Your European Health Insurance Card covers you for emergency treatment while you’re away, allowing you free or reduced cost treatment at state-run medical facilities. This includes pre-existing conditions that may suddenly require treatment while you’re away, and can also cover complications in pregnancy, such as early delivery. By keeping your EHIC medical card close to hand while you’re travelling in Europe, you know that you’ll get the help you need when you need it. There are lots of things that are not covered by your EHIC, and it is important to ensure that your own medical needs fall within approved parameters – otherwise you may get landed with an unexpected bill.
What about ongoing treatments I need?
If you have to undergo regular treatments such as dialysis or chemotherapy, or if you regularly need oxygen or other medical assistance, you may find that you need to attend a hospital while you’re away. These treatments will need to be pre-booked before you leave, and you’ll need to discuss these with your doctor to get advice on the best way to manage your condition. An ongoing health problem needn’t restrict your freedom to travel within the European Union – you can still access the same great healthcare in an overseas hospital. Under the typical terms of your EHIC, you will be eligible for these treatments while you’re away, as long as you’re also supported by a comprehensive insurance policy.
Can I travel specifically for medical treatment?
‘Medical tourism’ is a common practice these days, with many patients going overseas to seek specialist services, or to access reduced costs for private treatment. The range of international health services and the treatments different countries licence makes travelling for medical reasons a preferred option to many – especially where waiting lists are long, such as for non-urgent hip replacements, or where treatment is not deemed necessary on the NHS – cosmetic procedures such as tummy tucks are common among medical tourists.
Your European Health Insurance Card will not cover you for treatment that you have travelled specifically to receive. This includes maternity care where giving birth was the sole purpose of travel. If a condition flares up while you’re abroad and you need to seek treatment, this is covered by the EHIC terms – however, travel purely to avoid a waiting list or for a treatment not deemed necessary will not be approved under EHIC terms. UK residents can still make use of overseas medical facilities, but treatments that fall under the above stipulations will need their cost covered privately by yourself.
Are children covered by the EHIC?
If you’re taking your children abroad, they will also need a valid European Health Insurance medical card if they require medical treatment during your trip – although many hospitals will treat a child in an emergency regardless of the paperwork. Again, treatment that qualifies under the scheme includes consequential management of pre-existing conditions and treatment for emergencies or for illness, but it will not cover the correction or treatment of a condition where medical access was the sole reason for travel and where treatment could reasonably have been sought back in the UK.