Holidaying Brits Risk Hefty Medical Bills by Travelling Without an EHIC

Sunday, July 3, 2011

CHESTER, England, July 4, 2011 -


Benefits of the EHIC Unknown to Half of
Holidaymakers, S

More than half of Brits (58 per cent) are unaware of the
benefits of having the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) when
taking their summer href="">holidays
in Europe, according to research by href="">

Britain’s number one price comparison site found a third of
Brits (33 per cent) incorrectly think the E111 will cover them for
free or reduced cost medical treatment in the EU and EEA*
countries; despite the E111 being replaced in January 2006 by
EHICs. A further four per cent believe their passport can be used,
while three per cent believe an NHS patient card will cover

European Health Insurance Cards are only valid for five years
and therefore have to be renewed once they’ve expired. Anyone who
applied for their card in 2006 or earlier will need to renew their
card now as they are already out of date, or due to expire
soon.   There could be around 6 million cards that need
to be renewed already this year. Ensure you check your card is
in-date before your think about travelling and if you find it has
expired you need to leave yourself enough time to renew it. EHICs
entitle UK citizens to the same state-provided medical treatment as
a local resident receives in other EU or EEA countries, yet only 42
per cent of Brits are familiar with it.

An EHIC card is free and available through the NHS Choices

Bob Atkinson, travel insurance expert at href="">
said: “Brits hitting Europe this summer without an
EHIC could end up facing a hefty bill if they need medical care
while they’re on vacation. Medical treatment in the EU and EEAs
varies from country to country as well as being very different to
NHS provided care in the UK. An EHIC is your ‘pass’ to get free or
reduced cost medical treatment in any EU or EEA country.
Holidaymakers will suffer unexpected financial pain if they don’t
ensure they have the right documents and produce them when seeking

“It’s encouraging to see that EHIC awareness is starting to
improve - in 2009 our research showed only 35 per cent of
Brits[2] understood an EHIC would
help them with medical costs if needed. But our findings show there
is clearly still a long way to go to get the message across.”

The research also found a clear generational divide amongst
holidaymakers; almost a quarter (23 per cent) of under 35s
incorrectly think the E111 will give them free or reduced cost
medial treatment compared to well over a third (39 per cent) of
over 55s.

Bob Atkinson continued: “Like the E111 before it, the
EHIC only offers relatively low level access to medical treatment.
Holidaymakers shouldn’t view it as a replacement for travel
insurance, and travellers should also be aware that any
non-essential care or treatment can cost extra. The cost for many
serious accidents, extensive treatment and the need for air
ambulance repatriation will not be covered by the EHIC and the
costs for this can run into tens of thousands of pounds.

“As well as offering much more comprehensive medical treatment
cover, travel insurance offers holidaymakers the peace of mind that
they are covered for lost or stolen possessions, holiday
cancellations, personal liability and a range of other costly
possibilities. Therefore holidaymakers should lessen the risk of
having to pay expensive medical bills by having both an EHIC
and a valid private travel insurance policy that covers Europe.
Cover provided by EHICs varies considerably from country to country
so it’s worth finding out what you would be eligible for prior to
travelling to your destination.

“Anyone travelling outside of Europe has only travel insurance
to rely on. Having an EHIC is of no benefit what so ever in
countries beyond the EU and EEA. Travel insurance can be purchased
for around £10 for a family of four travelling to Spain for a week
or if travelling further afield, cover for a family of four for two
weeks in the US will cost from as little as £30. For such a small
outlay the amount of cover you can get from a policy is huge. I
urge everyone travelling on holiday to take out adequate travel
insurance, it really is worth investing in protection for you and
your family just in case the worst should happen.” recommends at least the following level of
travel insurance cover:

  • 2m for medical expenses
  • £1m personal liability
  • £3000 cancellation - or enough to cover the total cost of your
  • £1500 baggage
  • £250 for cash
  • Policy excesses under £100
  • Cover for scheduled airline failure and end supplier failure as
  • Delay cover (e.g. £20/hour for first 12 hours).

Brits can usually get a free EHIC within seven days if they
apply at href="">
or on 0845 606 2030. Filling out a form at the post office adds two
weeks to the process. The EHIC is valid for up to five years in all
European Economic Area (EEA) countries and Switzerland, but does
not include the Channel Islands so holidaymakers heading there
would need travel insurance in place.  Holidaymakers should
also keep an eye on the expiration date.

Notes to Editors:

[1]Research undertaken by
Opinium Research based on an online poll of 2030 British adults,
25th to 27th May 2011.

[2] Research undertaken by
Opinium Research based on an online poll of 2,004 British adults in
August 2009.

*European Economic Area (EEA) countries are EU members plus
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