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Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh
3rd June 2013 - Playing by the Rules

If you donít play by the rules in football, you get a yellow warning card, then a red one, then you get sent off the pitch. If you are really bad, maybe becoming abusive or making race-hate remarks, then you can be banned from several matches.

So it goes. Itís accepted that behaviour which doesnít conform to the rules has to be dealt with effectively.

That is one of the important reasons we need the European Union. When a member country breaches the rules, there are ways of tackling irregularities on a Union-wide basis.

Every citizen of the EU is entitled to the European health insurance card (EHIC). Holidaymakers are advised to take an EHIC on their travels so that they can be confident of getting healthcare anywhere in Europe. The card also covers healthcare in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

The EHIC doesnít always mean services are entirely free at the point of delivery as they are in Scotland but it does give access to the same level of treatment available to local residents. If they pay a portion as individuals, then so will you so it is always a good idea to have your own travel insurance cover as well.

While your Ehic will cover emergency treatment, it wonít include the cost of a flight home, cancelled flights or lost luggage.

In the last week, Spain seems to have been misbehaving in this regard and has accordingly been taken to task by the European Commission. After a vast number of complaints from travellers, saying hospitals had refused to administer care to card-holders, the EC has taken action to correct this irregularity.

Apparently, many people in Spain have been told that their card isnít valid and that only private insurance documents would be accepted. This has led to problems for insurers left to pick up the tab for a bill they shouldnít have to pay.

So UK insurance companies have lodged official complaints themselves. For the insured, they have found themselves having to pay an excess that they didnít need to had the correct procedures been applied.

Some people who thought they were being covered by an EHIC later discovered they had been billed, having supplied credit card details.

The Commission has said it is concerned by an increasing number of complaints about hospitals in tourist areas of Spain who are refusing to accept the EHIC and has asked for an explanation.

The Commissionís request for information takes the form of a letter of formal notice, the first step in EU infringement procedures. Spain has now two months to respond to the concerns expressed by the Commission. Itís a yellow card.

The EHIC is a common currency among all the member states and an infringement of its application will not be treated lightly.

I find it reassuring to know that the might of 26 countries is behind this issue. This is a large club and it pays to keep to the rules and keep your membership up to date.

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