Half of Brits could be set for holiday health shock


money and medicine

New research has revealed a shocking lack of knowledge about your rights to healthcare when travelling. Almost half of all people think an EHIC card will get them free medical treatment if they are sick on holiday, and one in ten think it will pay for them to be flown back to the UK if they are unwell.

If they fall ill on holiday, they'll face a horrible shock.


The research, for Gocompare.com, found that 47% of people think the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitles them to free emergency medical care anywhere in Europe, while 9% believe that having an EHIC means they can be flown back to the UK from Europe by air ambulance for free if seriously ill or injured. It means that 6% of people don't think they need to bother with travel insurance when they're going to Europe.


In fact, an EHIC entitles you to the same level of state medical care provided to people in the country you are travelling in (as long as it is in the EEA). This means treatment may be free or cost less. However, the level of state care varies from country to country, and few countries are completely free. For example, in France you may have to pay for a consultation with a doctor, and will only have up to 70% of it reimbursed later. You may also be expected to contribute to the cost of staying in a hospital overnight.

Also, in the event of an emergency, there is no guarantee that an ambulance will take you to a state hospital for treatment, and many of the smaller hospitals and clinics found in holiday resorts are privately run. If you go or are taken to a privately run clinic or hospital your EHIC may not be of any benefit at all.

Jeremy Cryer, head of travel insurance at Gocompare.com says: "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. It's also important to consider that an EHIC won't cover you for incidents such as losing your bags or having your passport stolen, which are typically covered by travel insurance. By using an EHIC as an alternative to travel insurance, you won't be protected in circumstances like these and risk being seriously out of pocket should something go wrong on your holiday."

The cost

If you want to be completely covered you need insurance. The researchers came across some of the bills which had been picked up by insurers that weren't covered by an EHIC. They included: one night in a ward of a private Spanish hospital at a cost of £800, treatment for a broken ankle in Tenerife at £7,000, and treatment for multiple injuries after being hit by a car in Greece - at a cost of £21,000.

The EHIC may not be foolproof, but you do need one. Cryer, commented: "An EHIC is an essential card to carry with you on holiday in Europe. Having one might mean that you don't have to claim on your travel insurance and pay an excess and some insurers will even 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." The fact they can be so useful means it's alarming that 18% of people have never heard of them.

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