Horror for holidaymakers: EHIC falls short

Common EHIC mistakes - what isn’t covered if you fall ill on holiday?

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Travellers are expecting far too much from their EHIC, so that if they are hit by injury or illness overseas, millions of people could find themselves facing shocking medical bills.

A survey by GoCompare travel insurance found that half of all Brits who have travelled abroad wrongly believed the card would entitle them to free emergency medical care anywhere in Europe. Meanwhile, 7% thought that if they were ill or badly injured in Europe, the card would mean they could be flown home by air ambulance.

One in 20 thought having a card meant they'd never need travel insurance when on holiday in Europe.

Not covered

In fact, the European Health Insurance Card, can be used for differing levels of free treatment in different countries. The idea is that it provides the same level of care as people in that country receive. However, if something isn't available for free in the country you are staying, you won't get it for free when you're staying there.

Very few European countries offer the kind of free care available on the NHS.

10 costs you still have to pay with an EHIC

1. In Germany there's a daily charge of 10 euros for hospital stays
2. If you need medicine in Greece, you have to pay 25% of the cost of the drugs
3. In Norway you usually have to pay for dental treatment in full
4. In the Netherlands, all healthcare providers are private, so your EHIC will not cover you
5. In Luxembourg you can only reclaim 12% of the cost of a doctor's appointment
6. In Belgium, ambulance journeys are not covered by the EHIC
7. In Switzerland there are daily hospital charges
7. In Sweden you will need to pay for part of the cost of a doctor's appointment
9. In Austria there's a daily hospital charge - for the first 28 days
10. In Luxembourg you have to pay 20.93 euros a day for a hospital stay

Another concern is that the card covers you for treatment in state hospitals. If you are picked up by an ambulance there's no guarantee you will be taken to one of these, and in many resorts all the clinics and hospitals are private. If you end up in a private establishment, the EHIC may not be accepted.

Then there's the issue of getting home. The EHIC doesn't help at all with the costs of being flown home under medical supervision, and the British government doesn't usually cover the cost of this either. To pay for this yourself can cost a small fortune. If, for example, you needed to be flown home from the Canary Islands by jet air ambulance, it would set you back £23,000.

That's not to say you should travel without the EHIC. After-all 9% of UK travellers have needed to use it for free or reduced cost care on holiday. However, it's important not to over-estimate what it can achieve, and ensure you have sufficient travel insurance for your trip on top.

It's also worth stressing that the EHIC is completely free, and is easy to apply for. There are a number of companies that will charge you up to £50 to apply for a card on your behalf, but there's no need to pay a penny: just apply direct to the NHS.

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