Heading across to Europe? You’ve probably packed your suitcase and hand luggage, but have you thought about your EU healthcare cover? There are two things we’d recommend you get before heading away on your holiday. The first is travel insurance, and the second is an EU Health Insurance Card or EHIC for short. You may have heard it called an EU Health Card.
UK residents who have a valid EU Health Card renewal can make use of state provided healthcare when they’re visiting another EU country, at the same price as local people would pay. In some cases, that means that medical treatment is free, and in others there will be a nominal fee.
The UK government’s advice is that you should have both an EU Health Card and travel insurance. Your EHIC will cover you for state provided healthcare, which is why it’s important that if you need any sort of healthcare, you should make a point of looking for a state provided facility and show them you’re EU Health Card before you ask for treatment. It’s very important that you’re certain that you’re at a state healthcare facility. If you’re staying at a hotel or relying on a holiday company’s travel rep, they may refer you to a private provider – either because they’re on commission, or because they’re not familiar with the EU Health Card and its requirements.
EU Health Card Renewal
As an example, Spain is a country where health centres and hospitals provide a mixture of state and private healthcare. The onus is on you to make sure that you‘ll be asking for treatment under the EU Health Card renewal scheme, and that the doctor who’ll be helping you is happy with that. If you’re asked for any sort of deposit or contribution, you’re being treated as a private patient, and not under the EU Health Card renewal scheme.
Rural areas of Spain are not as well served by state healthcare facilities as the tourist areas and towns, so if you’re travelling off the beaten track, do your research before you travel. You may find that you’ve got quite a distance to travel if something were to go wrong, but a few minutes of research will be well spent if you find yourself unwell on your holiday. If you’re taking a smartphone with you, there are some apps which you can download before you leave which will give you information on the nearest state healthcare facility to you which will accept your EU Health Card without question.
EU Health Card Application Form
If you’re still not convinced that an EU Health Card renewal is necessary, Sainsbury’s Finance carried out a survey about the cost of healthcare across Europe. The average cost of in-patient treatment in Europe rises 6.25% every year, and is now over £2,000.
People who travelled to Greece were most likely to need their EHIC cards, with the Spanish islands not far behind. The most common reason for hospitalisation on holiday was gastroenteritis, with an average bill of £1,200 for a brief stay in hospital, rising up to nearly £13,000 for a more serious condition like a heart attack.
If you’re looking for a quick visit to a GP while in Europe, you can also expect a large bill. It’s not uncommon to see a bill of £200 for treatment for an insect bite, nearly £300 for ear infections, and nearly £500 for a chest infection. Again, ensure that you show your EU Health Card, and ask for all the paperwork needed to apply for a refund. Many European countries like France prefer this to be done while you are still on holiday, so go prepared with your information. Usually, your refund will be paid straight into your bank account by bank transfer, so keep your bank details to hand.
Don’t Forget Your EU Health Card Renewal Rights
Whatever the reason is for your visit to the doctor, it’s still important to have travel insurance. Not only does it cover you for things like doctors’ bills and an unintentional visit to a private hospital, you’ll also have cover in the event of your luggage going missing, or being a victim of theft or mugging while abroad. Your travel insurance will also cover you if your health or circumstances let you down before you’re due to travel, and you’re not able to go on your holiday after all.
One final reminder: do remember to check whether your EU Health Card renewal is still valid before you travel. An EHIC card is only valid for around five years, and it’s up to you to organise your EU health card renewal to keep your cover going. If you need to renew your EU health card, that’s something which our friendly team can help you with.