Paralysed bride thought her Corfu holiday would be covered by her EHIC

Added 20/08/2010

Travel insurance cut out

Newlywed couple Carrie and Michael set off for their Corfu holiday wrongly presuming that their EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) would cover them for all their medical costs. Though the EHIC covers state provided healthcare costs, it should never be used as a substitute for travel insurance.

The Corfu holiday was a last minute surprise from family and friends at their wedding, and they thought travel insurance wouldn’t be necessary as long as they had an EHIC. But they discovered the error of their ways when Carrie had a horrific accident.

Just two days before they were due to fly home Carrie stepped out onto the hotel balcony for a breath of fresh air. She lost her footing and fell over the balcony barrier, plunging 30 feet straight down. The fall broke Carrie’s back in three places. It’s uncertain whether or not she will be paralysed for life.

Carrie’s EHIC covered the cost of her healthcare in the local hospital, but the couple faced £16,000 in repatriation costs because they didn’t take out travel insurance for their Corfu holiday. The EHIC ensures that travellers receive the same level of healthcare as local residents, but it will never cover repatriation costs.

Carrie needed a private plane equipped with stabilisers to take her home, but the couple couldn’t afford to cover the cost themselves. In desperation, Michael set up a website to ask the British public to help raise money to fly his new wife home.

The website worked. It attracted media attention and over 400 Britons took sympathy on the newlyweds, giving generously to their cause. One generous fundraiser donated £5,000. Carrie is now waiting for medical clearance before she can return home.

Britons travelling to the European Economic Area and Switzerland should always travel with an EHIC to take advantage of state provided healthcare. But it’s important to remember that the EHIC should never replace travel insurance because it might not cover all costs in a medical emergency, such as repatriation back to the UK. The EHIC is designed to be used in conjunction with travel insurance, not to replace it.