Tooth pain, respiratory infections, injuries or good, old intestinal troubles caused by bad food are a classic conference and meeting trip spoiler. However, you don’t need to suffer in your hotel room, doped down on painkillers. In the EU, you have the right to see a doctor or a hospital with the same health service level as the locals.
Getting to a doctor is really important in case of flu-like, contageous infections. You will otherwise infect the whole meeting, take the bug back to your work group – and see your colleagues get it one after the other, practically paralyzing your whole project. Better see a doctor, take the medicine, and take a sick leave, if necessary. Even if you’re the boss. Healthy people can enjoy the “life” side of business trips much better – and travel more!
EU citizens and members of EU public health schemes that travel to conferences and meetings have EU wide health coverage through their national insurance scheme. To get coverage, you need to apply for a “European Health Insurance Card” (EHIC) with your local insurance. They will issue the blue card, which serves as your health coverage proof, together with an ID document (e.g. your passport or ID card).
When seeing a doctor in another EU country, you present ID and EHIC card. The doctor will take your ID number, and let you sign a treatment form. In some countries, you will need to cross off an insurance from a list of local health insurances – this one will be billed by the doctor. The scheme covers urgent medical treatment, hospital urgencies, and, depending on a doctor’s recommendation, transport back to your home medical system.
Please consider that the EHIC scheme was made for emergency treatment, not for non-urgent consulations. Doctors are supposed to take care of emergencies and serious matters, until you’re fit to travel home and get treatment with your doctor.
The card is not of much use outside the EU countries. There, you still need extra coverage, e.g. through your credit card or with a special travel health insurance (as sold through travel agents). Check with your employer whether there is some coverage for employees!
More information can be found at the EHIC information pages at the European Commission.