Despite never being billed as a viable alternative to conventional travel insurance policies, countless numbers of British holidaymakers are finding themselves out of pocket by solely relying on the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) as a means of settling medical bills which have been run up while they’re abroad.
That’s the findings of a recent study by www.postoffice.co.uk/travelinsurance who discovered that over 50% of tourists who wielded European Health Insurance Cards in a bid to counter the notoriously high cost of medical care abroad, experienced difficulties recouping their initial losses.
Describing what it calls ‘high levels of confusion’ in the www.travelweekly.co.uk article, the Post Office’s travel insurance-providing arm also conducted separate research which uncovered news that one third (or almost 38%) of holidaymakers sustained injuries that totalled in excess of £1.1billion in medical costs in 2014. Of the 4.4million travellers directly affected, the biggest issues with regards to the application and indeed, remit of the EHIC was observed in both France and Spain.
More than half spoke of monetary problems while attempting to settle bills with their EHIC in those countries, which ultimately saw the injury-hit tourists coughing up for part (or in some cases, all) of their medical treatment at the time.Referring to Spain, these latest events come in the aftermath of incidents first brought to the public’s attention back in 2013, when Spain was said to be culpable of refusing Brits free emergency treatment; which resulted in unwitting holidaymakers picking up healthcare bills which ran into the thousands for some unwitting victims.
Brandishing European Health Insurance Card Won’t Cut the Mustard in All Countries and for All Medical Eventualities
With it being said that some 3 in 5 people possess a European Health Insurance Card, it’s believed that of those a staggering 27% fail to grasp the basics of what you can and cannot do with it.
For a start, 55% of those polled by the Post Office wrongly thought that the EHIC’s geographical reach was limited to the borders of the EU, when in reality it entitles holders to state-funded medical treatment across the European Economic Area. Whilst flagged up as free for the most part, the Post Office are keen to remind holidaymakers that in various destinations it’s offered at a reduced price, rather than being totally free.
Yet in the respect of being liable to make a financial contribution, a third of those questioned understood this principle, whereas 32% thought an EHIC would all but guarantee them free NHS-esque treatment on their travels.
Figure-wise, the seeming confusion as to the actual reach of the EHIC (itself freely available from the National Health Service here in the UK) didn’t stop there, as the following statistics reveal;
1 in 4 holidaymakers were under the impression EHIC could ONLY be used in conjunction with emergency treatment
1 in 20 wrongly assumed it would take care of costs of repatriating someone struck down by illness or injury while on the continent, a figure replicated by those polled who misunderstood that it would provide private healthcare protection, in addition to said country’s state provision
1 in 9 tourists admitted to using/attempting to facilitate their EHIC overseas, which 57% confirming that they had subsequently encountered money problems in the process
19% revealed that they’d been forced to stump up a percentage of the treatment they had received
15% acknowledged that they were left with no other choice than to settle the bill and seek to reclaim it courtesy of travel insurance thereafter
Another 15% – despite having their EHIC accepted with regards to treatment received on holiday – then had to claim on their travel insurance policy to fund their homeward journey
Nearly 10% were thwarted in their ignorant ploys of trying to facilitate their EHIC in a country that didn’t actively participate in the scheme
Talking about the revelations his company’s study exposed, the Post Office’s Director of Financial Services, Nick Kennett offered the following when pressed by www.travelweekly.co.uk; “The EHIC should certainly form part of your travel documentation when holidaying in Europe but you really do need to understand its rules.”
He went on to add; “Our research shows that if you rely on an EHIC alone, you could suffer financially at a time when you are likely to feel vulnerable.The EHIC is far from being a substitute for travel insurance, which provides benefits for a wide range of issues including holiday cancellation or curtailment, theft, damage to property and private health treatment.”