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The Foreign Office tells millions of British skiers that it won’t pay their medic bills

Many people wrongly believe that they can rely on the cards dubbed EHIC if they fall ill or are injured on holiday in Europe, writes Simon Lambert.

But the benefits of having a European Health Insurance Card, or EHIC, are overestimated by holidaymakers. 

A card gives you access to state-run medical care in the European Union, but 59 per cent of travellers surveyed by GoCompare this year wrongly believed it gave free medical treatment anywhere in the world.

In fact, EHIC means you will be able to access medical care for the same cost as local residents pay. This will be significantly less than you would pay without the card, and in some cases if the local state-run healthcare is free, then you won’t pay a thing.

Skiers and snowboarders should note that EHIC will not cover emergency assistance on the mountain, ambulance travel, or special travel back to the UK. They are advised to get good travel insurance and consider paying for mountain insurance sold alongside ski passes.

EHIC is valid in all European Union countries plus Switzerland, Iceland and Norway. If you are a UK resident you can apply for a card via the NHS website, it’s free and lasts for five years.

All adults (from age 16 upwards) need their own card and it will have an expiry date on the front, so before you go make sure yours is still valid.  

There is also the question of Brexit hanging over holidaymakers. A transition period has been agreed after 29 March 2019, when the UK is due to leave the EU, and if this is enacted then all EU law will continue to apply to the UK during that period, so EHIC will still be valid.

The transition period depends on a withdrawal agreement being made, however, and that is what politicians are currently arguing about. In the even of a no-deal Brexit, EHIC may cease to apply.  

A good travel insurance policy is therefore a must for those heading to Europe after 29 March next year. Read our guide to finding the best travel insurance.