The Fixer: Free European healthcare

The Fixer logo%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%Have you been left out of pocket due to poor service or sharp practice? Do you have a money problem that won't go away?

It can seem impossible to get a fair result when you are battling a financial issue alone. But never fear! The AOL Money Fixer is here to help.


Dear Fixer,
I am going on a two-week holiday to Alicante in Spain in a couple of weeks.

I have never taken out travel insurance for any past holidays, but the friend I am going with is worried that I am leaving myself open to big medical bills should I fall ill or have an accident, for example.

I have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and was pretty sure that it would cover this, which is why I have never bothered with travel insurance in the past.

Is my friend right or can I get away without taking out travel cover?

M Hathaway, Liverpool

Dear Ms Hathaway,

The EHIC scheme is supposed to allow European Union (EU) citizens access to free healthcare in public hospitals across the EU and beyond.

It can be used in the 27 EU countries as well as Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, and entitles you to emergency treatment and that necessary for long-term conditions such as kidney dialysis, for example, free of charge.

The EHIC does not, however, cover the cost of private treatment or repatriation. Worryingly, given your destination, Spanish hospitals have also recently hit the headlines for refusing to accept EHICs.

The European Commission has received hundreds of complaints about Spanish hospitals, specifically in tourist areas, passing on the much higher cost of private treatment to travel insurance companies "or, increasingly, is being billed to the citizens directly".

Going on holiday without travel insurance could therefore mean having to pay on-the-ground treatment costs running into thousands of pounds should something happen.

I think the most sensible approach is to take out a travel policy as a result. You can pick up cover for a two-week European trip for very little - try a comparison website such as MoneySupermarket to find the right policy for you at the lowest price.

And it will also protect you if you have to cancel your trip due to illness or have your camera or purse stolen while you are away.

The Fixer

Whatever your financial problem, write to themoneyfixer@aim.com and The AOL Money Fixer will get on the case.
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