Whether you are packing up to move or have already settled in Spain, this article will provide you some helpful information on Spain’s healthcare system and on how to access medical treatment.
It is good to know that Spain is ranked 6th in the EU, spending around 10 percent of its GDP on healthcare and having a large amount of doctors per 1000 patients. The Spanish healthcare system consists of both private and public healthcare.
Public healthcare in Spain
The public healthcare system is funded by the Spanish social security system, also known as the General Social Security Fund (Tesorería General de la Seguridad Social). By making social security contributions, anyone living and working in Spain mostly has access free of charge to public healthcare. This means you don’t need to have private health insurance in order to receive medical treatment in Spain.
As an expat, you are entitled to free state healthcare if you are:
- registered as a resident in Spain and work in employment or self-employment, paying social security contributions;
- resident in Spain and recently being divorced or separated from a partner that pays social security;
- registered child in Spain
- a pregnant woman being resident in Spain
- under 26 and a student in Spain
- a state pensioner
- staying temporarily in Spain and have an European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
In terms of quality, the state healthcare system isn’t inferior to a private system. Top Spanish medical school graduates practice within the public system. Moreover, Spanish doctors aren’t financially incentivised to ‘promote’ expensive prescriptions are treatments.
Private healthcare in Spain
In case of not having the right to the public healthcare system, it is necessary to organise private health cover. Compared to the public health system, opting for a private health system, it normally allows you to get faster treatment for non-emergency procedures. Also, you might need private health insurance when additional health services are required. It might be to a particular importance to you that a private insurance enables the selection of a doctor that is fluent in English. There are often lists of English speaking doctors available from tourist offices and embassies. Applying for a private health insurance is rather complicated and requires commitment in order to choose a health plan that fits with your medical needs. Some of the largest and most popular health insurance companies are: Allianz, Axa, Cigna, Generali, Nectar, Globality Health, etc. Using the online tool Acierto.com or Rastreator.com, you’ll be able to compare the providers and see what you think is the best option.
Registering for Spanish public health care
In order to access the public medical treatment, you need to be registered with the state healthcare system. The healthcare system in Spain is decentralised, meaning that each of the 17 regions are responsible for themselves. Therefore, it’s important to check where your local health authority is located. Though, you can’t register before having other important documents, such as your foreign identity number (NIE), your certificate of empadronamiento, and your social security number.
You will then be able to go to your closest health centre where you present the above documentation, plus your passport and can apply for your health card, also known as your Tarjeta Sanitaria Individal or TSI.
Finding a doctor in Spain
Once you are registered, you will have access to medical assistance and find your centro de salud (health clinic) or medico de cabacera (individual practice), close to where you live. You don’t need to necessarily use your closest doctor and can opt for a more remote or less populated area. The best would be to ask people who know the area for a recommended doctor. Also, your national embassy may also maintain a list of English-speaking doctors in your area. When finding your doctor, you will need to register at the centro de salud, before being able to make an appointment. In order to make an appointment you can call the general number or even book an appointment online. In order to see a specialist through the public health system, you will need a referral from your doctor. Having a private insurance, this step is not necessary.
Emergency care in Spain
In case of an emergency, you should go straight to the closest hopsital’s emergency room. In Spanish, this is called urgencia. If you require an ambulance then you should dial 112 straight away. It’s important to note that if you suffer from an existing medical condition or allergy to learn those terms in Spanish – so you will be prepared in any case of emergency. You must show your health card to receive state treatment. In case of having a private insurance make sure you have your details close by.
Pharmacies in Spain
The pharmacies in Spain are called farmacias and are easily spot by their flashing green cross. La farmacia is the only place where you are able to buy medicine, unlike in some other countries. This means that painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen are not sold anywhere else. Having a minor or common illness, highly trained pharmacists can provide you with treatment. In case of your problem being more serious, you will need a proper diagnosis from your local doctor. When picking up any prescription you must make sure you will have your health cared. In this case you pay 60 percent of the cost.