All British holidaymakers are entitled to an European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) that offers access to reduced cost medical treatment overseas.
About 3 million travellers have expired cards and milions more do not hold an EHIC – that were introduced to replace the old form E111 in 2005.
Many travel insurance companies have terms and conditions requiring travellers to hold an EHIC otherwise they could risk a rejected claim and a big bill for a medical emergency.
This is because some medical treatment is cheaper or free with the card and saves insurers money when they settle a claim – and this saving often lets insurers waive the excess on a claim.
Not every claim is rejected because a holidaymaker doesn’t have an EHIC, but it’s a simple, free and mostly easy to use service.
If you are travelling to a country within the European Union, the EHIC card gives access to medical treatment on the same basis as if you were a citizen of that country.
Some other European countries also join in the scheme, like Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
British holidaymakers can apply online for a card at https://www.ehic.org.uk/Internet/home.do or call the helpline on 0845 606 2030.
An EHIC doesn’t give a free pass like the NHS abroad – you get whatever free treatment a national of the country you’re in would receive and have to pay if they have to pay.
That’s where the travel insurance comes in and pays for any treatment that’s not free.
Some holidaymakers ask why they need an EHIC and travel cover – well travel cover offers so much more, like refund of treatment costs, repatriation costs if you need special transport home and pays private health charges if no state medical treatment is available.