Hands up all those who remember the old E111 medical forms you were supposed to have if you travelled in Europe? I can see all those blank faces!
Well, great news is that it doesn’t matter any more. The E111 form was replaced at the beginning of January 2006 by a new European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
This EHIC is valid for up to 5 years and entitles you to the same level of medical care in the country you’re travelling in, as would be enjoyed by the residents of that country. The card covers discounted and free medical care including emergency treatment, and applies to all the EEC countries plus Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. But be aware that the treatment you’re entitled to might not include all the treatments you get free of charge under the National Health Service here in Britain.
Nevertheless, we believe that it’s wise to carry a EHIC as it could save you time, money and a great deal of hassle if you’re unlucky enough to need medical attention. It can cut through some of the inevitable red tape you’d be faced with if you were relying just on the medical provisions of your travel insurance policy.
You should also be aware that in many areas of Europe, the best medical attention is still reserved for those with private insurance cover. Private insurance bypasses the long queues of local residents waiting patently in inhospitable corridors – after all who wants to spend days of their holiday not only ill, but queuing as well!
Another point is that nationalised health care is only available at nationalised hospitals which, in some countries, are hundreds of miles apart. They tend to be located where the local population work and live – not where you enjoy your holidays! Therefore, you may be a long way from the nearest nationalised hospital whereas private medical and dental clinics are to be found in many tourist areas catering primarily for holidaymakers. Their standard is usually good albeit in local terms, they’re expensive.
Whilst we’ve been discussing medical care, don’t forget that private travel insurance covers you for much more than just medical expenses. Most policies will even pay for you to be flown home to the UK if you’re really ill. Holiday cancellation (due to prior illness), holiday curtailment, loss of luggage or individual items are all aspects normally covered by the insurance.
To be as safe as possible, we recommend that all travellers get a European Health Insurance Card and comprehensive travel insurance. After all, you’ve saved up for ages for the holiday and if something goes wrong the last thing you want is to be worried about the financial implications.
As with most insurance, the best travel insurance bargains are to be found on the Internet. Search on your favourite search engine for “travel insurance”. The brokers usually provide the best value for money as they will have access to a wide range of insurance providers and can pick the best for you. You can try the sites run by the individual insurance companies but they’ll only offer you one option – their policy! A broker can offer you a range of solutions.
We say, no matter how you arrange it, get travel insurance and get peace of mind.
Information about the European Health Insurance Card
The European Health Insurance Card is free from any Post Office or by phoning the Department of Health on 0845 606 2030. You can also apply online at the web site run by the Department of Health. The web address is www.dh.gov.uk/travellers