Travel insurance vs EHIC: do you need both?

Piggy bank with glasses

Spanish hospitals and clinics ran into trouble with the EU last month when it emerged some had been making Brits pay for treatment they were entitled to for free - even if they were carrying a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

Holidaymakers found themselves being refused treatment unless they paid for it upfront or agreed to reclaim the cost from their insurer. This broke the reciprocal agreement between EU countries (as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) to provide treatment to temporary visitors and legal action is now being taken.

As insurers had to pick up hundreds of their customers' bills, some have warned travel insurance premiums may have to rise as a result.

The Spanish saga once again flags up the importance of not relying solely on your EHIC when travelling abroad.

Caroline Lloyd, travel insurance spokesperson at, explains: "Having an EHIC may help you to access free or, more likely, discounted emergency medical services whilst abroad but it's not a guarantee that you won't have to pay anything, and it certainly won't be any help if you need medical repatriation to the UK, the costs of which can run into thousands of pounds."

Holidaymakers are being encouraged to arrange suitable travel insurance before they travel to ensure they're covered for medical treatment and repatriation if necessary.

"£1 million of medical cover should be adequate for most situations but some policies offer £5 million or more as standard," adds Lloyd.

Compare travel insurance quotes

Meanwhile, nearly one in 10 (7%) holidaymakers, aged 18 to 34, told GoCompare they have inflated a travel insurance claim or made it up completely.

The research also revealed that this age group is largely disillusioned with travel insurance in general, with more than half of 18 to 34-year-olds (53%) stating they felt that travel insurers hardly ever paid out for claims - despite the fact that less than 7% had ever had a claim rejected. Nearly 60% of the age group also said that travel insurance is too expensive.

Lloyd warned: "Whatever way you look at it, faking a travel insurance claim or bumping up the amount of a genuine claim to make it more worthwhile is fraud and if you're caught out you might end up with a criminal record."

A 30-year-old can find a worldwide, two-week, single-trip policy with £10 million of medical cover and £1,000 of baggage cover from around £15.