This site uses cookies to improve your browsing experience. By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies.  Find out more here.

EHIC vs. travel insurance

Holidays are about fun and relaxation, to forget the stresses and pressures of home and work.

The last thing that we want to worry about before going away is “what if something goes wrong?” particularly about ill-health or a mishap in a strange country. However, travelling unprepared may mean a trip can quickly change from travel heaven to holiday hell.

When travelling to Europe it is advisable to apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before you go, which means in the event of hospitalisation, you will be entitled to the same medical treatment as the locals. Will the EHIC therefore replace travel insurance as we know it?

The Flexicover Team take a closer look.

Where will the EHIC work?

You will be able to get state-provided healthcare in all 27 EU countries, as well as Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. The card can’t be used in private clinics or countries not part of the European Union, such as Croatia. The Channel Islands are also excluded from the scheme. Your EHIC will be valid for 5 years.

Does an EHIC offer FREE medical treatment?

The simple answer is not always - you will be treated the same as a local, so if they get free treatment you will too… but it might not cover the things you would expect to get on the NHS in the UK, which means that an additional contribution may be needed - for example in France only about 70% of costs are covered, the rest to be funded by the patients. Also in some countries, if you use an EHIC, you may still have to pay the whole amount and then claim back either locally or from The Department for Work and Pensions upon your return.

How much does an EHIC cost?

The EHIC registration is FREE! Beware of unauthorised web-sites offering to verify your registration - for fees of up to £20! The application process is quick and easy and takes about 5 minutes. Use the link on our EHIC information page

I have an EHIC, why do I need travel insurance?

Many people believe an EHIC will be sufficient for full protection and don’t take out travel insurance. Whilst it gives valuable medical cover it should not be seen as a substitute for a travel insurance policy. If anything, combining your EHIC with a separate travel insurance policy is the ideal choice, once you take account of the following:

In some countries, the EHIC will only cover a percentage of the treatment costs; if you have travel insurance it will cover the additional costs, so you’re not out of pocket.

When you use an EHIC and your travel insurance has to cover the rest of the costs, most insurers will not charge you the policy excess – potentially saving you hundreds of pounds!

If you are injured during activities such as skiing or mountaineering and need evacuation (from the ski slopes or mountains), the EHIC will not cover medical evacuation, unlike your travel insurance policy bought for the activity.

The EHIC will not cover non-medical costs, such as lost baggage, loss of your passport or the cancellation of the holiday due to unforeseen circumstances.

The EHIC will not cover you for repatriation if you need to be brought back to the UK in an air ambulance, unlike a travel insurance policy. You may have to fork out the cost yourself, or have an extended stay in a foreign state hospital until you are fit to return home.

When an EHIC is refused

Some state hospitals have been known to refuse to accept the EHIC – either claiming they don’t recognise the card or don’t have the technology to accept it. If your EHIC is refused by a state-run facility, try to get proof that you presented it at the time; if you have to pay out you may still be able to get reimbursement from the UK government. If this does happen and you have travel insurance call your 24hr assistance company who may be able to help. Alternatively, the local consulate may be able to assist.

Wherever you decide to travel, Flexicover Direct, the travel insurance specialists, are committed to providing the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year when away.

If you are travelling soon, have a wonderful trip!