Medical | Travel Insurance

Three reasons why the EHIC card is no substitute for travel insurance

What does the EHIC card cover and what’s the difference between the EHIC card and travel insurance?

If you’re travelling within the EU or EEA (European Economic Area), carrying an EHIC card with you is an absolute no brainer. This handy little card entitles you to free or reduced cost state-provided medical care in any EU or EEA country. And best of all, applying for the EHIC card is completely free.

However, as good as this is, it’s important to know exactly what is and isn’t covered by the EHIC and why experts such as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office strongly advise buying travel insurance when travelling outside the UK, even if you have an EHIC card.


The EHIC card only covers certain countries


This may seem obvious to some, but it’s important to remember what countries the EHIC card covers. The only countries the EHIC card covers are those within the EU or EEA, which are the following:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
There are a number of countries within Europe that are commonly presumed to be covered by the EHIC card, but in fact are not. These are the following:
The Channel Islands; including Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican.

The EHIC card only covers medical treatment


The sole purpose of the EHIC card is to provide EU and EEA citizens with access to state-provided healthcare if medical treatment is required when abroad. This is for necessary medical treatment to allow you to continue your holiday until your planned return date.

It does not cover any costs that may be related to your medical treatment, such as ski resort mountain rescue costs, private healthcare costs or the cost of medical repatriation back to the UK. These costs are, however, all covered by comprehensive travel insurance policies.

Also, the EHIC card does not cover any of the other benefits that a typical travel insurance policy provides. This includes cover for things such as trip cancellation, lost or stolen baggage and possessions, and travel delay.


The EHIC card doesn’t always provide access to free healthcare


A common misconception is that the EHIC card provides access to free healthcare in all EU and EEA countries. This is not the case. The EHIC card only provides access to state-provided healthcare on the same basis as a resident of the country you are in.

Some EU and EEA countries have a co-payment system, where patients are required to pay a fee to access state-provided healthcare, such as in Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden.

Also, you need to consider that state-provided healthcare facilities may not be as comprehensive or as widespread in some EU and EEA countries, when compared to the NHS in the UK. This means some areas may only have private healthcare facilities which will not accept the EHIC card.
So the only way to ensure you’re not lumbered with part-payment of bills or payment of private medical bills within some countries or areas is to purchase comprehensive travel insurance.

The difference between the EHIC card and travel insurance


We hope the above has helped to clarify what the EHIC card does and does not cover, as well as the difference between this and travel insurance. As a reminder, the EHIC card only provides access to state-provided healthcare within EU and EEA countries for free or at a reduced cost. It does not provide any of the other benefits of travel insurance and does not always guarantee you access to free healthcare.

So if you’re travelling within the EU or EEA, carry your EHIC card with you, but don’t forget to buy travel insurance as well!