The Portuguese Healthcare System
Universal coverage: The Portuguese healthcare system, also known as the National Health Service (Serviço Nacional de Saúde – SNS), provides universal health insurance coverage to all legal residents in Portugal. This means that everyone has the right to access healthcare services, regardless of their financial status or employment.
Funded by general taxation: The SNS is primarily funded through general taxation, ensuring that healthcare services are available to the entire population without the burden of high out-of-pocket expenses.
Comprehensive services: The SNS offers a wide range of medical services, including general consultations with family doctors and specialists, hospital treatments, surgeries, and prescription medications. It aims to cater to all aspects of preventive, curative, and rehabilitative healthcare.
Co-payment system: While the SNS provides free or low-cost healthcare services, there is a co-payment system in place for certain treatments and medications. These co-payments are typically nominal and vary based on the patient’s income level.
Health centers and hospitals: The SNS operates a network of health centers (Centros de Saúde) across the country, where residents can access primary healthcare services. In addition, there are public hospitals and specialized medical facilities available for more complex treatments and surgeries.
Primary care gatekeeping: The SNS follows a gatekeeping system where patients are required to register with a family doctor or general practitioner at their local health center. The family doctor acts as the primary point of contact for healthcare needs and can refer patients to specialists or hospitals for further evaluation and treatment when necessary.
Emergency care: Portuguese hospitals provide emergency medical care to anyone in need, regardless of their insurance status. In emergency situations, patients can seek immediate treatment without worrying about insurance coverage.
Electronic Health Record (EHR): The SNS has implemented an Electronic Health Record (EHR) system, which allows healthcare professionals to access patients’ medical records electronically. This ensures seamless and efficient communication between different healthcare providers, leading to better-coordinated care.
Waiting times: While the SNS provides essential healthcare services, waiting times for certain non-urgent treatments can vary. This has led some individuals to consider private health insurance to expedite access to specialized care.
Public-private collaboration: The Portuguese healthcare system also involves collaboration between public and private medical insurance providers. Some public hospitals and clinics offer private healthcare services alongside their public offerings, allowing individuals to choose between public and private treatment options.
Who needs health insurance in Portugal?
Expatriates and foreign residents: Medical insurance provides expatriates with the flexibility to access private healthcare services and specialized treatments, ensuring peace of mind during their stay in the country.
Tourists and short-term visitors: While the Portuguese National Health Service (SNS) does provide emergency medical care to tourists and short-term visitors, having health insurance can offer additional coverage and ease the financial burden in case of unexpected medical needs.
Individuals seeking faster access to medical services: Although the SNS offers comprehensive healthcare coverage, some individuals may prefer faster access to medical consultations, treatments, and surgeries. Private health insurance can provide expedited access to specialized care and appointments with healthcare providers of their choice.
Those seeking extended coverage and additional services: Health insurance in Portugal can offer coverage for services not included in the public healthcare system, such as alternative therapies, elective procedures, and certain prescription medications not fully covered by the SNS.
Portuguese residents looking for supplementary coverage: While the SNS provides essential healthcare services, some residents opt for private health insurance as a supplement. This additional coverage can help them access services beyond what the public system provides and reduce waiting times for specific treatments.
Individuals with specific health conditions: For individuals with pre-existing medical conditions, health insurance can be beneficial in ensuring access to specialized treatments and ongoing care.
Families and parents: Families with children may consider health insurance to cover dental care and other services that might have limited coverage under the public system.
Self-employed and freelancers: Self-employed individuals and freelancers might find health insurance attractive as it can offer tailored coverage based on their specific needs and preferences.
Individuals in high-risk professions: Some professions might carry higher risks of injuries or occupational hazards. Health insurance can provide additional protection and financial support in case of accidents or work-related health issues.
What happens if I am not covered by health insurance?
If you are not covered by health insurance in Portugal, you will still have access to the public healthcare system provided by the National Health Service (SNS), provided you have registered with your local health center. The SNS offers universal healthcare coverage to all legal residents, ensuring that emergency and essential medical needs are met.
However, without private insurance, you may experience longer waiting times for non-urgent treatments, and certain services or treatments may require out-of-pocket expenses. Having health insurance can provide additional benefits, faster access to specialized care, and coverage for services not included in the public system.
Portuguese Public Health Insurance
Portuguese public health insurance offers a comprehensive range of medical services, including consultations, treatments, surgeries, and medications.
Emergency care is available to all, regardless of insurance status. While essential services are covered, non-urgent treatments may have longer waiting times. Public health insurance ensures access to basic medical care without significant out-of-pocket expenses.
Who does public health insurance cover?
Public health insurance in Portugal covers all legal residents in the country, including Portuguese citizens and legal residents. The coverage extends to a wide range of individuals, ensuring that everyone has access to essential healthcare services through the National Health Service (SNS). Additionally, certain groups of tourists may also be eligible for limited coverage under international agreements.
What does public health insurance cover?
Doctors and specialists: Consultations with general practitioners and specialists are covered
Medical emergencies: Emergency treatments and hospital care are provided without cost
Mental healthcare: Consultations and treatments for mental health conditions are covered
Maternity care: Prenatal care, childbirth, and postnatal care are included
Eye care: Eye exams and some vision-related services are covered
How to get Portuguese Public Health Insurance?
Obtain residency status: To be eligible for Portuguese public health insurance, you must have legal residency in the country. Register at local health center: Locate and visit your nearest health center, known as Centro de Saúde in Portugal. Present your identification documents and proof of residency to initiate the registration process.
Fill in the necessary forms: The health center staff will provide you with the required forms to complete the registration. These forms will collect essential information to enroll you in the National Health Service (SNS).
Provide social security number: You will need to provide your Social Security number (Número de Identificação da Segurança Social (NISS) and your NIF number (Portuguese tax number, Número de Identificação Fiscal) during the registration process.
Select a family doctor: As part of the registration process, you will be asked to choose a family doctor or general practitioner (médico de família). This doctor will act as your primary healthcare provider and will be your point of contact for medical needs and referrals to specialists if necessary.
Complete the registration: Submit the filled forms and necessary documents to the health center staff for processing. Once your registration is complete, you will receive your public health insurance details and a health user card (cartão de utente).
Receive health user card: The health user card (cartão de utente) is a personal identification card that contains your health insurance information. It is essential to present this card when accessing healthcare services under the SNS.
Use public health services: With your health user card, you can now access a range of healthcare services provided by the National Health Service (SNS). This includes consultations with doctors and specialists, hospital treatments, surgeries, and prescription medications.
Note: If you are an EU/EEA citizen and have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), you can also use it in Portugal to access necessary medical treatment during temporary stays.
Following Brexit, UK individuals can use their UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) instead of the EHIC. There is no difference between the EHIC and the GHIC. Depending on the nation of travel, both cards provide coverage for required and emergency healthcare treatments at reduced or no cost.
Private Health Insurance in Portugal
Private health insurance in Portugal is generally affordable, with monthly premiums ranging from €20 to €50 ($22–$55), depending on your age and the level of coverage you choose. This translates to an annual cost of approximately €400 ($440) for a basic plan and up to €1,000 ($1,100) for a more comprehensive coverage option.
Private Health Insurance in Portugal
Comprehensive coverage: Unlike the public system, private health insurance offers coverage for additional services such as dental care, alternative therapies, and elective procedures, providing a more comprehensive range of healthcare options.
Choice of healthcare providers: Policyholders have the flexibility to choose their preferred healthcare providers, including doctors, specialists, and private hospitals, enabling a more personalized healthcare experience.
Tailored coverage options: Private health insurance plans can be customized to suit individual needs, offering a variety of coverage options to match different lifestyles and medical requirements.
International coverage: Some private health insurance plans in Portugal may include international coverage, allowing policyholders to access medical services while traveling abroad.
Additional benefits: Private health insurance may offer additional benefits, such as health screenings, wellness programs, and coverage for certain prescription medications not fully covered by the public system.
Popular among expatriates: Expatriates and foreign residents in Portugal often opt for private health insurance to ensure continuity of care and access to specialized treatments in their preferred language and with familiarity of international medical practices.
How to choose a private insurance provider in Portugal?
Research providers: Conduct thorough research on private healthcare providers in Portugal. Look for reputable hospitals, clinics, and medical centers that offer the services you need. Consider factors like the provider’s reputation, quality of care, and patient reviews.
Check accreditation and licensing: Ensure that the private healthcare providers you are considering are accredited and licensed by the Portuguese health authorities. This guarantees that they meet the necessary standards and adhere to the country’s healthcare regulations.
Coverage and services: Review the coverage and services offered by each private provider. Compare the healthcare plans available and check if they align with your healthcare needs and budget. Look for plans that offer the level of coverage you desire.
Network of providers: Find out if the private provider has a broad network of healthcare professionals, including specialists and hospitals. Having access to a diverse network ensures that you can choose from a wide range of healthcare options.
Cost and affordability: Compare the costs of different healthcare plans and assess their affordability. Consider factors like premiums, deductibles, co-payments, and any out-of-pocket expenses. Ensure that the chosen plan fits within your budget.
Recommendations and referrals: Seek recommendations and referrals from friends, colleagues, or healthcare professionals you trust. Personal experiences can provide valuable insights into the quality of care and services offered by the provider.
Health Insurance Quotes in Portugal
To obtain the best health insurance coverage for your needs, it’s advisable to request quotes from multiple insurance companies. This allows you to compare coverage, benefits, and costs before making a decision.
How much does Portuguese health insurance cost?
The cost of Portuguese health insurance can vary based on several factors, including the type of coverage, the level of benefits, the age of the insured individual, and any pre-existing medical conditions. Generally, private health insurance in Portugal can range from €30 to €150 or more per month, depending on the chosen plan and the insurance provider.
Portuguese Pharmacy Costs
In Portugal, pharmacy costs are generally affordable, especially for prescription medications covered by the National Health Service (SNS). The SNS provides a list of medications that are partially or fully subsidized, making them available to residents at reduced prices. The amount of co-payment for these medications can vary based on the type of medication and the patient’s income level.
Health Insurance for Unemployed or Low-Earning Residents
Portuguese National Health Service (SNS): The SNS offers universal healthcare coverage to all legal residents in Portugal, including unemployed or low-earning individuals. It ensures that everyone has access to essential medical services, regardless of their financial status or employment situation.
Social security system: Unemployed individuals who have previously contributed to the social security system may still have access to healthcare benefits. Contributions made during previous employment can provide coverage even during periods of unemployment.
State-sponsored health subsidies: For those with limited financial resources, the Portuguese government provides health subsidies and assistance. These subsidies may cover co-payments for medications, medical consultations, and other healthcare services, reducing out-of-pocket expenses.
Healthcare assistance for low-income families: Low-income families may be eligible for additional healthcare assistance through social welfare programs. These programs are designed to ensure that even those with financial constraints can access necessary medical care.
Integrated Continuous Care (Cuidados Continuados Integrados – CCI): The CCI program offers a range of health and social care services for individuals with chronic health conditions or in need of long-term care. It caters to the specific needs of vulnerable groups, including the unemployed and low-earning residents.
Community health centers: Community health centers (Centros de Saúde) across the country provide primary healthcare services at affordable rates. The SNS offers consultations with general practitioners and specialists, ensuring accessible and cost-effective medical care for all residents.
Pharmacy co-payment exemptions: Certain low-earning individuals or those facing financial hardship may be exempt from co-payments for prescription medications under the SNS, reducing the cost burden for essential drugs.
Whether you’re a resident seeking to complement public coverage with private health insurance or an expatriate embracing Portugal’s rich heritage, health insurance offers an array of benefits and choices. Whlie public healthcare in Portugal is generally very good, private health insurance provides personalized care, faster access to specialists, and coverage for additional services, ensuring your journey in Portugal is a seamless and hassle-free one.
Frequently Asked Questions About Health Insurance in Portugal
How much is medical insurance in Portugal?
Private medical insurance in Portugal can cost between €30 to €150 per month, depending on the coverage and the individual’s age.
How does an American get health insurance in Portugal?
An American living in Portugal can obtain private health insurance through various international insurance providers that offer coverage for expatriates and foreign residents.
Can US citizens get healthcare in Portugal?
Yes, US citizens can access healthcare in Portugal, either through private health insurance or the public healthcare system, as long as they are legal residents.
Does Portugal have good health insurance?
Portugal’s public healthcare system, the National Health Service (SNS), provides universal coverage and is well-regarded for its comprehensive services. Private health insurance also offers additional options and benefits to residents and expatriates.