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Get free emergency medical care travelling in Europe with EHIC

doctor childTeam Minted is about 10 days back from Easter holidays and I’m only just getting over the stomach bug I picked up on the day we left.

The one silver lining is that the tummy trouble prompted me to renew my European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) more quickly than I might have done with a clean bill of health.

The EHIC allows you to get state healthcare in other EU countries for free or at a reduced cost. (You have to be a UK, European Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss citizen.) It lasts for five years.

I took the decision to renew even though nobody can say if the EHIC scheme will continue after Brexit next year. Team Minted still has a few European trips scheduled so I considered that, for the five minutes it took me to fill in the online forms, the cover was worth the effort.

You sign up for an EHIC or renew existing cards at this NHS website. You’ll need your NHS or NI number to register.

There’s also a useful link on the website to a country-by-country guide so you can find exactly what’s available and what to do should the worst occur. There is no one-size-fits-all. Each nation’s health system is different so it’s possible you may have to pay for all or some of what you might expect to be free on the NHS back home.

Bear in mind that getting your first EHIC or renewing it is free. There are some fraudulent websites which try to charge you: ignore them. Partners and children will need their own individual cards. And remember that your EHIC can take up to 10 days to arrive so best to order it well in advance of your travel dates.

Naturally there’s always a catch so here it is. The EHIC gives you access to (sometimes limited) state healthcare only and is by no means a substitute for travel insurance. It won’t cover private medical healthcare, any kind of non-critical health ‘tourism’ or costs resulting from rescue or repatriation. It is also not valid on cruises, interestingly, and obviously won’t cover cancellation or lost property.

Annoyingly, you therefore you need both an EHIC and a travel policy. This isn’t all bad as some insurers may give you a discount for having an EHIC. As someone who has benefited from travel insurance (cancellation due to illness last year), I will be making sure Team Minted is comprehensively covered for any jaunts abroad. See our SMM guide to it all here.

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Thursday, 13 December 2018