Coming to Spain is a new adventure! But you have to take care of a lot of stuff… We want to help you by giving you all the info you need to know about the health system! Here you can find some general information but also english speaking pharmacies, where to find the public health centers and doctors & hospitals which speaks your language.
1) Insurance: EU citizens
For an EU citizen, you can use the European Health Insurance Card, abbreviated to EHIC. This allows you to receive medical treatment at the same cost as Spanish citizens! The EHIC is displayed on the back of your health card.
Your EHIC only covers necessary care, such as in an emergency. Normally scheduled treatments are not always covered.
EU students who will study in Spain are covered by their EHIC (see “EU / EEA and Switzerland nationality”).
2) Insurance: Non-EU citizens
Since 2015, illegal immigrants and foreigners who are not registered with the Spanish tax office have the right to use the health system as well. Previously, by regulation, those 2 groups were excluded from the health system. So the following groups have access to the Spanish public health system: Employees, Self-employed, Illegal immigrants, Unregistered foreigners
If you are a non-EU citizen you may need to prove that you have private health insurance. In some cases this is not necessary when there is an agreement between your home country and Spain. Contact the embassy to find out if this agreement also exists for you!
3) Difference between private and public health care
In Spain there are 2 types of health care: Public and Private.
The Spanish healthcare system is one of the best in the world and is free for all residents of Spain. The health system is financed through security payments. All employees and self-employed in Spain have to pay income tax and this money is used to finance the health system. The contributions they pay give them the right to public health care. With public health care you are covered by medical and hospital treatments, plus 40% of your prescription bill.
Otherwise you could opt for private health insurance to cover expenses that are not covered by public health care. Alongside this there are many other benefits of private health insurance:
- Long waiting times: The average waiting time in days for some treatments is quite long. With private health insurance you will be treated more quickly. In recent years, people using private health insurance have increased by 5%, possibly due to long waiting times.
- Higher quality care: Some argue that the quality of private health institutions is higher than that of public ones. It is hard to deny or confirm this, but in general the public health care system is of a high quality.
- Language: With private health insurance you can visit doctors and specialists who speak English or even your native language. This could be especially useful for people who don’t speak Spanish.
There are still some inconveniences for the private health: private health insurers tend to have agreements only with a limited number of hospitals, doctors, dentists, and so on. Also, private health insurance doesn’t cover you for all (and the entire cost of) treatments. The best option may be to use both public health care and private health insurance.
4) Which things are not covered by the public health system
Visiting a dentist is not covered by public health care and therefore you should either find private dental insurance or just pay for it all yourself. The latter is a viable option as dentist fees are relatively low. On the other hand, dental insurance is around 10 to 20 euros per month.
Also, visiting specialists, an overnight surgery is (likely) not covered by public health care or only for a limited amount. This implies that you would have to pay the rest and therefore perhaps private health insurance might be a good idea to cover these expenses.