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Healthcare Whilst Abroad

When you arrange to go abroad this is a matter that is often overlooked. But what would you do if you become ill or have an accident or injury whilst away?

Travelling to Europe

If you are travelling to any country in the European Economic Area (EEA); that is any European Union Country (EU) plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, then you can be covered for any necessary medical treatment by obtaining a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

The EHIC is issued by the Department of Health to any person who is normally resident in the United Kingdom. It replaces the form E111 which was used up until 31December 2005. The card entitles the person to receive medical treatment in another member state for free or at reduced cost, if that becomes necessary during their visit, and is due to an illness or accident. However you should bear in mind that this may not cover all the services you would expect within the UK, and you may have to make a contribution towards the care you receive. The level of care will vary from country to country. The EHIC can be used to receive treatment for pre-existing illnesses, chronic diseases and routine maternity care. These are often excluded by many travel insurance schemes.

The quickest and easiest way to get an EHIC is to apply on line. Your card should be delivered within 7 days. For full details and how o apply online go to

Many people do not realise it, but many travel insurance schemes will have clauses in their policy.s that stipulate that in the first instance you should seek medical help from the state if you are in a EAA country. Of course that may not always be practical, and it does not necessarily mean you are not covered if you don.t. So check your policy for the details.

Which brings us on to the subject of Travel Insurance? Do you need it?

The answer has got to be yes. You owe it to yourself and your family.

As already discussed the EHIC gives basic cover in Western Europe, but you are strongly advised to get travel insurance as well, in order to cover all eventualities. Policies that cover only Europe are considerably cheaper than those for the US and the rest of the world. This is in part due to the existence of the EHIC. Also bear in mind that travel insurance is not just for medical cover. You are covered for a whole range of other things such as missing baggage, theft or delays, or perhaps having to delay or cancel your trip due to unforeseen circumstances.

Travelling outside Europe

This covers any country outside the European Economic Area. In these countries when you seek healthcare you will invariably have to pay. The cost will vary on which country you are in, and what the circumstances are. The US is probably the most expensive.

Travel Insurance which includes adequate medical cover is absolutely essential. You probably won.t need it. But ask yourself what you would do if you needed care and you did not have cover? The hassle could be endless, - and at a time when maybe you can least cope with these problems. Also - it could potentially bankrupt you. Seriously!

As with all Travel Insurance, shop around for cover, and make sure is adequate for the country you are travelling to. Also read the clauses and exclusions.

Also see: UK Government Department of Health Website