With the Easter holidays just around the corner and over 3 million* European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) expiring at the end of March, many people could be travelling in Europe without cover, warns international medical services expert, Healix. In addition, there appears to be a growing trend for travellers to go abroad without cover - with disastrous consequences if they fall ill or are injured.
"Many holidaymakers may not realise that their EHIC expired last month, which means some heading to Europe this Easter will not be entitled to medical treatment at a reduced or no cost," explains Steve Hook of Healix. "And this could mean them facing hefty medical and repatriation bills - as well as the logistical nightmare of getting them home - if they fall ill or are injured while abroad.
"It really is a false economy to take the risk of not organising insurance cover for overseas travel. Obviously cost is a key factor that is covered by insurance, but the other key benefit is having access to the best quality local services and repatriation facilities sourced by your insurer. If you have to try to organise this yourself for a travelling companion who is ill or injured it can be a logistical nightmare, especially if you're in a country where they don't speak English. And there's no way of knowing who will offer the best service. It's even worse if you are the family back at home, operating on different time zones and having difficulty in making contact with the injured relative.
"Our advice is absolutely to make sure you and family members have cover before heading abroad. However, if travel insurance cover hasn't been organised, Healix offers emergency evacuation and repatriation services, allowing relatives at home and travelling companions to gain access to expert care. Our critical care staff have the experience and knowledge to evaluate a situation quickly and recommend the best course of action."
Healix arranges approximately 1,500 repatriations a year, from around 100 different countries, including around 350 air ambulances, offering the family and friends of travellers who have been taken ill, the vital peace of mind. Where appropriate, Healix liaises directly with the patient, their families and treating doctors, regarding treatment and evacuation/repatriation options.
"We provide a valuable service for uninsured travellers who need to be repatriated or evacuated to another country where better emergency medical facilities are available", continued Steve Hook. "More and more travellers are exploring off the beaten path these days, but this means they could be days from adequate medical care. Added to this the cost of air ambulances and emergency treatment abroad can leave uninsured travellers with a huge bill, even if you go somewhere as popular as New Zealand. However, the expertise of Healix staff means we can recommend the best course of action and select the most cost-effective hospital or country for treatment."