Why do we need to buy travel insurance when we already have EHIC cards?

We ve just booked our family summer Discount Holidays © holiday to Italy but we re yet to buy travel insurance.

As Italy is in Europe are we ok just taking our EHIC cards? I understand the card will cover our medical costs if one of us were to fall ill.

Can we therefore use it as a replacement for travel insurance? Or do we need to buy a separate policy as well? D.B., via email

Why Do We Need To Buy Travel Insurance When We Already Have EHIC Cards?

Discount Holidays © Holiday protection: An EHIC will provide you with the same medical care available to locals and some insurers will waive your policy excess if you’ve used one

Rebecca Rutt, of This is Money, replies: If you re travelling to Europe you need to have travel insurance otherwise if you need to cancel the trip, your luggage goes missing, or you fall ill while you re away and need to be flown home you will not be covered. The European Health Insurance Card or EHIC as it s more commonly known – often with an extra unneccessary card added to the end – works slightly differently to insurance. It s a free card and if you have got one you are entitled to the same priced healthcare as the locals in the country you re visiting.

It covers medical treatment you may need until you are well enough to travel home and it is usually at a reduced cost, or free.

Why Do We Need To Buy Travel Insurance When We Already Have EHIC Cards?

An Ehic gives you access to state-run hospitals in a European Economic Area country or Switzerland

The benefit to having an EHIC is that it could lower your costs, which can be handy if you re having to pay upfront for medical care which you re later claiming back through your insurance. Most insurers will also waive the excess you have to pay if you have used an EHIC. The excess insurers charge, which you have to pay yourself should you make a claim, varies wildly but can be up to 250 per claim.

However, while there are clear benefits to having an EHIC, the reason it isn t a substitute for travel insurance is because it only covers your medical care in certain hospitals. Health insurance, on the other hand, should cover your medical costs no matter where you re being treated in a private or state-run hospital. It also has several extra important features such as repatriation if you need to be flown back to the UK, cover for your luggage and valuables if they are lost, damaged or stolen and protection should your travel be delayed.

It also won t cover you if you fall ill before your trip and you need to cancel the holiday. The cards are free and valid for five years and anyone living in the UK is entitled to have one. You can get one via

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