Holiday bargain hunters travelling in Europe are being urged to check their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) expiry date before they travel to avoid them having to pay out unnecessarily for medical costs that could be covered by a valid EHIC.
With more Brits cutting back on vital holiday preparations such as taking out travel insurance, and 50% of Brits not knowing the EHIC has a shelf life, the Department of Health is urging people to check their EHIC expiry date and take out adequate travel insurance to avoid putting their health at risk and getting into financial trouble when abroad.
Everyone travelling to Europe should ensure they have got an EHIC. It is totally free, and entitles you to the same treatment in any EU or Swiss hospital, as a local would get, at the same price. So if they would get free or discounted medical cover so do you. It only takes a couple of minutes to get one, or renew it if you are one of the worryingly large number of people who are letting old cards lapse.
28 million Britons have an EHIC, but three million will have expired by the end of March 2009.
EHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance. You are advised to take out comprehensive private travel insurance for visits to all countries, regardless of whether you are covered by your EHIC. Private travel insurance will cover any contribution that is not reimbursable, as well as other eventualities not covered by the EHIC. Some travel insurance policies are not valid without an EHIC (always check the terms and conditions).
The EHIC entitles you to reduced costs or free state-provided healthcare in most European countries should you fall ill or have an accident. The EHIC can be renewed online or over the phone and will be delivered within ten days. It can also be renewed up to six months in advance of expiry. To renew or obtain an EHIC, log on to www.nhs.uk/healthcareabroad or call 0845 606 2030. For further information call the EHIC enquiries line on 0845 605 0707.
The EHIC can be used in most European countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus (not northern Cyprus), Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden & Switzerland.
The EHIC will not cover you if getting medical treatment is the main purpose of your trip.