Travellers may lose free access to EU healthcare if the government and EU fail to reach an agreement on continuity of access to care for British holidaymakers and expats.
Now, the government has published guidance for those concerned about losing access to free healthcare services in EU member states.
The government says travellers need to check the arrangements on a country-by-country basis in the event of no deal being agreed between the remaining 27 EU nations and the UK.
It also advises that travellers take out travel insurance to ensure they are protected in any event.
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Currently the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives UK citizens access to state-provided healthcare at reduced cost or free, depending on local arrangements, in member states of the European Economic Area.
EHIC holders are entitled to the same level of care as a local resident of the destination country.
This includes non-EU countries such as Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
In some EEA countries patients have to pay what is a called a ‘co-payment’ which can often be a percentage of the total cost of care. The EHIC also covers pre-existing medical conditions
The government is clear however that the EHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance as it will not cover private healthcare or costs such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, repatriation to the UK, or property loss through damage, loss or theft.
When booking travel insurance it is best to check for the best policy for you by using a price comparison website.
Other states in Europe that are not in the EEA will not accept the card either. This includes:
- The Channel Islands, including Guernsey, Alderney and Sark
- The Isle of Man
- San Marino
- The Vatican
For UK nationals resident in EEA states, the government is encouraging them to register for access to local healthcare instead of relying on the EHIC.
If someone is in the process of applying for residency, the government advice is to obtain separate private medical insurance.
The government is also warning that any UK nationals resident in EEA countries who use an ‘S1 certificate’ this could no longer be valid after 29 March if no deal is agreed.
In this case the government says again that individuals affected should check the arrangements between the UK and the country they are in.