The European Commission announced they are taking legal action against Spain after reports of public hospitals refusing to treat travellers under the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
If you’re a European citizen you’ve probably taken out a European Health Insurance Card EHIC card believing this will guarantee you emergency medical treatment. However there have been hundreds of complaints that some Spanish hospitals are rejecting the card and instead telling travellers to claim treatment costs via their travel insurance or cover the costs themselves.
What is the European Health Insurance ( EHIC ) Card?
The European Health Insurance Card EHIC entitles EU citizens to free or subsidised emergency healthcare in public hospitals across the 27 EU member counties as well as Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein. It covers costs of emergency treatment and long term conditions, which are later reclaimed from your country. For example, if you are a British citizen with an emergency in Spain, the British National Heath Service pays the bill in the end, so no country is out of pocket. The healthcare entitles you to the same level of state healthcare that is given to the citizens in that country but it is not always free (depending on the country) and the details change between states. You are advised not to rely solely on the EHIC card because it won’t cover flights home or any private healthcare.
According to The Guardian, British insurance companies have had to pay the treatment bills that should have been covered by the EHIC as Spanish hospitals refused to accept the card. This has resulted in higher insurance premiums as companies recoup their costs and according to the BBC, has lead to complaints from insurance companies in several European countries and the UK Foreign Office.
Why are some hospitals in Spain not accepting the card?
Mary Aitchison from the Internal Travel Insurance Journal thinks the problem stems from the huge number of people who travel to this popular tourist destination. Spain plays host to over 10 million British tourists every year, of which around thirty a week require medical treatment.
According to the Telegraph Spain isn’t alone in refusing the EHIC card and hospitals in Portugal and Greece also refusing to accept the card.
What should you do if you have an emergency
If you are in a country where the European Health Insurance Card ( EHIC ) should be accepted, insist on being treated under the public health system and don’t sign anything that you don’t understand. Find out where the public hospital is and what it’s called to reduce the chances of the taxi driver taking you to a private hospital and also make sure you keep all your documents and receipts.
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