It’s the time of year we start stocking up on suncream, buying bikinis and flicking through flight prices. Holiday season is here - but, before you go, do you have the right health cover in place?

If you have private health insurance, you might assume it’s valid anywhere in the world. But this isn’t always the case and, were you to have an accident or become ill while travelling, you might find yourself without the safety net you thought was in place.

Is private medical insurance the same as travel insurance?

Travel insurance is designed to cover you in the event of a medical emergency abroad and can be bought as a single trip or annual policy. Travel insurance should be an essential part of your holiday planning, but it’s important to know that you might not be covered if you have a pre-existing medical condition, plan to take part in winter sports or dangerous activities or are travelling to certain countries that the government advises against.

Private medical insurance (PMI) provides cover if you’re ill or have an accident. A UK policy won’t necessarily cover you overseas as standard, so it’s important to read your documents carefully to check whether you have the right health insurance on holiday.

The good news is that a number of policies on the market allow you to add medical holiday insurance and, in addition, some offer common travel insurance benefits such as cover for the loss of a passport, luggage or winter sports equipment.

Worldwide travel cover

For example, Vitality’s Personal Healthcare policy offers optional worldwide travel cover for up to 120 days per trip, which will pay medical expenses if you’re taken ill overseas. As well as paying the costs of the ill or injured person, Vitality Personal Healthcare also covers accommodation and travel expenses for one companion to stay with the injured person. Repatriation expenses will also be met should you need to be brought back to the UK.

With Axa PPP Healthcare, extra cover for treatment received outside the UK, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man is available, up to the cost of equivalent treatment in the UK. With this holiday health insurance, you will need to pay the expenses and claim the money back.

General and Medical Healthcare offers a worldwide travel insurance upgrade for customers who take out its private medical insurance. As well as providing non-UK medical cover and emergency repatriation by air ambulance, this option includes cover for the cancellation or curtailment of your holiday, hospital inconvenience benefit of up to £1,500 and travel delay insurance.

We work with a panel of household-name insurers to bring our customers the right policy for their needs, at the best price. If you’d like to find out more and compare health insurance for yourself and family members, use our comparison tool or get in touch with our team on 0800 862 0373.

What is international private medical insurance?

You may have heard of international health insurance and assume that this covers you for a week in the sun abroad. In fact, international health insurance provides extensive private healthcare cover for expats and people working abroad and is very different to a travel insurance policy providing cover for short holidays or business trips.

If you move abroad permanently, you won’t be able to receive free healthcare on the NHS and you might find you aren’t eligible for free or subsidised healthcare in your chosen location. If you need to see a doctor or go to hospital, you may face expensive fees or a long waiting list.

There are a number of international health insurance options depending on the country you move to, your lifestyle and your budget. Standard cover typically includes inpatient and day patient treatment, recovery and emergency medical evacuation in serious circumstances, while a comprehensive policy would include these as well as, for example, outpatient treatment, access to specialist consultants, alternative therapies, dental treatment and maternity care.

Will my EHIC card cover me for medical care abroad?

An EHIC - European Health Insurance Card - allows you access to state healthcare in other EU countries and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland at a reduced cost or sometimes for free. The UK has issued 27m EHIC cards, which cover pre-existing illnesses and chronic conditions as well as emergency care.

An EHIC card is not, however, an alternative to travel or health insurance and will not cover the costs of being flown home, being rescued or private medical care. It’s also not valid on a cruise, so you will need adequate insurance in place before you go.

In addition, the uncertainty around Brexit is having an impact and, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on October 31, your EHIC might no longer be valid at all. Keep up to date with the latest changes on the Government’s Visit Europe after Brexit page, to make sure you have the right information before you travel.