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What cover is provided by the EHIC?

You may well be aware of European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs), but like many others who are entitled to one or even have one, you may be unaware of what is actually covered by your EHIC. This could mean you’ve been doubling up on insurance, by buying it from a specialised insurance provider as well as having the European health insurance cover provided by having an EHIC. So, what exactly is covered, and when is it advisable to have alternative insurance measures in place?

Essentially, having an EHIC gives you access to the state healthcare available in countries within the European Economic Area at a reduced price, or in some cases for free. Note that this includes countries such as Switzerland and Norway, which are not members of the European Union. Your EHIC provides cover for treatments for illnesses, as well as injuries caused by accidents, which become necessary during your trip. This extends to treatment that becomes necessary during your trip for pre-existing and chronic conditions. If, for example, you have a chronic or pre-existing condition and need to be monitored, or need to receive dialysis treatment during your stay, the EHIC provides you with the cover you need.

European Health Insurance Cover

This is not to say that you can travel abroad with the specific intention of receiving treatment under EHIC cover. This is an area of confusion for many people. A prime example of how this works is pregnancy. EHIC cover does not extend to planned births when visiting a foreign country within the European Economic Area. However, it does cover unexpected births, as well as routine maternity healthcare and other unforeseen complications. The same goes for ongoing illnesses, as mentioned above. Travelling specifically for treatment is outside European health insurance cover, but routine healthcare and treatment that becomes necessary during a visit will be covered by the EHIC.

Though this can be an area of particular difficulty if you do not speak the language of the country you are visiting, you should make sure that you are receiving your treatment through state healthcare providers. Going private will take you outside of EHIC cover, and you will be expected to pay full price for your treatment. To add to the confusion, state-healthcare providers in some countries within the European Economic Area will expect you to pay for your treatment at the time. Your European health insurance covers you nonetheless – you will, however, have to apply for a refund using your EHIC. We recommend that you try to apply for this before leaving the country in which you received treatment.

Finally, you should know that while European health insurance covers medical expenses, it is worth having travel insurance as well, to ensure that anything which does not fall under EHIC cover does not end up costing you a fortune. People often expect costs such as mountain rescue after skiing accidents, or being flown back to the UK due to injury or illness, to be included in EHIC cover – they are not. Be sure to obtain separate insurance for such incidents.

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