Jet-setting to another country in search of sun, sea and surf is a popular pastime for British holidaymakers, especially during the summer months. However, as you search for sun and some fun away from home, you should plan for the unexpected. What will you do if you or a family member falls ill or has an accident? Is your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) up to date? How should you use your EHIC when you need it the most?
Find Out About the Host Nation’s Healthcare System
It is important to find out as much as you can about the host nation’s healthcare system before you arrive. Remember that the EHIC is only valid for use in other EU or EEA countries. It cannot be used when seeking medical treatment in Africa, Asia, and the Americas or elsewhere around the world.
EHIC Does Not Cover Every Medical Expense
As each country’s healthcare system is different, your EHIC might not cover all of your medical expenses that you would expect to be free at home on the NHS. In some European countries, state-run hospitals operate an ambulance service that are privately owned, which means the patient will have to pay for their transport to hospital. If you are visiting a country that has the option between private and state-provided care, you will have a choice to make based on your financial situation and personal preference.
How to Avoid Private Medical Expenses Abroad
Unless you do not mind forking out for private medical expenses if you fall ill abroad, always seek state-provided medical treatment wherever possible and make sure you present your EHIC before you receive treatment so that you are not billed for treatment that is otherwise covered under the EHIC. If you want to avoid unnecessary private medical bills, but arrangements have been made by your hotel or travel guide on your behalf, you should inform them that you do not wish to receive private healthcare.
In addition to carrying your EHIC with you, you should also make sure you carry a copy of your travel insurance so that you can make a claim if necessary. Each country is different, but some European countries will expect to be paid upfront for medical services rendered, and then claim a refund at a later date. Try to apply for a refund before you return to the UK. However, if you cannot get a refund before you leave, call the Overseas Healthcare Team in Newcastle at 0191 218 1999 to make a claim. Keep all of the receipts and make extra copies if necessary in order to process your claim for a refund or reimbursement.
Make sure you do your research before you leave home so that you do not end up with an unexpected bill for medical treatment abroad. Find out about the host nation’s healthcare system, what the EHIC covers, how to avoid unnecessary medical and how to claim a refund if you are asked to pay for medical treatment.
European Health Insurance Card. Using an EHIC