So, now the dust has settled and the nation has spoken, the UK is now set to exit the European Union. But what does this mean for people with private medical insurance living here in the UK and other EU nations?
The simple answer is, in the short term at least, nothing. Political commentators are clear that the exit negotiations will take at least two years to conclude, with some suggesting the process could take much longer. In the meantime it’s business as usual.
Going forward it will of course be necessary to monitor those negotiations and prepare for whatever changes they may or may not yield. Naturally, as a key player in both the UK individual and company medical insurance sectors, we’ll be following proceedings very closely, as will our panel of leading health insurers many of whom operate across Europe.
So what about travelling within Europe. How will Brexit affect holders of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)? Again we shall need to wait and see but it is worth noting that participants in the EHIC already include countries such as Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, none of which are in the EU. With the EHIC actually operating across the European Economic Area (EEA), plus Switzerland, rather than simply the EU, Brexit may change nothing.
As we’re talking about the EHIC and the summer holiday season is fast approaching, it’s worth remembering that the card offers only limited cover. It is limited to state healthcare provided “at a reduced cost, or sometimes for free”. In France, for example, you will need pay for treatment upfront and then only be able to recover up to 70% of your costs.
If you’re travelling abroad, you should still take out travel insurance. This point is so misunderstood that according to an Association of British Travel Agents’ (ABTA) survey, nearly one in five of our own MPs thought that if they had an EHIC, or had paid for their holiday by credit card, then they were covered. Not so.
This report by Wanderlust magazine makes for sober reading, pointing out that one traveller who suffered a bleed on the brain and heart infection faced a £20,000 bill for treatment and an air ambulance back to the UK. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) also cites the case of a woman who fell and broke her hip, leading to a £15,000 bill for treatment in a Spanish hospital and air repatriation. It is these kinds of costs that travel insurance is designed to cover and the EHIC is not.
As the FCO advises, “When travelling overseas it is important to take out travel insurance. An emergency abroad can be extremely expensive.”
If you would like advice or a quote on travel or private medical insurance then please give our experts a call on 0800 018 3633.