Next time you take a holiday in Europe, make sure you have appropriate health insurance.
Many British holidaymakers think that the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will cover them if they are taken ill and require immediate medical treatment in a country which belongs to the European Union (EU), but this has never been the case in all instances, as a recent decision of the European Court of Justice confirmed.
It involved a Spanish national who was admitted to hospital in France. He applied to the Spanish authorities for reimbursement of the costs he was required to pay to the French hospital for his treatment. The Spanish authorities refused to pay, despite the fact that had he received the same treatment in Spain, it would have been free.
The European Court ruled that Spain had met its obligations to the man under EU law.
The effect of the decision is that when a patient has to go to hospital, the costs will only be refunded by the ‘insuring’ state, to the EU state in which the hospitalisation occurs, to the extent that the same treatment would have been available free of charge in the patient’s country of stay. Application of this rule means that the state in which hospitalisation occurs must look to the patient for the recovery of any costs that will not be so reimbursed.
Also, under a recent change in the rules, some British citizens resident in other EU countries must now apply for their EHIC from the UK, not from their country of residence.
The NHS provides further information on its website.