When you go abroad, whether for a holiday, business trip or special occasion, one of the main things to consider is healthcare. You will have your own arrangements in your home country for healthcare – in the UK, for example, you have the NHS – so you don't have to think about what you would do if you need to see a doctor. But things get trickier when you go overseas.
This is where you may need to think about getting an EHIC, also referred to as the EU medical card. So what do you need to know about getting health treatment abroad?
Free Healthcare in the EEA Area
If you live in an EEA country and you are travelling to another EEA country, you can get access to free healthcare through the EU medical card - the EHIC. If you are in the UK, you can order yours from the NHS website.
It is completely free and provides you with the same level of healthcare a resident of that country would receive from the government.
Standard of Healthcare Abroad
The main question you may want answered is what standard of healthcare you can expect; the answer is that it depends on the country to which you are travelling. State healthcare varies, and some countries provide a very high level of care compared to what you are familiar with. Others provide a much lower level.
One thing to remember is that it may not cover everything for free. Dental treatment, for example, may have a cost involved, as may a prescription. You'll have to research the country you are visiting; again, the NHS website is an invaluable resource.
Do You Need to Bother with Travel Insurance?
Many travellers think when they get an EU medical card that they do not need to worry about private travel insurance. But this is not the case. Travel insurance is never a requirement - it is always your decision - but it is certainly advised, as it provides extra protection while you are overseas. For example, it will usually provide private healthcare, which can be far superior to public, depending on the country you are visiting. It also usually provides repatriation costs, so if you end up in hospital and require long-term treatment, you can fly home instead without having to pay for it. And then there are all the other benefits like cancellation cover and cover for personal belongings, just to name two.
Travel with Confidence
It's very important to plan properly for your trip overseas. That means making sure you have arrangements in place for your healthcare, and knowing what you are entitled to. You should take both an EU medical card and private travel insurance. Some insurers will waive the excess when you make a claim if you also have your EHIC , and it will definitely give you more peace of mind that you are covered in any eventuality.