EHIC is a very valuable tool to help you get state healthcare if you’re travelling to any of the 31 countries in Europe which are part of the scheme. EHIC puts you in the same position as a local person when accessing state healthcare, and can meet the costs of treating everything from a case of severe sunburn to a serious car accident. However, EHIC shouldn’t be seen as a substitute for EHIC, and it’s essential to have both.
Firstly, EHIC will only cover treatment in the state medical system. If you’re based near a major city, you shouldn’t have to travel far. However, provision can be extremely patchy in rural areas and you could face travelling long distances to see the nearest state GP rather than just going to the local private medical system and claiming on your travel insurance. Also, state care in some countries in the former Eastern Bloc are not up to the standards we’d expect in the UK, especially outside major cities.
The other essential cover which travel insurance provides is repatriation. This means that if you fall seriously ill overseas, the travel insurance policy will meet the cost of getting you home when you’re well enough. This could mean paying for an air ambulance, extra seats on a scheduled flight to allow you to lie on a stretcher, or reorganising your original flights to leave earlier or later. Travel insurance, depending on the policy, might also pick up the tab for extras like physiotherapy or dental care which aren’t covered under EHIC. Don’t forget the other benefits which travel insurance offers too, including compensation for flight delays, cover for theft or loss, and legal cover if you are involved in some sort of accident or dispute overseas.