Sick Brits in for a nasty European shock

Three in five Brits mistakenly think an E111 will cover treatment in Europe (Source: GFK surveyed 2,000 British adults in August 2007)

More than half of those Brits heading off for the ski resorts of Europe this season will learn a painful and expensive lesson if they need medical treatment and produce an E111.

The European Health Insurance Card replaced the E111 in January 2006, yet 59 per cent of Brits still believe the E111 will cover them for free or reduced cost medical treatment in EU countries. A staggering 42 per cent believe their NHS patient card can be used.

The EHIC, which is free, is the only recognised document for medical treatment abroad and every family member must have their own card.

Richard Mason, director of insurance at, said: “It is astonishing that nearly two years after the card has been phased in, awareness has stayed alarmingly low.

“Medical treatment in mainland Europe doesn’t come cheap and holidaymakers stand to lose out and suffer unexpected financial pain.”

In the event of illness or an accident on the continent, holidaymakers can present the EHIC to secure the same free state medical treatment as locals. However, any non-essential care or treatment can cost extra, and presenting the card ‘after the fact’ can cause complications. 

Richard Mason added: “Like the E111 before, the EHIC only offers relatively low level financial reimbursement for basic medical bills. Holidaymakers shouldn't view it as a replacement for travel insurance. As well as offering much more comprehensive medical treatment cover, travel insurance protects you for lost or stolen possessions, holiday cancellation, personal liability and a range of other costly possibilities. 

“The trick is to shop around for the right level of cover for you at the right price.   Some insurers like Sainsbury’s and Columbus will even waive your medical excess if you tell them you hold an EHIC, which could save you as much as L75."

Brits can usually get a free EHIC within seven days if they apply at or on 0845 606 2030. Filling out a form at the post office adds two weeks to the process. The EHIC is valid for up to five years throughout the EU and in Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

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Sick Brits in for a nasty European shock
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