With the holiday period in full swing, Lib Dem Euro MP Phil Bennion is urging holidaymakers not to forget their European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) when going away to Europe this summer.
The EHIC card is completely free and valid for five years and entitles the holder to the same treatment as a citizen of a participating country. Armed with an EHIC card, holidaymakers will get free or discounted medical treatment at state-run hospitals and doctor's surgeries in any European Union country, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.
Croatia joined the EU in July, so health services in this major tourist destination are also now covered.
The West Midlands MEP has warned residents not to waste their money on scam internet sites which charge a fee for supplying an EHIC card, when the cards are provided entirely free of charge by the NHS.
Phil Bennion, the Lib Dem Tourism spokesman in the European Parliament, said:
"Going on holiday is expensive enough as it is and the last thing anyone wants while abroad is a large healthcare bill. The EHIC card is probably the most important travel accessory to pack, as it entitles you to the same health treatment as local citizens. This can be vital in an emergency.
"It is also worth highlighting that people should not be taken in by scam websites which try to charge a fee for providing a card, implying that you have to pay to get one. EHIC is entirely free of charge and it makes sense to apply through the NHS website to avoid being ripped off.
"Some of these sites claim to be legal as they are charging for forwarding an application form and in effect supervising the application on your behalf, but as it is so straightforward, it seems pointless to waste money on it. The best thing to do is use the NHS website and avoid them."
The EHIC: key points to remember
- EHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance
- it doesn’t cover you if you're going abroad specifically to get treatment.
- the card needs to be valid. Cards are issued for five year periods and the expiry date is on the bottom right.
- you must be over 16 to apply
- children under 16 also need cards, applied for by their parent or guardian
- keep the card with you at all times as travellers won't be covered if they cannot produce it
- in some participating countries, you may need to pay some costs upfront and claim them back later.
- residents of the Channel Islands and Isle of Man aren't eligible
European Health Insurance Cards can be obtained for free up to 10 working days before leaving the UK via www.ehic.org.uk
or by calling 0300 3301350. For more information go to www.nhs.uk/ehic