If your destination is within the European Union, you can apply for a European Health Insurance Card as a temporary measure in order to have the same healthcare rights as any resident in the country you're visiting. Having this health insurance card does not mean that you will be able to get free healthcare in the country you travel to as, if the country at issue requires copayment for using healthcare services, the individual with a European Health Insurance Card will be subject to the same copayment requirement.
What the European Health Insurance Card does give you is the peace of mind to be able to access healthcare cover throughout most of Europe. However, before you travel, you should still make sure that the country you're travelling to is inside the European Union and allows you to use the card.
If you decide to visit a country that is not part of the European Union and where you cannot use a European Health Insurance Card, the way to avoid the shock of receiving a costly bill after receiving medical attention is to take out health insurance.
Healthcare outside Europe
Many countries only offer private healthcare that is prohibitively expensive. That's why, when you travel you must ensure you have health insurance to cover you in the event you need medical assistance.
As an example of the high cost of healthcare in some countries, it might cost close to 20,000 euros to transfer a patient on a stretcher accompanied by a medical professional from the United States to Spain.
An important aspect to take into account when organising your healthcare cover abroad is whether you intend to visit just one, or several countries. In this second case, you must make sure that the health insurance policy you take out gives you the same level of cover in all the different countries you plan to visit.
Some insurance policies offer different levels of cover depending on the country you're in. Therefore, you must take the time to find out what level of cover the health insurance policy provides you with in each country.
Finally, you must also take into account what type of activities you plan to do in the country you're visiting as, in some cases, such as extreme sports and expeditions to places that are difficult to access, etc., it will be a condition of your health insurance policy that you take out specific cover.