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I've got a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and only plan to travel around the EU for the foreseeable future. I read another answer that quite nicely covered the details of what the EHIC covers, but I'd like to know if there's any reason to pay for additional travel insurance. If the EHIC gives me equal medical care as I would get in England, what's the point of paying more? Does travel insurance usually provide extra cover that an EHIC won't?

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Don't forget that travel insurance isn't just for medical, but also flights, theft, luggage, even hijackings... –  Mark Mayo Feb 6 '13 at 22:28
    
And don't forget that your health insurance may not cover all medical expenses abroad, requiring you to repay them when you get home, leaving you with a potentially hefty bill to pay that you would be able to claim in turn on your travel insurance's medical coverage. –  jwenting Dec 17 '13 at 7:36
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3 Answers 3

It depends on the terms of your travel insurance. Usually these insurances include some extras that are not covered by EHIC. Here is a non-exhaustive list of services they can offer, and that are not offered by the basic insurance:

  • Repatriation services, including repatriation by plane.
  • Services for family members. If you get sick during the holidays, they take care of your dependents.
  • If you have to cancel a holiday because of health reasons (or related) they can cover cancellation fees. Or fees that arise when you have to interrupt your holiday prematurely.
  • They cover extra costs for doctor visits, medical treatments or hospital stays, not covered by the EHIC.
  • They reimburse costs for special mountain rescues, e.g. when you go skiing.
  • They provide assistance in the case of lost luggage.
  • They provide assistance in the tragic case where you or one of your family members dies abroad.

If all these services are covered or if there are other elements covered, and to what extent the are covered, depends on the precise terms and conditions. Just read them or talk to your insurance broker. Or get into contact with a consumers' association if you want a more neutral point of view. Insurance regulations can differ from one country to another, even in the EU.

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Often travel insurance is not just medical travel insurance but will cover general travel costs. Eg your flight is delayed and you want to book another relight / need to stay in a hotel, your hotel cancels your booking at the last minute and you need to book another hotel to stay in, your bags get lost in transit and you need to buy some new clothes etc. These are sort of things that an EHIC will not cover.

Additionally, travel medical insurance will probably allow you to see a private medical professional. The EHIC is just proof that you are entitled to the country 's public health system. This is not always the same as private medical cover. Eg if you have a major accident (break your arm) you might be able to go to a private hospital / clinic and be seen quicker, rather than waiting for hours in A&E, the travel medical might cover it. Travel medical insurance might cover repatriation, ie if you die, it will pay for the costs of sending your body back to your home country. I don't know if a EHIC will pay for that.

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The other two answers at this point are excellent, but I just wanted to expound on one point: Travel insurance is almost always useful if/when a serious illness during your travel would require urgent transport to a faraway medical facility. It's not just limited to more extreme conditions like mountain rescues; for example, say you have a life threatening condition (e.g., appendicitis, heart attack, etc.) arise on a cruise ship in the middle of the Mediterranean. A ship carrying thousands of passengers will not make a detour just because one has a life threatening condition, and even if it did it might be tens of hours from the closest port at full speed. Therefore, such conditions necessitate a helicopter medivac to the closest hospital, which can cost tens if not hundreds of thousands of Euros. Whether or not your domestic insurance provider will cover those costs will vary from provider to provider, but here in the US even the most premium insurance plans do not cover such expenses.

As an anecdote, several years ago I attended a conference in India in which an Italian colleague was involved in a rickshaw crash, sustaining moderate injuries including at least one broken bone. I do not know all of the details of his case, but I do know that he did not have travel insurance and ended up having to depart early and fly back to Italy to receive treatment. Granted, I do not know if his decision to leave was due to a lack of coverage for the medical costs versus a preference to be treated by Italian doctors, but I got the impression that it was the former.

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