Adventure sports insurance: What does the EHIC actually cover?

Sep 13, 2017 BY Mark Pawlak

If you’re an EU citizen then you’re entitled to a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to get medical treatment throughout Europe. But what does the EHIC actually cover? Do you still need adventure sports insurance?

Paragliding in Slovakia Adventure sports insurance Pixabay image by kpgolfpro

NHS to the rescue

Get hurt doing adventure sports in the UK and the good old NHS will foot all your medical bills and even being rescues is free. From coastguard to mountain rescue and air ambulance to fixing up your broken body you won’t end up footing the bill.

You may have to wait six to eight frustrating weeks for a fairly routine appointment or sit for hours in A&E. But it is free and on the whole a very good service particularly in emergency situations.

But what happens when you are abroad? Within Europe, EU citizens are entitled to a health card. Known as an E111 until 2006, when the name was changed to come in line with wider European coverage, it offer medical assistance throughout Europe.

You can get an EHIC card by applying online – best of all it is free of charge.

Austria snowboarding in Kaprun Adventure sports insurance Flickr CC image by Superrabbit

What does the EHIC actually cover?

It’s valid in all EU member states. Plus you can use the EHIC within the European Economic Area which includes countries like Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

It entitles you to medical treatment necessary during your trip due to illness or injury. It is either free or at a reduced cost, depending on where you are – every country’s healthcare system is slightly different.

However, the EHIC health card is not a substitute for adventure sports insurance. So for extreme sports lovers, there are some very important exceptions that you need to know about.

What doesn’t The EHIC cover?

The EHIC may entitle you to free or cheap state medical treatment in your host country. But it won’t cover any private medical bills or additional emergency health care costs, such as mountain rescue or repatriation.

top 10 european windsurfing destinations freestyle-by-Henrick-Molte10

So if you break your leg on the mountain, waving your EHIC card won’t guarantee you a free pass to hospital. And at £20 a minute for ride in a helicopter, you’re looking at £1,000 just to get to hospital – and you probably won’t even enjoy the ride.

Add to that estimated costs of between £3,000 to £8,000 for four days hospital admission, between £8,000 to £12,000 for emergency fracture surgery and £10,000 for stretcher repatriation. In total you could be looking at £30,000 for complete treatment.

Adventure sports insurance

It is estimated that around 11% of travelers think the EHIC alone will cover them in case of an accident on the mountain. That’s a lot of people that could potentially be facing huge costs which is why adequate adventure sports insurance is so important.

The good news is that many forms of travel insurance include adventure sport cover. Whether it is skiing, surfing, climbing, biking or snowboarding travel insurance make sure you read the small print to ensure your covered for your chosen activities.

climbing in Italy Adventure sports insurance Flickr image by belboo

Many extreme activities are not covered by travel insurance, so you may have to get specialist adventure sports insurance. The bottom line is to make sure you get private insurance that covers you for your choice of activities.

We can’t stress enough how important it is to be fully covered. You might like the thrill of extreme sports but do them uninsured overseas and it might be a risk too far.

So why get an EHIC?

So, if you need travel insurance and possibly adventure sports insurance, why bother with an EHIC at all? Well, for a start some insurers insist on you having one and others will waive your excess if you have one, after all it saves them money if you have it.

Also remember that not all medical treatment you might need will be in an emergency. EHIC entitles you to standard state care for everything else – so if you are unwell or lose some medication it could save you a fortune without having to put in an insurance claim.

Guide to San Sebastian surfing Adventure sports insurance Flickr CC image by Oneras

Plus The EHIC is free of charge so it makes good sense to get yours today:

We hope this answered the question ‘What does the EHIC actually cover?’. If you found this useful please check out our other adventure travel tips.


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