The European Health Insurance Card, or EHIC as it is more commonly known, gives you access to state provided medical treatment and health care in member countries of the EEA (European Economic Area), and Switzerland. You will receive the same level of care as the residents of the country you are visiting, but this doesn't always mean treatment is free. Not all countries provide free health care like the NHS, and you may be asked to contribute towards the cost of your medical treatment.
If the country you are visiting doesn't have state provided health care, and you are suddenly taken ill or get injured, you will have to foot the bill for your medical expenses, and could end up significantly out of pocket.
While an EHIC is a worthwhile accompaniment, it doesn't provide the protection and reassurance of a good travel insurance policy. The EHIC won't cover the costs of your flight back home if you get badly hurt, or the cost of replacing your handbag you last saw when you popped it down on the Spanish Steps to take a picture of a glorious Roman sunset.
Having the right travel insurance policy in place can save you a lot of heartache if something goes wrong while you're away from home sweet home. As well as the financial benefits of being insured, your insurer's helpline may get you out of a tight spot if you don't speak the local language, or need advice on where to go for medical help.
You can apply for a card if you are resident in the UK and are British, from the EEA or Switzerland. There are three ways you can request a card:
If you've left it to the last minute, apply online as it takes around seven days to get a card, whereas postal and phone applications are likely to take longer.
The EHIC is free, but there are several unscrupulous websites out there claiming for a fee they can fast track your application, or asking you to pay for them to check it over for you. Avoid these and only use the Official Site to apply for your card.
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