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UK travellers facing pain in Spain getting the medical treatment they are entitled to

The Association of British Insurers is warning UK holidaymakers heading for Spain to  be on their guard about not getting the medical treatment they are entitled to. Over ten million British holidaymakers are expected to visit Spain every year, with an estimated 30 Brits a week needing medical treatment in Spanish hospitals.

All UK travellers to countries in the European Economic Area are entitled to medical treatment provided by the state of that country for free or a reduced cost proving that they have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This is free and available from the NHS website or applying through the Post Office.

However, travel insurers are aware of over 100 cases where UK holidaymakers  have been refused state medical treatment in Spain, despite producing their EHIC. In most cases they have been referred instead for expensive private medical treatment.

Spanish hospitals could be cashing in on British travellers’ lack of understanding of what medical treatment they are entitled to as ABI research shows that nearly half - 46% - of people are not aware of exactly what medical treatment they are entitled to under the EHIC.

•    In one case a child on holiday in Spain and needing treatment for a head injury was refused state treatment despite his father producing his EHIC, so was forced to seek private treatment.
•    A woman needing treatment for a fractured arm was sent to a private clinic.
•    Often travellers are asked for details of their travel insurance, before they will be treated, even though they are entitled to state medical treatment. This has led to some insurers being billed for treatment that should have been met by the Spanish authorities. In one case a holidaymaker was hospitalised for a month costing Euro 37,000 covered by the EHIC. However, their travel insurer was subsequently invoiced for Euro 63,000 by a debt collection agency working for the Spanish hospital.

To help travellers avoid problems this summer, the ABI has produced an EHIC guide, available on the ABI Website, or to download, right.

The ABI’s Kate Carr said:

It is essential that travellers going to Spain or elsewhere in Europe know exactly what medical treatment they are entitled to and what to do if they fall ill. Anyone having problems in getting a state hospital to accept the European Health Insurance Card should contact their travel insurer’s 24 emergency helpline for help. Your EHIC is important but it is not a substitute for having travel insurance as this will cover the costs of any private medical treatment and emergency repatriation back to the UK.

Last updated 01/07/2016