19 MAY 2014

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Article from BTNews 19 MAY 2014

COMMENT: British travellers still confused over health benefits

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will be 10 years old in June but confusion still reigns over what it offers.
 
In addition, official looking web services charge consumers up to £24.99 per person to apply for an EHIC which can be obtained from the NHS for free on line.  You need to be over 16.
 
An EHIC is one of the most important things you can pack for a trip to Europe.  However, thousands of consumers risk coming home with a large medical bill or other losses due to confusion over the cover it provides. 

The facts are straight forward. 

An EHIC entitles the bearer to the same level of state medical care provided to eligible nationals of the country they are in.  This means that the treatment may be provided for free or at a reduced cost in all European Economic Area (EEA) countries including Switzerland.  The EEA includes all 27 members of the European Union (EU) plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.  The EHIC is not accepted in Turkey as it is not a member of the EU or the EEA, nor is it issued to citizens of the Channel Islands or Isle of Man for the same reasons.
 
However, the provision of state care varies from country to country and does not mean you can expect to be treated as you would if you visited your NHS doctor or hospital.  Few EU countries pay the full cost of medical treatment as you would expect from the NHS.  For example, in France a patient may be expected to pay for a consultation with a doctor but will have up to 70% of the cost reimbursed later.  The patient may also be expected to contribute to the cost of staying in a hospital overnight.

One night in a ward of a private Spanish hospital  £800
Treatment for a broken ankle in Tenerife £7,000
Treatment for multiple injuries after being hit by a car in Greece  £21,000

Also, in the event of an emergency, there is no guarantee that an ambulance will take you to a state hospital for treatment and many of the smaller hospitals and clinics found in holiday resorts are privately run.  If you go or are taken to a privately run clinic or hospital your EHIC may not be of any benefit at all.

To put it in perspective: The EHIC is a well-considered piece of EU legislation.  In the UK some NHS hospitals are brilliant, some less so.  On the Continent the same applies.  Here in Britain many companies and private individuals take out extra cover from well-known brands such as AXA PPP and Aviva.  Do so for when you are abroad too.  The premiums are very competitive.  Read the small print.  

The holiday season is coming up.  Even if it goes wrong it should not be a burden financially.  Take out insurance but also sign up with  www.ehic.org.uk

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