This is one of those boring-but-essential blog posts I’m afraid, tackling the ins and outs of all important insurance; who needs it? How much should you pay? And what coverage can you expect? With holiday season just around the corner it’s best to fully prepare yourself ahead of time to avoid any shocking costs in future travels. The first question is an easy one to answer; “who needs insurance?”… EVERYONE. If you’re planning to leave the country for any amount of time all UK residents should make sure they are covered by at least TWO types of insurance: A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), and private travel insurance. The following article is broken down into tips relating to both.
What is EHIC?
Formerly known as the E111, the EHIC came into use in 2006 and, unlike its paper-form predecessor, it’s a card that the holder is encouraged to carry with them on travels. That way, should the worst happen, the unlucky adventurer can quickly receive medical care simply by flashing the EHIC. The card is free – which is important to remember due to numerous companies in operation asking for money to supply them – and can be claimed from the NHS webpage, should you meet the criteria below.
Who is entitled to an EHIC?
Every UK resident who is of British, EEA, EU or Swiss nationality is entitled to an EHIC. This does not include those from the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man. If you are not one of the above nationalities your Visa, a letter from your employer, a letter from the Home Office or various approved forms (more info here) may still entitle you to the card. Applicants must be over 16 to claim for their own card. In order to apply, use the link above. You need only your full name, date of birth, and National Insurance or NHS number.
What does it entitle travellers to?
The EHIC entitles holders to medical attention in all EEA and EU countries, and Switzerland. It does not cover private medical treatment, and only offers free or cheaper treatments than if you didn’t have the card. The EHIC allows you to get treated “as a local”, so if citizens would usually pay towards the cost of their treatment, this will be expected on the production of an EHIC card. These payments can currently be claimed back, so keep your receipts and any proof of payment. However after 1st July 2014, new rules mean no payments will be refunded. The EHIC only covers temporary visits to other countries, however you can still claim on it even if you’ve recently moved somewhere, providing you aren’t yet “living” there (working, paying taxes, etc). If you have ongoing treatment that will need to be upheld during your trip (such as kidney dialysis) the EHIC does cover this, however you will have to arrange procedures ahead of travelling.
Exceptions to coverage
The EHIC does not cover medical costs where the intent of travel is to undergo medical procedures, and it doesn’t cover planned incidences of giving birth in another country. Additionally, it does not cover free or cheaper medical procedures in EEA countries where state-provided medical care is not offered. By the same notion of being treated “as a local”, you will either have to pay for treatment or claim it on a private insurance. Additionally, as the EHIC only helps towards the costs of medical treatment, any other costs incurred through injury – such as accommodation, alternative flights etc – are not covered by EHIC, another important reason travellers should take out private insurance to help with these costs should it become necessary. However, it is important to still have your EHIC for these scenarios – many insurers may waive excess if they see you have a valid EHIC card.
The EHIC is valid for up to 5 years, so make sure you check the expiry date on your current one before you travel. If it has or will expire before setting off, note the following number on your phone: 00 44 191 218 1999 (office hours Monday to Friday, 8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.). This will put you through to the Overseas Healthcare Team who, on being provided your name, address, date of birth and National Insurance or NHS (England), CHI (Scotland) or Care (NI) Number, will be able to issue a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC). This is sent directly to the place of treatment and proves your eligibility to an EHIC.
Another important number to have on you is 112, the European Emergency Number which can be dialled from any landline or mobile.
Additionally, you can “like” the official NHS EHIC page on Facebook (and you really shoud… they currently have under 2,000 likes, which is not proportionate for the amount of people they must help. Show some love!) for updates on the service and regular live Q&As for any insurance questions.
Private Travel Insurance
What is Private Travel Insurance?
Private Travel Insurance is the second insurance all travellers must have when leaving the UK.
There are a lot of variations to private insurance out there, covering different aspects of travel and tailored to different types of getaways. As all policies are different, this is only a vague guide as to what you may find with insurance you invest in. Mainly, they cover five important categories:
A must-have of a good insurance policy, expenses in relation to personal injury cover medical expenses (£1million expenses cover is seen as a safe minimum for European travel) and costs of accommodation and flights in relation to injury (including repatriation, or getting you home in case of medical emergency). It is also good to be aware of what you may be covered for in terms of dental treatment, as this is often categorised separately from medical cover. Insurance companies rarely pay out for drink or drug-related incidents, and be aware of what your policy classes as “risky activity” – scuba diving and even horse riding may not be covered.
Incidents relating to flights
Cancellations, loss or damage to baggage, delays and missed departures are all available under this category. Missed departure is usually only payable in scenarios where the outcome was out of your control, such as delays in public transport or your vehicle breaking down. Delays at the airport itself, due to adverse weather for instance, will mean the insurer will pay out. Delays in relation to known issues before your journey began, such as strike action, will not pay. Cancellation coverage, also known as travel abandonment, covers passengers for self-cancellation of the whole or part of their trip. The majority of the above are considered “must-haves” for travel. Don’t be caught out without them!
This pays towards the cost of damage caused by you to another’s property or person. This rarely extends beyond “personal”, so family members are unlikely to be covered.
Damage, loss or theft to your property
Before setting out, you may also want to check if any possessions you intend to take away with you are covered by your home or bank insurance abroad. If an item not covered were to be damaged, be wise about the excess you are willing to pay. Although the insurance is cheaper when your excess is higher, if you won’t be able to pay it out in the first place, the policy is not worth having. Policies can also cover loss or theft of a passport, and replacement of any lost or stolen money or equivalent travellers cheques. All issues of stolen money must be reported to local police within 24 hours in order for a claim to be made.
Bonus coverage tips: duration, geography and proof
Good coverage providers will offer 24 hour assistance should you require it at any point while you are away. It is also important to make sure you are covered for the entire duration of your journey. Look closely at the amount of time you will be covered for; most coverage only lasts a maximum of 31 days, meaning that, even if you take out annual coverage, it won’t be valid for one continuous year-long trip. More often than not Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey are covered by European insurance policies, but obviously check this ahead of travel. Similarly, double-check exactly which countries or territories are included in “worldwide” policies; these can often exclude the US and Canada. For some claims, proof will be needed, so keep receipts for any payments made. This may even extend to proof of purchase for the items in your suitcase should your luggage go missing.
Shop around and research
There are many price comparison sites out there to help you find the right cover for you. Make sure you tailor your insurance selection to the type of trip you will be taking, and ensure you get the best coverage for any eventualities.