Uncertainty in the UK reigns supreme. Still, no one knows whether we’ll be part of the EU or not in the near, or distant, future, and as such, making travel plans is tough. Whether you’re planning to hit the continent for a quick Christmas mini-break or you need to be abroad for a longer stint in the new year for work, knowing whether your medical care will be covered is difficult. This unpredictable position is of course only heightened by the upcoming election (remember; register to vote). Anyway, we’re here to assuage some fears, with these; our 5 IDEAL questions about medical care on the continent answered.
WHAT IS AN INDEPENDENT TRAVELLER?
Here’s a term you’re going to have to get used to; an ‘independent traveller’ describes someone who has booked the individual elements of their trip separately. So, if you’ve booked your flights, accommodation and other parts of your trip by yourself, you are classified as an independent traveller.
This is different from booking a package holiday. When you book a package holiday, you’re covered under an entirely different, specific set of regulations, and your booking agent or company have a duty to help you deal with any issues you might face abroad. As an independent traveller, the single most important thing you can do is make sure that you’re correctly covered by comprehensive holiday insurance. In the future, should we leave the EU, this will be particularly pertinent.
WHAT DOES MY TRAVEL INSURANCE NEED TO COVER?
When travelling independently, you won’t be able to rely on a holiday rep or another professional to deal with any issues you have, so you need to make sure that your travel insurance covers everything you need it to.
Medical care abroad can cost a huge amount of money, potentially thousands. The best insurance generally covers you for around £2 million, with cover for air ambulance services, if you need it to get you home in emergencies. Don’t forget to contact different insurance brokers to know the best travel insurance quotes for your holidays, as rates differ considerably according to both your necessity and the company’s policy.
DO I NEED A EUROPEAN HEALTH INSURANCE CARD?
Your EHIC card allows you to use state medical care inside the European Economic Area, (EEA.)
The EEA is:
- All countries in the European Union area
- Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein
An EHIC card can reduce the cost of medical treatment, or potentially even provide you with free care. Everyone in your travelling party will need their own EHIC card for care, including young children and babies, so make sure to apply before you leave. Another benefit of EHIC cards is the fact that certain insurance companies can waive costs, for example your excess, if you have one.
BUT HOW WILL BREXIT AFFECT THIS?
If the UK leaves the EU with no agreement, then the EHIC will no longer be valid for travel in EY countries. This means that you’ll need to arrange your own insurance, no matter where you go, even in EU territories.
Should an emergency occur in this instance, firstly, check your insurance. You’ll have an international number to contact, which will generally put you in touch with an assistance company who will tell you the next steps you need to take. If abroad, it’s also worth contacting the local British Consulate, who will be able to recommend a list of services, as well as providing useful advice and perhaps even help.
AND HOW MUCH SHOULD I EXPECT TO PAY FOR MEDICAL TREATMENT?
Your travel insurance should cover major costs, but you might be expected to pay for small claims. As an example, your insurance would be expected to deal with major hospital bills if you are hospitalised, but you would have to foot the costs of a minor medical check up by a doctor or the costs of medicine at a prescription company. You should be able to claim these costs back when you return home, so make sure you keep documentation and receipts.
If you have an EHIC, you might be expected to pay for your treatment upfront, claiming all costs back after the fact. The NHS Choices website has a list of specifics, based on where you are. It should be possible to make a claim for you to receive the payments back whilst you are still abroad. However, if this is not possible, you can contact the department of work and pensions on 0191 218 1999 to ask for the necessary form.