If you are planning to travel to an EU country for your holiday, remembering to take your passport, money and tickets is not enough – you also need to take your EHIC (European Health Insurance Card), which used to be called an E111 card.
Why do you need an E111 Renewal?
The E111 renewal is the only document that will be accepted in EU hospitals or doctors’ surgeries as proof that you are entitled to receive care at a discounted rate. Without it, if you needed any medical help, you would have to pay the full cost of your treatment (which could easily run into thousands of pounds) and could not claim this back from your insurance company.
Is it worth getting an E111 Renewal, with Brexit coming up?
For as long as Britain remains in the European Union, British people will continue to have the right to access medical treatment and care in any other EU state, paying just the same for it as a citizen of that country would. It is not yet clear what will happen after Brexit, but if the UK remains part of the European Economic Area then the e111 renewal system may still remain.
How much does medical treatment cost in the EU?
Each EU country has different ways of paying for its medical services. In the UK, for instance, workers pay taxes, some of which is spent on our NHS – if you need to see a doctor or go to the hospital, you won’t have to pay any money up front, but will have paid towards the service through your taxes over the years.
Other EU countries operate a system a little like our dental service – where a fixed fee is payable for each visit or type of treatment, which is significantly lower than the actual cost of that treatment. If you were to visit one such country and needed medical treatment, you would have to pay that same fixed fee – but only if you could produce your E111 card. If you couldn’t produce your e111 form, you would have to pay the actual cost of your treatment as if you were not an EU citizen.
As the cost of treatment in each EU country varies, you should check the details of what you could expect to pay through the E111 scheme in your chosen destination (and make a note of things like the phone number to call in case of an emergency, just in case).
Who needs to have an e111?
Each person travelling needs their own e111 card. If you have an old E111 card, it is no longer valid and you must apply for an EHIC for each person in your party (including any children). An E111 renewal is now impossible and you must apply for a new EHIC if all you have at the moment is an old E111.
An EHIC, the renewed e111 is valid for five years and has the expiry date printed on the front so, just as you would check that your passport is in date before you travel, you must check that your e111 is still valid before you set off. If you forget your e111 renewal, you could be billed for the full amount of your treatment so it is a vitally important document. Your EHIC will only help you if you are travelling to a country that is part of the European Economic Area.
You can apply for an e111 renewal up to six months before it expires, but if you apply to renew it before the expiry date, it will only last for two years beyond the date of your application, not beyond the original expiry date.
There are some conditions that you cannot use your e111 for – for example, if you travel to another EU country with the intention of seeking maternity care whilst there, your e111 card will not entitle you to any discounted or free treatment.
Why bother with insurance?
If you have to use your e111 renewal abroad and pay a (relatively) small fee for your treatment by virtue of your European status, that fee cannot be recovered from your insurers; it is an expense you will just have to bear.
By the same token, if you did not have your e111 renewal and had to pay the actual, full cost of your treatment then beware that your insurance policy would not reimburse you for that cost. Most policies exclude treatment that should have been free or discounted under the EHIC scheme.
However, holiday or travel insurance is still important, even if you take your EHIC with you. If you are taken by ambulance to a hospital, you may be automatically directed to a private hospital, which would not be covered by your e111 card renewal, in which case a valid insurance policy would enable you to recover your costs afterwards.
Your EHIC merely allows you to claim free or discounted medical treatment; it does not cover you for things like cancelled flights, lost luggage or repatriation of your body should the worst happen. Holiday insurance is therefore still important and you should take details of your policy with you when you travel.
An old E111 application had to be made at the post office or through the post, but it is quick and easy to apply for an EHIC online. So add the e111 card renewal to your list of holiday essentials and don’t get caught out when you travel.