More than half of Brits overestimate what EHIC will cover

25 July 2018

Holidaymakers vastly overestimate what their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will cover, according to research by GoCompare.

According to the comparison site’s research, more than half (59%) of Brits who have been abroad in the past five years believe that their EHIC entitles them to free emergency medical care anywhere in Europe, and a small number (4%) erroneously believe it covers medical costs worldwide.

When it comes to repatriation, nearly one in 10 (9%) think that their EHIC entitles them to an air ambulance back to the UK in a medical emergency. One in 20 (5%) incorrectly believe the British embassy would cover the costs of getting home when seriously ill, even without an EHIC card. The British embassy would only do this in extreme circumstances.

Georgie Frost, consumer advocate at GoCompare says: “The fact it’s called an ‘insurance card’ is quite confusing. It’s vital people understand the benefits and limitations of the card to avoid becoming one of the horror stories we read about when people become seriously ill but have no cover and rely on family, friends or crowdfunding to pay for medical bills or an air ambulance home. When you consider that a decent policy can cost less than a pair of flip-flops, it’s not worth taking the risk.

What will EHIC actually cover?

Most concerningly, 4% of UK consumers think that they wouldn’t need travel insurance at all when travelling in Europe if they had an EHIC card.

UK residents who have an EHIC card can benefit from local state healthcare at a reduced cost, or sometimes for free, in European Economic Area (EEA) countries and Switzerland. It’s important to be aware that the provision of state care is different in each country, and tourists should not expect medical assistance free of charge.

The EEA includes all countries in the EU, as well as Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein. This does not include other popular destinations such as Turkey, Vatican City, Monaco and San Marino.

The EHIC is free for most UK residents, excluding the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. Beware of online companies that offer to help you get one at a cost, as this is an unnecessary fee that can be bypassed by applying for one on the official government website.

Although travel insurance isn’t compulsory, it is highly recommended that you don’t go on holiday without it.  Some of the completed claims published by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) in 2017 included £125,000 for surgery following a jet-ski accident in Turkey and £25,000 for an air ambulance from Majorca to the UK. Outside of Europe the costs can increase even further, with a total of £768,000 paid to cover the treatment and repatriation of a Brit who suffered a stroke in the USA.

Ms Frost adds: “Travel insurance and an EHIC are a good combination. Having an EHIC may mean that in some circumstances you don’t have to claim on your travel insurance for minor injuries, and some providers will waive the policy excess for medical claims where you’ve used your EHIC but where it doesn’t cover the full cost of your treatment.”

Medical care aside, travel insurance will also cover you for things that your EHIC won’t. Fiona Macrae a spokesperson from Travel Insurance Explained says; “EHIC does not provide cover for general cancellation, curtailment or if you lose your personal possessions or have them stolen. Therefore, you should always buy travel insurance so that you are not left out of pocket should the worst happen.”

Be aware of the ‘tourist trap’ private clinics

There are many private hospitals and clinics in Europe where treatment will not be covered by your EHIC; but it is also worth noting that your travel insurance may not cover private care either unless it is agreed before the treatment is given.

Jon Phillips, a member of the leadership team at travel insurance provider Tifgroup, says: “Unfortunately, when tourists fall ill or become injured abroad, many get caught up in the ‘tourist trap’ and find themselves referred to a private clinic. Many of these clinics are not equipped to cope with emergency situations and can often be unregulated, unlike public or state-run facilities.

“Over the years we have seen some disappointing practices from certain private clinic networks, resulting in credit cards and passports having to be provided before treatment will be administered.

“When Brits think of private health care, they usually think about our standards of private treatment, however it is important to remember that not all countries around the world operate with the same standards as the UK. It is for this reason that it’s so important to contact your travel insurers emergency assistance team as soon as possible if you are injured or become ill on holiday.”



In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

what a worthless article that was. Two simple sentences would have sufficed....saying "dont forget to obtain/take your EHIC card and dont forget to book some travel insurance". On the other hand the title of the article was about the EHIC card. What exactly do we get with this card eh.Well from my experience its complicated. I went skiing in the Alps (with a EHIC card and no holiday insurance) but on the day of leaving the resort I simply slipped and broke the left hand little finger as I got into the car....nearly ripped it I stopped the bleeding wrapped it up and set off for the port of Dunkerque. 14 hrs later at nearly midnight I arrived and because I was 24hrs early for my booked sailing DFDS refused to let me on the next (half empty) midnight sailing. Crass stupidity on their part as i stood there with a broken finger hoping to get to Dover and get it fixed in a UK hospital. I then drove up the motorway to the main town of Dunkerque and drove around for something like an hour and a half looking for the main hospital. Friendly staff said no they couldnt just patch it up....make it hygenically safe for 24 hrs they wanted to operate so please come back at 8am in the morning. Well there we are at 8am and off we go to the operating theatre. Back to the ward at 10am and no they wont let me leave. However by 5pm I needed to be back at the port for my sailing so I checked myself out and at the reception desk showed my EHIC card and was told to pay 20 euros which I thought was fine but before I could pay she changed her mind and said no dont worry let me have your address. That was it. Heard nothing more for 5 months when all of a sudden a bill arrives for £130. I'm on the phone to the EHIC people to enquire, only to be told I should pay the bill directly and then try and clain it back from the NHS. The telling comment from the spokeswoman was "we cannot guarantee you will be repaid, we have to consider each will depend !!" Well do you know what. I thought this is a nonsense....either a broken finger fixed is due a refund or its not....if there is a question mark over the issue after I have paid then hey this isnt for me. I preserved my human instinct for survival and ignored all demands from France for payment. In other words the EHIC card is not all its cracked up to be.And in a footnote I woulkd have been very happy to have contributed something financially but beurocracy got in the way. So now if the contributing editor to this article would go away and have a rethink some of us would benefit.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I travel to Spain, Malta and Cyprus, on a fairly regular basis. I have been given to understand that as I am over 60 years of age, I am entitled to free treatment, although as I learned when I was taken ill in Portugal, (two years ago), I had to pay for my Medicines, which thankfully were sent to me when I arrived back in the UK. They did try to charge me for my treatment, but after I explained that I was in my late 70's, I heard no more. As we are about to leave the EU, I am considering moving back to Spain (I lived there for six years in the early 2000's) and was registered in Coin (Pronounced Coeen in Spanish) clinic, for medical care, so assume I can do the same when I go to live in Alicante district. I do know that the British Embassy are not interested in helping us, if things go wrong when we are Abroad. I learned this when I was booking my return journey from Spain. 2016. Not only were they not interested in my welfare, but charged me £49 for a temporary passport,(48 hours), even though they knew that British Airways, would have brought me back as my passport was less than six months out of date, so from this the British Gov., agroad, are only interested in making money, out of our stupidity, even if it means we may be stranded abroad !! Best Regards, Peter J NewbeyBest Regards, Peter J Newbey.

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