in travel litigation at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester.