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What cover is provided by the EHIC?

Even if you know you need to get an EHIC card, you may well not know what it covers. Well, it’s time to get the facts!

Your EHIC card gives you the same level of access to treatment as the state health care in the countries in the European Economic Area. That will mean treatment will be at reduced cost or, in some cases, free.

The agreement includes countries such as Norway and Switzerland, which are not members of the European Union. As the state health care levels differ across Europe, the exact level of what you’ll need to pay, if anything, needs to be checked for each country you visit.

So what will be treated?

Accidents and emergencies are treated under the EU health card cover. Any injuries you sustain will be covered. Did you know that treatment you need for pre-existing conditions like asthma or diabetes is also covered, should the need arise during your trip?

If your condition is a chronic one which needs to be monitored during your holiday or business trip, that monitoring is also covered by the EHIC card. For example, if you have kidney disease and need dialysis, that would fall under the terms and conditions of an EHIC card.

What it doesn’t cover is a trip abroad specifically to receive medical treatment. A good example would be in the case of a pregnant woman who gives birth abroad. If the birth is planned in another country in the European Economic Area, that would not be covered by your card. However, an unplanned birth – perhaps if a baby was delivered prematurely – would fall under the remit of the card. The same rule would apply to other health conditions. Travelling abroad to have a heart bypass operation, for example, is not covered, but an emergency bypass because of a collapse is.

Make sure you get your treatment from the state health care system, rather than a private provider. Your EHIC cover doesn’t extend to private treatment, and you will be liable to pay the full amount if you do visit a private clinic or hospital.

This can be an important point when you don’t speak the language. You need to make yourself understood, perhaps getting someone to translate for you.

Some state health care providers will expect you to pay for treatment at the time you receive it, then claim a refund back via the EHIC system. Again, it’s worth checking out the rules for the countries you visit. If you are applying for a refund, do it before you leave the country if possible.

It’s recommended that you have travel insurance alongside your EHIC Card. That covers anything which isn’t covered under EHIC – preventing you spending a fortune if something goes wrong. The cost of mountain rescue after a skiing accident or being flown home to the UK for treatment is not covered under EHIC. These costs are where travel insurance cover comes into its own.

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