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UK European Consumer Centre

Healthcare in the EU

Everyone hopes they won’t get ill on holiday, but if it does happen, then would you know about your cross-border healthcare rights with the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)?

An EHIC is valid in the 28 EU countries plus Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. It lets you get state healthcare in other European Economic Area (EEA) countries or Switzerland at a reduced cost or sometimes free.

Here is what you should do to make sure you are protected against medical bills on holiday:

  • Make sure you have applied/renewed for your EHIC card from the NHS website before you travel.  Do remember that there are copycat websites on the web that charge for this FREE service!  Avoid unexpected bills and use the NHS website only!
  • Take out appropriate travel insurance to cover you for any medical requirements in your specific destination.
  • Make sure that you or a family member communicates to the medical practitioner that you require state care as private care is not covered by EHIC.  Some countries will have private emergency departments that they take patients to unless they ask otherwise.

Andy Allen, service director at the UK European Consumer Centre, said: “People’s health is important to them. An EHIC card is free but some services charge to help you apply. These are unnecessary and it’s important for UK consumers to know that they do not need to use them".

“From time to time the UK European Consumer Centre gets a spate of complaints from consumers who have been charged for making an EHIC application on behalf of an individual. Consumers can apply for their EHIC by contacting the NHS or via the official EHIC website free of charge". 
The practise of charging for services that can be obtained free of charge is not prohibited in any way. The UK ECC urges consumers to ensure they use the official source if they want to prevent payment of unnecessary fees.”

More than 200 million Europeans now have a European Health Insurance Card, according to figures provided by the EU, according to the latest figures available (2015). And a ‘Eurobarometer’ survey back in 2010 said that the second most frequent reason given by people who don’t have the EHIC card is that they have separate travel insurance and don’t need an EHIC.

Andy added: “EHIC does not replace travel insurance and some insurance companies insist that consumers with their policies also carry an EHIC card. “

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