If you are planning on moving to Spain you might wonder how the Spanish healthcare system works. The Instituto Nacional de la Salud assures free health care coverage for all Spanish nationals whatever their financial situation or social security status. Healthcare in Spain offers a high-quality service and 90% of Spaniards use it for most of their consultations.
Since the early 2000s, the public health system or Sistema Sanitario Público has been decentralised and each autonomous region manages its own planning and infrastructures. These changes were implemented to assure more equalitarian access to healthcare all over the country.
This is great for Spaniards but what happens with visitors and residents who want to enjoy a healthy and happy life in this Mediterranean country? At Breezom, we will provide you some useful information to help you make the most of your stay and to feel safe and secure here.
First, we will give you an overview of how the health system is structured:
- There is a central administration provided by the Ministry of Health or Ministerio de Sanidad. They are in charge of proposing policies and implementing government plans.
- Each Autonomous Community is run by a first-level administrative division. In Spain, there are seventeen Autonomous Communities that offer integrated health services.
- Lastly, you will find local health services near your place of residence that provide coverage.
Who can access the Spanish health system?
If you live in a country that is part of the European Union you will be able to use the Spanish healthcare system. Before you arrive, make sure you call your local consulate or embassy to make yourself aware of all the regulations. If you are not a resident but hold a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) you will be granted free healthcare temporarily during your stay.
If you live in a country that is not part of the European Union such as the United Kingdom, you can still be eligible to receive free temporary service. You will need to apply for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) which grants you access to any medically necessary healthcare in Spain, meaning that your issue cannot wait until you get back to your country. If you are a British national, you will have to request the GHIC through the NHS.
Some countries also have paid special schemes or Convenios Especiales with the Spanish government. These allow foreigners to pay a relatively low-cost fee towards the national healthcare system to be able to use services as a permanent resident would. You should contact your local authority to find out if your country applies.
If you are a full-time resident or have a work visa, you will hold the same rights as any Spanish citizen. This means you can access the system in the way a local would because you are paying regular contributions and taxes towards your healthcare.
How to apply for the healthcare system in Spain
There are different ways to apply and register for the Spanish healthcare system if you are living in the country. They will depend on your residential status. There are 3 ways you can access the health system:
- As a permanent resident in Spain
- As a foreign national who is employed or self-employed in Spain
- Paying towards the public health insurance scheme depending on your country of origin
To receive all the latest information, you should get in touch with the local Spanish social security office or Dirección General de la Tesorería General de la Seguridad Social (TGSS). Bear in mind that for most inquiries and applications you will need some basic documentation:
- A valid passport or ID card
- A document that proves your residential status
- Proof of address
If you register with the Spanish social security office you will be granted a certificate which you can use to apply for a health card. This can be done online if you hold a digital certificate or in-person at your local health centre or centro de salud. After a few days, the card will be sent to your address or be ready for you to collect it.
Spanish healthcare system: public or private hospitals?
In Spain, you will find both public and private services. The public system is funded mainly through taxation which is distributed through the national health care office to each region. As mentioned before, you can access the services depending on your status: tourists and EU nationals can have temporary coverage while permanent residents, either working or retired, can access this service for free at any time.
If you are opting to pay for healthcare you will receive service from private clinics or hospitals. This service usually has shorter waiting times, especially if you are looking to see a specialist. Such services are available to residents and non-residents or expats. Many companies provide excellent private coverage for those who might not be eligible to access the public system.