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European health insurance FAQs

Here are a few classic questions on the subject of travelling within Europe and associated health insurance.

Do I need additional health insurance if I am staying in Europe?

Ultimately, the decision must reside with you but there are a few points worth keeping in mind:

  • reciprocal health cover between European nations typically applies within the European Union and perhaps closely associated countries such as Switzerland. However, many countries to the east of the EU, including Russia, may be geographically within the European continent but they're not in the EU and may not be covered by reciprocal health agreements;
  • standard reciprocal health agreements are not fully comprehensive and won't, for example, cover things such as medical repatriation back to the UK and so on.

Travel insurance also typically provides a range of other cover, for example for your luggage, which is entirely separate from European Union reciprocal health agreements.

What about if I am travelling through various countries?

That is an issue because on some holidays you may be travelling partly within the European Union but also outside it. Examples might be multi-centre holidays that involve say time spent in Greece and then in Turkey and Israel. Cruises might also be something that involve moving from say European Mediterranean destinations to non-European ports of call.

Fortunately, we at Bengo Travel offer a variety of policies that can cater for these special requirements, including a specialist cruise insurance offering.

How does European reciprocal health cover work?

The basic principle is simple and free.

Essentially you apply to the NHS for what is called an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card).

Upon presentation at hospitals and other medical facilities within European Union countries, this will typically entitle you to emergency medical attention on the same base is as it is available to local citizens of the country concerned.

Try to keep in mind at all times that:

  • that does not mean that everything will be free, as it typically will be in the United Kingdom. Not all European Union countries have the same regulations in that respect and you will only be entitled to the same care as local people;
  • many additional costs associated with emergency health cover will not be met by your EHIC. Those costs may be substantial and that is one reason why the EHIC should not be seen as a potential replacement for sensible travel insurance.

Does this card cover all medical care?

No, absolutely not.

It is designed only to cover emergency situations and will not allow you to obtain elective medical treatment overseas. It is also important to remember that some medical establishments within the European Union may be effectively private hospitals/clinics and they may not necessarily accept the EHIC.

It would be a good idea to check to make sure that you understand where local public medical facilities are, either before or shortly after you arrive at your destination.