Private: Healthcare in Spain

Understanding Healthcare in Spain: A Guide for Expats

Spain is renowned for its beautiful beaches, vibrant culture, and delicious cuisine. It's no wonder that many expatriates choose to make Spain their new home. However, when moving to a new country, it's essential to understand the healthcare system and how to access medical services. In this article, we will provide an overview of the Spanish healthcare system and guide expatriates on accessing healthcare in Spain.

The Spanish Healthcare System: An Overview

The Spanish healthcare system is known for its high-quality care and accessibility. It is funded through both public and private sources, ensuring that residents and expatriates have access to comprehensive medical services.

Spain has a universal healthcare system, which means that all residents, including expatriates, have the right to receive medical care. The system is funded through social security contributions, taxes, and co-payments.

The Spanish healthcare system is divided into two main sectors: the public sector and the private sector. The public sector provides free or low-cost healthcare services to residents, while the private sector offers additional options for those who prefer private healthcare.

The Public Healthcare System

The public healthcare system in Spain is known as the Sistema Nacional de Salud (SNS). It is funded through social security contributions and taxes. The SNS provides comprehensive healthcare services, including primary care, specialist care, hospital care, and emergency services.

Primary care is the first point of contact for patients and is usually provided by general practitioners (GPs) or family doctors. Expatriates can register with a local GP by presenting their residency card or proof of private health insurance.

Specialist care is provided by doctors who have expertise in specific medical fields. Patients usually require a referral from their GP to access specialist care.

Hospital care is available for both emergencies and planned treatments. The public hospitals in Spain are well-equipped and staffed with highly trained medical professionals.

Emergency services are accessible through the emergency department of public hospitals. In case of a medical emergency, it is important to dial the emergency number, which is 112 in Spain.

The Private Healthcare Sector

The private healthcare sector in Spain offers additional options for those who prefer private medical services. Private healthcare providers offer a range of services, including primary care, specialist care, hospital care, and dental care.

Private healthcare in Spain is known for its shorter waiting times and personalized care. However, it is important to note that private healthcare can be more expensive than the public system.

Expatriates can choose to have private health insurance to access private healthcare services. Private health insurance provides coverage for medical treatments, consultations, and hospital stays in private facilities.

Accessing Healthcare in Spain as an Expat

As an expatriate in Spain, there are several ways to access healthcare services. The process may vary depending on your residency status and whether you are covered by the public or private healthcare system.

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

If you are a citizen of a European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) country, you can use your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access healthcare services in Spain. The EHIC provides you with the same level of healthcare as Spanish residents.

It is important to note that the EHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance. It only covers necessary medical treatments and does not cover private healthcare or repatriation costs.

Residency in Spain

If you are a non-EU/EEA citizen and have obtained residency in Spain, you are entitled to access the public healthcare system. To access healthcare services, you will need to obtain a social security number and register with a local GP.

When registering with a GP, you will need to present your residency card (Tarjeta de Identificación de Extranjero or TIE) or proof of private health insurance. The GP will then provide you with a health card (Tarjeta Sanitaria Individual or TSI), which you will need to present when accessing healthcare services.

Private Health Insurance

Even if you are entitled to access the public healthcare system, many expatriates choose to have private health insurance in Spain. Private health insurance provides additional benefits, such as access to private hospitals and shorter waiting times.

When choosing private health insurance, it is important to consider your specific needs and budget. Compare different insurance providers and policies to find the one that best suits your requirements.

Out-of-Pocket Payments

If you are not covered by the public or private healthcare system, you can still access healthcare services in Spain by paying out-of-pocket. However, it is important to note that healthcare costs can be high, especially for specialized treatments or hospital stays.

Before seeking medical treatment, it is advisable to inquire about the costs and payment options. Some healthcare providers may offer payment plans or discounts for self-pay patients.


Accessing healthcare in Spain as an expatriate is relatively straightforward, thanks to the country's universal healthcare system. Whether you choose to utilize the public healthcare system or opt for private health insurance, you can expect high-quality care and comprehensive medical services.

Before moving to Spain, it is recommended to research and understand the healthcare system to ensure a smooth transition. By familiarizing yourself with the options available and the necessary requirements, you can access the healthcare services you need and enjoy your new life in Spain with peace of mind.