On the whole, the standard of healthcare in Spain is good and most hospitals and doctor’s surgeries are equipped with all the latest technologies and equipment. However, as with most countries, standards do vary depending on where you live and some rural areas – especially those that are inland – provide only very basic medical facilities.
In Spain, most basic healthcare is provided for free – or at least at low-cost – throughout the country for all residents, providing they are contributing towards the social security system. This usually means that you will need to work for a company or be registered as self employed. If you are self employed then you can apply for your social security number at your local Social Security Treasury Office (Tesorería de la Seguridad Social) – if you are working for a company then your employer should sort this out for you. Once you have a social security number you will need to visit your local medical centre to obtain a medical card. You will then be assigned to a particular GP and that will be the person you see from that point on. Residents from some EU countries – including the UK – who are over 60 years of age may be able to get their country’s health system to cover them for any treatment providing they are in possession of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC); formerly known as E111 health insurance. The EHIC can also be used to cover any EU residents for emergencies that may occur in the time between arriving to live in Spain and receiving the medical card – although it should not be used as full-time cover! Some non-EU countries – mainly those located in Latin America – also have bilateral health agreements with Spain.
It’s worth noting, that even if you don’t have a social security number and are younger than 60 years of age, then you will still be entitled to free emergency care in any public hospital, providing you have a Certificado de Empadronamiento – this is a resident’s card which you will be given when you register with your community’s padrón (city roll).
While those who are eligible to take advantage of Spain’s public health system will receive most healthcare free, there will still be costs (albeit subsidised) for things such as prescription medicines, dental care and eye care.
If you are not entitled to free public healthcare in Spain, then you will need to look into receiving private healthcare. For this you will need to take out private health insurance – there are a number of providers throughout the country. Many expats – whether they qualify for free healthcare or not – do choose to take out at least some form of private healthcare. There are a number of reasons for this, such as to avoid the often lengthy waiting times for non-emergency treatment that exist through the public healthcare system and to ensure they will be treated by an English-speaking doctor (this will not necessarily be the case in the public system). By going private, expats can also make sure they cover any treatment costs that are not included as part of the public health system. As an expat you may find that your employer will be prepared to pay your private health insurance for you so it is well worth asking if this is the case.