Moving to a new country can feel both exciting and overwhelming, with many systems working very differently to the way they do in your home country. One of the things that is likely to be very different in Spain, compared to countries such as the UK or the U.S., is the healthcare system.
What do you do if you need to see a doctor? How do you register with a doctor and how do you make an appointment? Here’s everything you need to know to make the process as easy as possible:
Understanding The Spanish Healthcare System
The Spanish healthcare system is one of the best in the world, and provides high-quality healthcare in both Spanish hospitals and in medical centres. When you are in Spain you can access healthcare via one of two tiers within a two tier system. Both public and private healthcare are readily available, and you can often be treated under both systems in the same healthcare system.
Around 90% of Spanish residents are eligible for free healthcare via the national health system. This system is partially funded from Spanish social security payments, and prescriptions are also partially subsidised by the state. The amount of your prescription you will pay will depend on your income and is broken down as follows:
- €18,000 or less and of working age: 40%
- state pensioner and €18,000 or less: 10% (maximum of €8 a month)
- €18,000 – €100,000 and of working age: 50%
- €18,000 – €100,000 and a state pensioner: 10% (maximum of €18 a month)
- More than €100,000: 60% (maximum of €60 a month for pensioners)
In some circumstances, you cannot use the Spanish state health system, and will need to secure private health insurance as one of the terms of your visa application. Private health insurance is widespread and easily accessible in Spain. It is also possible to see a doctor privately and pay the costs for this upfront.
To be eligible for public healthcare in Spain, you must meet one of the following criteria:
- Be a resident in Spain who is either employed or self-employed and paying social security contributions.
- Be living in Spain and receiving certain state benefits;
- Be a resident in Spain and recently divorced or separated from a partner registered with social security;
- Under 18 and a resident in Spain;
- A pregnant woman who is a resident in Spain;
- Under 26 and studying in Spain
- Receiving a Spanish state pension
This applies to residents of Spain. If you are visiting Spain for a holiday, or are otherwise only spending time in Spain temporarily and are a European or British citizen then your European Health Insurance (EHIC) card will entitle you to free emergency healthcare treatment.
If you need health treatment, but it is not deemed an emergency, then you may have to pay for your care. The good news is that health care is relatively cheap in Spain.
How Do You Find a Doctor in Spain
If you need to find a doctor in Spain then there are many different approaches you can take. Ask fellow ex-pats for their recommendations, or seek recommendations from your embassy. You could also ask the local healthcare authority for recommendations of the best doctors in your area. And if you need to see a doctor quickly, then you can also search for ‘medicos’ in the phone book and find the doctor closest to you.
Doctors in Spain may work in a health centres (centro de salud or centro de asistencia primaria) or in individual practices as a general doctors (médico de cabecera). Like any private enterprise, private medical practices will advertise their services and compete for new customers.
If you haven’t honed your Spanish speaking skills yet then you can also approach your nearest embassy and ask for a list of English-speaking doctors. Because Spain has such a large expat community, and the UK is the largest tourist base for the country, there are plenty of English-speaking doctors in Spain.
Registering With a Doctor And Making an Appointment
You can’t make an appointment to see a doctor in Spain until you have registered with a doctor. Make sure that you clearly state whether you want state or private treatment when you complete your registration form.
When you register, you should be given a leaflet called Carta de Derechos y Deberes (Charter of Rights and Obligations) setting out your rights as a patient.
When your registration is completed and has been accepted, you will receive a SIP (Sistema de Informacion Poblacional) health card. It’s important to carry this with you at all times, as you will need it to access any type of state healthcare service, including visiting the hospital for emergency care.
You are then able to make an appointment to see a doctor. Sometimes same-day appointments are available, but if possible try to make appointments in advance. You can make your apppointment either by phone or online, in most cases, but some doctors will work on a first-come-first-served basis. Check when you register. Generally, opening hours are from Monday to Saturday, from 9:00 to 17:00.
What To Expect To Pay For Medical Care
If you are registered with the national health system in Spain then all of your treatment is free. If you have private medical insurance then the cost of your treatment should be covered by your insurance policy. Without either of these safety nets, you can expect to pay the following, on average, for your treatment:
- Initial consultation: €40
- Blood tests: €80
- Specialist: €80-150
- One-day hospital stay: €200
Useful Additional Resources
If you want to find out more about visiting a doctor in Spain then the following resources are incredibly helpful:
- Departmento de Salud – Department of Health
- Organización Médica Colegial de Espana – Spanish Medical Association
- Farmacias de Guardia – Online directory of pharmacies in Spain
- Seguridad Social – The Spanish social security office
Are you thinking of moving to Spain? Or looking for a holiday home that you can let when you’re not using it? Then why not get in touch with our locally based property experts, who are perfectly placed to help make you dream of Spanish home ownership a reality. We’re already excited to work with you!