This wee blue card is worth fighting for
AS I’ve told you before, I had my appendix out in France a number of years ago.
I didn’t have insurance so it was stressful contemplating how much it would all cost – four days in hospital and an operation.
Luckily, I had my European Health Insurance Card (known then as the E111) with me and we only had to fork out € 66.
This summer I’m spending my holidays in northern Sweden in a remote hamlet about an hour’s drive from the nearest hospital.
Being more than seven months pregnant has certainly made me think differently about the whole process.
I’ve saved the 999 equivalent in my phone just in case and looked into non-urgent medical services near to where I’m staying. It’s unlikely I’ll need any of this, but better to be safe than sorry, right?
To the same end, I’ve researched what my EHIC would cover in Sweden.
According to the NHS website, it enables access to public healthcare at a reduced cost and sometimes for free.
So, as in other EU countries, you are effectively considered a resident; it’s your home nation that picks up the bill.
In Sweden, routine maternity care is also covered, provided the reason of the visit is not specifically to give birth. Great, I thought. But the NHS also makes clear some counties charge a fee for ambulance transport and that a visit to A&E can cost up to £40.
Without knowing how much giving birth might add up to, I thought it best to take out an insurance policy as well. I discovered that many policies only include all pregnancy and childbirth-related medical expenses up to 28 weeks.
This seems odd as most airlines will let you travel up to 36 weeks, but I guess the risk is deemed too high.
I did eventually find a specialist company that insures women until this later point, but the experience made me think, thank goodness for the EHIC.
The combination of it and one of the mainstream policies would probably have been comprehensive enough to give me peace of mind, although of course the former doesn’t cover repatriation costs or any care not available to a state’s own citizens.
Earlier this year, it seemed this hugely useful little blue card might become a casualty of Brexit, but thankfully its future now looks more optimistic.
Brexit Secretary David Davis revealed in June that he will ask the EU to continue with the current scheme as part of a reciprocal agreement on healthcare.
More than that, he said if Brussels refused, the UK Government would foot the £155m-a-year bill.
While nothing is safe in the negotiations, let’s hope this means the EHIC has a good chance of survival.
If not, experts have warned insurance premiums could rise based on the fact companies would have to pay out for all treatment rather than just claims not dealt with through the EHIC system.
This would make trips to Europe that bit more complicated and perhaps prohibitively expensive.