This wee blue card is worth fight­ing for

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - POLITICS - by Lind­say razaq

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.

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