If you’ve had it up to here with British weather, you might be looking at moving to Spain for some nice warm Mediterranean breezes. But this isn’t a choice to be made on the fly – there are all kinds of factors to consider when moving internationally, not the least of which is healthcare.

Coming from the UK, you might have gotten used to the NHS – but does Spain’s government cover the same functions that the NHS does? Or will you need private insurance?

To answer simply, while private insurance is an option, 20% of Spanish households elect to enroll (El País, 2019). The country’s public insurance system covers 99.7% of the Spanish population, so for most people, private cover is not an essential purchase. 

Read on to find out more, or you can check out our list of recommended healthcare providers. From there, you can request free quotes from whichever company suits your needs.

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    % of Spanish citizens with health insurance
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    Average life expectancy (in years)
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    Average no. of days before surgery in public hospital
healthcare map of spain

How does healthcare work in Spain?

The Spanish equivalent of the NHS is called the Spanish National Health System, or the Sistema Nacional de Salud (SNS). It was founded in 1986, and exists to offer healthcare to all Spanish citizens, alongside all EU citizens that happen to be within Spain’s borders.

Like we mentioned, 99% of Spanish citizens benefit from the public healthcare system, meaning that almost all of the country’s population is entitled to top quality healthcare.

Quality of healthcare in Spain

Spain’s national healthcare plan is ranked very well when compared globally. According to The Healthcare Access and Quality Index, which studied the healthcare of 195 countries in 2017, Spain scored 90 points out of 100, giving it the 8th spot in the worldwide healthcare rankings.

Knowing that, we can determine that Spain’s healthcare is great quality, as it doesn’t have to be ranked first for it to be top-of-the-line.

This may be because the government spends an impressive 8.9% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on healthcare, according to Statista.

Spain Malaga

Spain’s great healthcare isn’t their only claim to fame, their weather is pretty nice too

Is healthcare free in Spain?

It’s one thing to have great healthcare, it’s another to have it for free. So how much does it cost to take advantage of this incredible healthcare system? Well, like most civilized countries, if you pay your taxes and contribute to society, you’ll be entitled to the best public healthcare for free.

This means that you and your family are in good shape if you contribute to Spanish social security. However, the one thing you’ll need to open your wallet for is prescription drugs. For whatever reason, prescription drugs are almost never covered by the free healthcare, so it’s a good thing they’re not too expensive.

So, if the 8th best healthcare system in the world is almost entirely free, could there be any downsides? Well, like a lot of public healthcare systems around the world, the wait times are often criticized, as some citizens think there is a less-than-optimal amount of general practitioners within the industry.

In fact, studies have found that some people are on surgery wait lists for around 93 days, with wait lists sometimes being at a capacity of over 500,000. So those who complain about wait times do have a point.

Healthcare in Spain after Brexit

You’re in luck. As much red tape and jargon as there would have been surrounding this issue, Spanish healthcare for British citizens came out on the other end completely unscathed. In the words of the Spanish government themselves:

“Your right to healthcare will not be affected, and the Community Regulations will continue to apply.”

All residents will in Spain need to register in order to access healthcare. Once registered, UK nationals should be able to access the Spanish national health system in one of these ways:

  • Through entitlement to healthcare if they’re employed or self-employed in Spain
  • Paying directly into the public health insurance scheme (Convenio Especial)
  • Registering a UK-issued S1 form with the social security office
  • Using a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) for temporary stays
  • Through entitlement to healthcare as a permanent resident if they’ve lived in Spain for 5 years

You’ll need to call 112, or 061 for specific health emergencies.

Health insurance in Spain for EU citizens

If you’ve found this page not as a UK resident but as an EU one, you might be looking for the rules regarding how you can access Spain’s healthcare system. If you jumped to this section without reading the previous one, allow us to explain the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

This is a free system where you can apply for a card that entitles you to use another European country’s health system while you’re visiting. Since it’s free, you might as well get your hands on one if you’re thinking of travelling within the EU, since it could save you a lot of trouble if something goes wrong during your trip.

Health insurance for British expats in Spain

If you’re a British expat in Spain, you might think you’ll be stuck in some kind of weird spot between tourist and citizen, especially since you no longer fall under the EU citizen umbrella.

Well if you’re worried about this, you’ll be happy to hear that Spain has a healthcare program specifically for you! It’s got the sexy name of “Convenio Especial,” and it’s a great option for expats from anywhere, not just the UK.

It’s a pay-in scheme, so it’s not free, but the monthly fee is negligible. You’ll be paying 60 euros if you’re under 65, or 157 euros if you’re over 65. Over 55,000 British expats have enrolled in this scheme, so it’s certainly popular.

And if you’re worried about pre-existing conditions limiting your access to this scheme – don’t be. They don’t care who you are, or what health complications you’ve had – as long as you pay the fee, you’re in.

Spain Aqueduct

To explore the old aqueducts and towns, you’ll need to be in tip top health

Health insurance in Spain

Health insurance is probably one of the only things you need, but also hope you never have to use. And even though the Spanish healthcare system is as good as it is, you might be tempted to look into getting health insurance to allay any other fears.

Do I need health insurance in Spain?

Well, despite your temptations, you might be surprised to learn that only 13.5% of the Spanish population has elected to enroll in private health insurance. This may represent a significant portion of the population, but doesn’t mean you can’t just get by using the public system.

Just like in the UK, private health insurance is a good option for those who can afford it, as it allows you to receive faster treatment and to further customise your plan. But if you’re not too eager to drop cash on something you don’t see as strictly necessary, then by all means, stick to the public system. 

If you are looking for health insurance though, you can check out our list of recommended healthcare providers. From there, you can request free quotes from whichever company suits your needs.

Health insurance for holidays in Spain

If you’re not thinking of staying in Spain, but instead just passing through on a holiday, you might be wondering if you need to get some special kind of travel insurance to make sure you’ll be okay if the worst occurs.

When the UK was part of the EU, British citizens could have easily gotten their hands on something called a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for free. Now that the UK has left the EU, however, there are questions as to whether or not this will still function.

If you have a card and you’re worried about it working in the near future, put your mind at ease. All registered EHICs will retain full functionality until the UK officially leaves the EU at the end of 2020.

But after that? No one knows. As mentioned in the BBC article linked above, the UK will need to negotiate terms with other countries when the time comes.

While the EHIC allows its holder to experience the full medical capacity of every participating European country, it’s possible that the post-Brexit negotiations will lead to different countries having different rules regarding how UK nationals can access their healthcare. We’ll update this page once those guidelines have been established.

Spain Pharmacy

You might have to pay out of pocket for prescription drugs, but that would be the full extent of personal costs

How much is health insurance in Spain?

However, if you’re the kind of person who knows what they want, private insurance plans are still an option for you. And when you’re looking at something as important and long-lasting as a healthcare plan, price is probably going to be a concern.

Average cost of private health insurance in Spain

So let’s look at the average cost of a private health insurance plan in Spain. While only 13.5% of citizens elect to take out insurance, it’s still worth going over the average pricing.

We’ll split them into two categories, since individual plans and family plans are usually two different beasts. However, the real cost of either will hinge on whatever you decide to include in your plan.

For a family

Family plans obviously cost more than individual plans, but work effectively as a package deal. According to Expatica, a family plan can cost anywhere from 100 to 300 euros a month, depending on the amount of family members, pre-existing conditions, and what you’d like to prioritize in your plan.

For an individual

For an individual, you’ll be looking at plans that cost around 50 to 100 euros a month. Once again, this depends heavily on the state of your health, as well as what you’re anticipating using the health insurance for.

However, these are of course just estimates. To find out exactly how much a health insurance plan will cost you in Spain, check out our list of recommended healthcare providers. From there, you can request free quotes from whichever company suits your needs.

In conclusion

If you’re looking at moving to Spain for whatever reason, you can be comfortable in the knowledge that your health is in good hands. Spain is home to a quality health system that charges you a negligible amount at most.

Further reading

If you’re eager to read a bit more about Spain, here are some recommended articles:

Moving to Spain

Things to Know Before Moving to Spain