Thousands of EU citizens have been left stranded abroad due to the recent travel restrictions as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Being stranded in a foreign country during a pandemic naturally brings about worries about health insurance – namely, are EU nationals abroad covered by their travel insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The coronavirus disease which originated in China toward the end of December 2019 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020. In the last few weeks, while the situation is calming in China, the disease has begun spreading rapidly across Europe, making it the new epicentre of the virus.
Several countries in the world, including the USA, have restricted travel for EU nationals. EU countries have closed their external borders and even the borders among themselves. Because of this, airlines have had to cancel flights, and more and more EU nationals have reported they are unable to return home.
It appears that unless they are in a fellow EU State equipped with an EHIC, European citizens’ travel insurance may not be that much help, according to experts.
What if you Have EHIC (European Health Insurance Card)?
If you are an EU citizen stuck in another EU country due to the pandemic, you can use your EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) to get access to that State’s public health insurance scheme.
If you suspect you have contracted the COVID-19, your EHIC will allow you to test for the coronavirus and receive medical treatment in public institutions. The EHIC does not cover treatment in a private hospital. In a worst-case scenario, the EHIC also does not cover repatriation of remains. For the latter two, you need a combination of EHIC and travel health insurance.
Moreover, as is the nature of the EHIC, you will not necessarily receive free health insurance. You will be held to the same standard as the citizens of the country – if they have to pay for a medical service, then so do you. The coverage, in this case, will be basic.
EU nationals outside Europe
If you are left outside the EU, it is not guaranteed that your travel insurance will cover your medical expenses if they are related to the coronavirus. Your travel insurance may cover your medical expenses if:
- You purchased the policy/travelled abroad before there was a coronavirus outbreak there.
- You purchased the policy/travelled abroad before the competent authorities in your home country (CDC/FCO) issued travel restrictions.
- You did not travel from a country with a high number of coronavirus cases.
But ultimately, it only depends on the travel insurance company and the specific policy which you purchased. So, it is important that you read the policy entirely and carefully. Some travel insurers are changing their policies or have stopped selling travel insurance altogether in the wake of the pandemic.
This was also confirmed by Insurance Europe for the EU Observer, who advised travellers to “read their contracts and contact their insurers” since the amount of coverage they will get for coronavirus (if any) will depend “on the small print in the terms and conditions of health insurance contracts.”