18 May, 2013 @ 17:28
1 min read

EHIC health card warning for tourists


HOLIDAYMAKERS are being warned to think twice about their medical cover before embarking for Spain.

Tourists are being warned not to rely on the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which is supposed to give all EU citizens access to state medical care in all member countries.

It comes after several British tourists were refused treatment unless they paid for it first.

It comes after the Olive Press reported a month ago how mother Samantha Fryer was refused treatment for her son Josh, 15, after he had punctured a testicle, unless she paid €400 in advance. In the disgraceful case that shocked the coast, the public Hospital de Alta Resolucion insisted she stump up the cash before a doctor would even consider stitching up his wound that was haemorraging blood.

She ended finding a private doctor around the corner who stitched up the wound for just €30.

The problem is so rife in Spain, as well as Greece and Portugal, that the  European Commission has been forced to launch an investigation. Several leading insurance companies have lodged official complaints and the  Association of British Insurers is investigating 120 cases of holidaymakers being turned down by Spanish doctors.

Typically, British tourists – who number 11 million coming to Spain each year – are being asked if they have travel insurance not the EHIC card.

With the country currently in the depths of an economic recession, there have been huge cuts to its public services, which have left state hospitals operating on extremely tight budgets.

An EU spokeperson said: ‘We have been  receiving an increasing number of complaints about the EHIC card being refused in Spain.

“Many of these hospitals provide public and private healthcare and some tourists say they have been pushed to accept private treatment and use their travel insurance.”

The Association of British Insurers says in most cases when an EHIC card is refused the insurer should pay up, and advises that if you are forced to pay on the spot make sure you gather as much evidence as possible to prove that it was an emergency.

You should also complain to the British Embassy  and report the problem to SOLVIT, which investigates breaches of EU law. These cases also underline the vital importance of taking out travel insurance before you go on holiday, even if your destination is within the EU.


  1. Not a big shock. France does it too. Nothing is free in France – you must pay first and then claim back. In fact – Spain makes it really difficult to claim your money back when you’ve used the card abroad. The member state is supposed to bill the other but it doesn’t seem to be the case anywhere.

  2. Time Spain had it’s hand outs from the EU cut off till it get’s it’s house in order and complies with EU law. Personally I am sick and tired of hearing Spaniards, French and Italians calling Brits bad Europeans when it is they who stick two fingers up to EU law. Spain has been a member of the EU for around thirty years and they are still net recipients. Put your house in order Spain and if you want your economy to recover get out of the Euro.

  3. Peter,
    I live in France and you are talking b/s. It’s the Brits who are fiddling the system here – take a look at the English language papers. It’s the Brits who refuse to learn the language and who don’t want to have anything to do with the French people – I encourage them to go home.

  4. @Stuart Crawford
    Firstly we are talking about Spain refusing EHIC secondly we are not talking about permanent residents but tourists. I totally agree that there are permanent residents who try to circumnavigate the system by using EHIC when they should be getting registered within the system of the host country and I have no time for them either. That said if you come to an EU country as a tourist you should get any emergency treatment you require free of charge on production of your EHIC those are the rules (not B/S as you put it).

  5. I wonder how a busy hospital administrator can tell the difference between a “tourist” and someone who is trying to “circumnavigate the system by using EHIC when they should be getting registered within the system of the host country”.

    I wouldn´t be able to if they were not on the town hall register. And, of course, many ´residents´ are not.

  6. In France,
    on entering any hospital you will be asked for your Carte Vitale or EHIC.

    No Peter you need to read the rules – with an EHIC you will be treated the same as a national of that country and many countries make you pay a percentage of costs which you can then get reimbursed by your own country’s health system or maybe the leaflet I got from the UK when receiving my EHIC stating this was b/s!

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