It’s a common misconception that EHIC and travel insurance are interchangeable. If you’ve got one, then you don’t need the other. That’s not really true though, and the idea stems from people not really understanding what EHIC is all about.
EHIC is a European Economic Area scheme to allow British residents to access the state healthcare systems in all the countries of the EU, plus Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. And that’s where EHIC’s responsibility ends. You can use your EHIC to get emergency or routine healthcare while on holiday in Greece or on business in Barcelona, and the treatment will either be free, or at the same minimum cost charged to locals.
Travel insurance provides a much wider range of cover. Most travel insurance policies will pay out if your flight is very delayed, if your baggage gets stolen or if you incur legal costs after an accident abroad. Insurers will also meet the cost of getting you back home, in an air ambulance if necessary, should you fall seriously ill. Travel insurance may also be happy to meet the cost of treating you in the private sector, depending on the circumstances and the country concerned. The downside of all this is that policies will have an excess. This varies, and although some policies have an excess as low as £50, some are as high as £250 or ever £500. That means you have to pay the excess amount towards your care before insurance kicks in.
Many insurers recognise the benefits of EHIC for travellers, and will give policy holders a discount if they’ve organised EHIC cover alongside their travel insurance. Our final piece of advice is to make sure that you take all your paperwork overseas with you – including your EHIC and a note of your insurance policy number.