Spain is the number one destination for British holidaymakers, making around 17 million trips there every year. And many heading to Spain travel with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), thinking it is a replacement for buying travel insurance. But this could cost them dear, warns travel insurance provider insurewithease.com. The EHIC only covers treatment in state hospitals, and it can in fact be very difficult to get one accepted in Spain, leaving British tourists in danger of facing huge medical bills.
British tourists account for 30% of all visitors to Spain, but Spanish health authorities, including in the Balearics and the Canaries are increasingly refusing to treat European visitors under the EHIC. For those travelling without insurance, this could mean medical and repatriation costs running into thousands of pounds.
Sarah Findlay of insurewithease.com says, "There is a misconception that the EHIC is a form of insurance cover, but this is not the case. The EHIC will not cover repatriation, flight cancellation, lost or delayed baggage or missed departures. The card only covers treatment in state hospitals and does not cover GP consultations or pharmacy prescriptions. The cost of uninsured repatriation could be as much as £45,000, a sum most could not afford without a loan. Spanish National Health Hospitals ignore the EHIC unless a patient is physically in possession of the card, charging as if they were private patients. For anyone travelling without insurance, the charges could be much more than the total cost of the holiday, so adequate travel cover offers crucial protection. Even a short trip can end up costing thousands if someone falls ill or has an accident, so we urge travellers to get the right level of cover and that added peace of mind."
Travel insurance: News update: 16 July 2010