Why you should get a European Health Insurance Card for your child

For trips within Europe (at least until Brexit – who knows what will happen after that), you should also carry a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC; what used to be known as the E111) for your child. This entitles them to state-provided healthcare across the European Economic Area and Switzerland; treatment is usually free, as it is in the UK, but in some countries you might have to pay a small upfront charge (usually refundable by your travel insurer, should you wish to claim).

A EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance – it doesn’t get you access to private healthcare, won’t get you flown back to the UK and doesn’t cover things like mountain rescue – but it’s actually a requirement of some travel insurance policies, and is very handy to have as it means you can access healthcare fast, no questions asked. For more information on buying travel insurance for your child, take a look at my recent post on the subject.

The EHIC is free, though there are plenty of dodgy websites that will charge you for one. The official government EHIC website is a bit of a pain to use – if you’re applying for your child, you register as the main applicant, and then add her details when asked if you need any additional cards (this comes so late in the application that I gave up hope several times; it’s not very intuitive, but stick with it and you’ll get there in the end). You’ll need your NHS or NI number.

A toddler climbs stairs while she plays with a blue card
The baby girl playing with her dada’s EHIC card. This photo was in no way staged.

 

Buying travel insurance for your baby or toddler

The good news is that a lot of travel insurance policies cover children for free (some up to the age of two, some right up until 16 or 18). The bad news is that even if yours does, you still need to get in touch with your insurer before you travel to ensure that your baby or toddler is included on the policy by name. You’ll need to give them your baby’s date of birth too, and tell them about any pre-existing medical conditions – epilepsy, for example – as these might affect the premium. Children insured for free are usually only covered when travelling with the policyholder, so check with your insurer if you’re planning on sending your toddler off with another family member.

If you’re buying a new policy, you’ll include your child’s details in the same way that you would your partner’s when buying a couple’s policy. Something to look out for is whether the policy covers cancellation in the case of one of the travellers falling ill before departure. Fingers crossed your toddler doesn’t come down with a horrible bug on the eve of a holiday, but if she does, and going ahead with the trip is impossible, you really don’t want to lose all the money you spent on flights, hotel, car hire, etc – the cancellation of the trip would be grim enough all by itself; you don’t want to compound it with financial stress too. It’s worth buying travel insurance as soon as you book your trip so you don’t run the risk of being caught without coverage.

Most insurers will need to see a medical certificate signed by your child’s GP stating the reason she can’t travel, before they agree to settle the claim, as well as a form from the doctor about your child’s medical history.

A lot of policies will cover you for travel within the UK (including cancellations due to illness) but there are often stipulations you need to meet – such as staying away from home for a minimum number of days, or travelling a minimum distance from home – before coverage kicks in. Check before you travel.

For travel within Europe, you’ll want to get a EHIC for your child, but I’ll cover that in a separate post. Sign up to the mailing list so you don’t miss it.

A blonde baby sits on a pebbly beach, looking out over a bay with crystal clear water
There’s no interesting way of illustrating the purchase of travel insurance, so here’s a picture of the baby girl enjoying herself at Mgarr ix-Xini on the Maltese island of Gozo in November 2017 instead.