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Travellers to Europe should still take EHIC despite problems with Spain

The European Commission have started legal proceedings against Spain for their refusal to recognise EHIC cards. Visitors should still take the card.

Holidaymakers visiting Europe this year should still take their EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) cards with them. EHIC cardholders are entitled to the same healthcare as a local citizen within the 27 EU Member states plus Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. That doesn't necessarily mean free treatment, just the same as a local would receive.

However, concerns have been raised that some countries: Spain, Portugal and Greece in particular have been refusing free treatment to patients with EHIC cards and charging them or their travel insurance. There are also reports that patients are being diverted away from public hospitals to private hospitals which do not accept EHIC.

The European Commission have expressed concern about the refusal by Spanish public hospitals to recognise EHIC saying: "The Commission is concerned that Spain might be failing to fulfil its obligations under EU law to provide emergency healthcare to temporary visitors from other Member States on the same terms and conditions as are available to Spanish nationals under the public healthcare scheme.”

Graeme Trudgill from the British Insurance Brokers' Association warned of potential increased costs of Travel Insurance if the situation wasn't resolved saying: "If insurers have to foot the whole bill, they are likely to pass that on to customers.”

We'd rather hope that if there were enough claims, the insurance industry would tackle the offending hospitals directly and demand compensation.

It's never been a good idea to rely upon an EHIC card for medical emergencies in Europe, and this reinforces the need for travel insurance. However, that doesn't make the EHIC card pointless. Firstly of course, most EU countries are abiding by the rules so you can get free emergency treatment. Secondly, some travel insurance policies insist that you should present your EHIC and may not pay out if you don't have one. Others take more of a carrot rather than stick approach and will waive excesses if you have an EHIC.

MoneyMaxim can help you find travel insurance policies whether you just want cheap travel insurance for an annual holiday, want cover for adventure sports like skydiving or mountaineering and climbing or you need travel insurance for pre-existing medical conditions.