A medical emergency can cost time, worry and leave people with huge medical bills if they travel without the correct cover, warns the British Embassy’s Healthcare Team. The team – which is regularly called to help stranded Brits without the correct cover – hopes expats can warn family and friends of the need for health cover before they travel to Spain this summer.
And a new video ‘Using your EHIC in Spain’ has been produced for people on holiday or here for a short stay to help travellers understand where and how to use the health card. Last year over 2,000 British holidaymakers found themselves in a Spanish public hospital and having to apply for a temporary replacement EHIC – adding to their stress and frustration. And the short film also underlines the importance of travel insurance – the team said many more Brits ended up in private hospitals without cover and facing medical bills of thousands of pounds. Private care is not covered by the EHIC system and is not reimbursed by the National Health Service. DISTRESS One holidaymaker remembers how travelling without an EHIC added distress to illness while in a Spanish hospital. “While I was being treated I had to arrange for cover to be faxed over form the UK. In the end it took days because my name was misspelled by admissions and they did not link the replacement to me...it was awful having all that added stress, plus doing it all in Spanish, when I felt so poorly.” But because an EHIC only covers state healthcare, another traveller was caught out after being taken to a private hospital. “When I started to feel dizzy, the hotel called for an ambulance. I was taken to a nearby hospital where I was taken to a nearby hospital where I was kept in overnight. “When I went to check out, there was a 1,923€ bill waiting for me. I had been treated in a private hospital without knowing it. Having no private insurance cover, I had to pay. That was pretty much the end of my holiday.” Health Minister Jane Ellison said: “If you live in the UK, you are entitled to a free European Health Insurance Card which gives you access to healthcare when travelling in Europe. If you fall ill and are not properly covered you may have to pay. “This new video gives important information about why you need a valid EHIC and travel insurance when visiting other European countries, and how to use the EHIC should you need it.” ‘Using Your EHIC in Spain’ can be seen at YouTube and at www.healthcareinspain.eu, or on the NHS Choices website under Healthcare in Spain.