Travel Insurance. Combine It With European Health Insurance Card For Total Cover

Getting medical treatment in Europe has been easy enough for a number of years now, by way of the E111 form. You may not have heard of the form which was available through the post office, but that’s a moot point now as it has been replaced by the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The card will fit easily into the wallet and is a European-wide recognisable way of accessing medical treatment.

The EHIC can be obtained from the post office in the same way as the E111, and it is free. It lasts for 3-5 years and is essential for holidaymakers travelling within Europe as it means you can be treated at a hospital without having to arrange anything through the UK. However the EHIC card only gives you access to the same standards of care as those with ‘basic insurance’ in that country, and that will be at the state hospitals. Any treatment you receive may well be chargeable, because in other countries they don’t have the same system as the NHS relating to what is free, and what is chargeable. The standard of care cannot be guaranteed, and will depend on the country that you are visiting.

The EHIC is essential because it will give you access to medical treatment when it is needed, helping to cut through a lot of the red tape and communication problems that can be encountered in other countries.

However, the EHIC cannot offer you the same level of cover and assurance as travel insurance policy, as we go on to explain.

1. With the EHIC you will only be eligible for treatment in state facilities, it won’t give you access to private facilities. Just like with the NHS, you may not be able to get treatment immediately and you could end up spending a whole day of your hard-earned holiday sat in a queue waiting to see the doctor. Travel insurance would enable you direct access to a private doctor and immediate treatment a real bonus when you’re only on a short holiday and have better things to do than be sat in a crowded hospital. You also need to take into account the standard of care, which may not be as high as you are accustomed to.

2. State hospitals are placed where local people need them most and they are quite often not in the areas frequented by holidaymakers. The facilities can be spaced out quite widely and it may be that you are hundreds of miles from the nearest state hospital. As a result, you would have to go to a private facility and cover the cost yourself, which could be quite expensive. Private facilities are often set up around tourist hotspots to cater for the large amount of private business expected there.

3. If you are seriously ill, most travel insurance policies will pay for you to be brought back to the UK for treatment. You would have to cover this cost yourself if uninsured.

4. Travel insurance has a lot more benefits than those related to medical treatment. If you have to cancel your holiday or come home early because a loved one dies, if you lose your luggage or your passport, all these things are covered with travel insurance.

We say get both the EHIC and travel insurance and go on holiday knowing you’ve got it all covered. Travel insurance is generally very affordable and can be even more so if you choose to buy on the internet rather than through your travel company. Search on ‘travel insurance’ and you will find a large number of brokers and companies that can offer you a competitive deal.

We recommend going through an online broker as not only do they offer the cheapest prices, but you can fill out just one form to see a comparison between a few different companies, and it will only take a few minutes. If you go direct to a company website then you’ll only get one price, and to compare prices you’ll have to do the same again on another website, and it can start to get time consuming.

Check out travel insurance prices and you may be surprised at how low they are. Then, once you have both the European Health Insurance Card and the travel insurance bought, you can go on holiday and think about more important things, like having a great time!

Where to get the European Health Insurance Card

You can get the card through the post office, and it’s free of charge. To read more about it, visit or contact the Department of Health on 0845 606 2030.

The card is eligible for use in all EC countries plus Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

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