The EHIC card, about to be obsolete. | Vicki McLeod


It’s almost year end, and for some of us that means it’s time to renew private health insurance as many companies renew at the end of the year. This is the opportunity to change your mind if you want to improve your cover. For others of us it’s the first time we have had to consider buying private health insurance but you might need to soon if you have been relying on your European Health Insurance Card.

Once Britain has completed the transition out of the EU at the end of the year there are plenty of people who will not be covered anymore. It is time to check that you will be okay. At the moment, until the end of the year, the EHIC card entitles British passport holders to state-provided medical treatment if they fall ill or have an accident in any EU country, or in Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, where the scheme also applies.

There are 27 million EHIC cards in circulation which cover pre-existing medical conditions and routine maternity care as well as emergency care. Individuals with chronic illnesses, for example those who require dialysis, can travel knowing they will receive treatment on the same terms as the citizens of the country they are visiting. If you are in the EU after 2020, the EHIC will no longer be valid for most UK citizens. The government website ( says you should buy travel insurance with healthcare cover before you go on any trips. It warns that it is “particularly important” to get travel insurance with the right cover if you have a pre-existing medical condition.

UK state pensioners who are living in the EU before the end of 2020 will be able to use their EHIC beyond 2020 in the country in which they are registered as resident, but this won’t include other countries which they might travel to in the EU for work or holidays. In addition the EHIC will also be valid for the UK students who start a course in the EU before the end of 2020 until their course finishes and for so-called ‘frontier workers’ - people who work in one state and live in another.

So please check if you are using an EHIC card whether you will be covered, if for example you are a pensioner and you decide to drive to the UK through France you would not be covered for your time in France. Either way, you must apply for a new EHIC card to continue to be covered from 2021.

It’s always smart to be informed about what your health insurance does and doesn’t cover, so here’s some points to consider when you are taking the decision to continue with your insurer or switch to a better offer.

If you want to swap, it’s best to do so before you are 65 and if possible, before you hit 60.Most health insurances stop accepting people at 65, but the health insurance company ASISA will accepts until new clients until they are 69, and they say they are working on an insurance policy for people over the age of 70 as well. (

TIPS when choosing insurance

-Make sure the company is not a small one, they go out of business, or get absorbed by a larger company.

-Watch out for predatory pricing policies when illness lurks. Ensure your yearly premiums do not rise as you age or when you get ill. Ask about price progression.

-Ensure there are no caps. Some insurance companies have a set maximum time in Intensive Care and a financial limit for treatments for cancer and chronic conditions.

-Ensure you can have limitless video consultations, telephone consultations from anywhere in the world

-Ensure you are covered when you fly back to the UK or travel anywhere in the world, that you have emergency cover and repatriation.

-Make sure you have freedom to choose your specialist, GP and hospital … if you ever need specialist treatment you want to get the best specialist in the country not just anyone who works within your postcode.

-Does the health insurance have an ambulance service in English if that is important to you. Asisa Ambulance service is staffed by English speaking doctors 24 hours / day everyday of the year

-Does the health insurance company allow you to ask for a second opinion?

-Is there a call centre and emergency line available 24 hrs a day in your language?

-Check who owns your insurance company, is it owned by an investment fund or a bank?

-Check the insurers are specialists in healthcare meaning the company is more likely to be patient-centred than a company that does all kinds of insurance.

-Watch out for the elephant traps, things that sound good but in practice are time bombs such as reimbursement insurance.

Some insurance companies offer video consultations with doctors

-Make sure the company’s footprint is large enough to cover you wherever you are in Spain or around the world. Think about travelling, when we are allowed to do it again!
Does the company have an ambulance service in the Pyrenees when I go hiking, what if I travel to Hamburg for work? What if I am in the USA? Do they have an English speaking customer and emergency service ? Do they offer repatriation? If I fall ill while travelling, will they help take care of my dependents or fly someone over to help me return home?


Here’s some news to get “eggscited” about. A thirty year long study has proved that eating an egg a day does not raise risk of heart attack or stroke. Eggs are packed with nutrients, and cholesterol, and doctors once thought that eggs might raise the risk of heart disease, but research showed that cholesterol in the diet is not such a problem. In a new study, researchers used dietary information from 215,618 people in the US, dating back to 1980. They found no evidence that people eating an egg a day had a higher risk of heart attack or stroke than people who rarely or never ate eggs, once their overall diet and lifestyle was taken into account.

Eggs are back on the menu !

The researchers did not find any evidence that eating eggs raises the risk of heart attack or stroke, once you take into account a person’s overall diet and lifestyle. However, they did find that people who ate a lot of eggs tended to have less healthy diets overall. They were more likely to be overweight, did less exercise and were more likely to smoke. They also ate more red meat, processed meat (such as bacon), refined flour, potatoes and sugary fizzy drinks.

What does that mean for you? You can reap the benefits of the nutrients of eggs, while reducing any risk posed by cholesterol, by cooking them without adding salt or fat and avoiding frying them. Frying eggs in oil can increase their fat content by around 50%. But having an egg a day doesn’t mean you can also tuck into a full English.

Are you standing comfortably?

Not only have we been working more from home, but we have been working in less than optimal conditions, at the kitchen table or on the sofa, and our bodies have been paying the price. Now the NHS says that adjustable desks could improve work performance by reducing sitting time. The amount of time people spend sitting down has been linked to poor health and long-term medical conditions. If you spend much of your day seated, it can have a harmful effect on your health.

Standing desks improve your health

A study of 146 NHS office workers found that providing adjustable desks that allowed them to sit or stand led to a reduction in daily sitting time of more than an hour, after 12 months of use. The desks were provided as part of a wider programme that included goal setting and coaching to encourage people to sit less at work, especially for long uninterrupted periods.

The study also found that workers provided with adjustable desks reported better job performance, reduced sickness at work, less anxiety and improved quality of life. It’s difficult to follow advice to sit down less and be more active when you work in a traditional office environment, where you are expected to work on a computer, sitting at a desk for most of the day. So the introduction of adjustable desks, which allow people to work standing up as well as sitting down, could make a big difference to a lot of people. IKEA for example sells desks which can be adjusted for standing and sitting.