If you’re looking to move to Portugal or to spend extended periods of time in the country, it’s important to know about healthcare for foreigners in Portugal.
Portugal’s public health system
Portugal has universal health coverage through its publically financed National Health Service (called the Serviço Nacional de Saúde, SNS). Basic national health coverage is administered through local and regional health centers and through hospitals and includes all care other than dentistry. This service is available to all residents of Portugal.
Healthcare under Portugal’s national health system is free for children under 18 and for people over 65. Otherwise, unless it is urgent care or falls under specific circumstances, healthcare is available under the NHS at a low rate. Medication administered during a hospital procedure by the hospital is free.
How good is Portuguese healthcare?
The available healthcare for foreigners in Portugal has greatly improved over the past ten years or so. The Euro Health Consumer Index ranked Portuguese healthcare as the 13th best in Europe in 2018, up from 20th place in 2015. It ranks higher than the UK, Spain, Italy, and Ireland. Portuguese healthcare scored highest in terms of patient rights and information, accessibility and waiting times, as well as overall health outcomes. Portugal has an average life expectancy of 81 years.
Where to go if you need healthcare in Portugal
If you need healthcare in Portugal, you can visit your nearest health center for medical assistance. If the situation is an emergency, you can go to the emergency room at the nearest hospital.
If you require assistance you can phone the European Emergency Number: 112.
You can also call the SNS information hotline: 808242424, which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available in English and is free of charge.
Portugal Visa Applicants and Health Insurance Requirements
Portugal Golden Visa and Health Insurance Requirements
Applicants of the Portugal Golden Visa program who travel to Portugal prior to obtaining the Golden Visa are required to have travel insurance with recognized health cover during the entire duration of their stay in Portugal. This includes travel to Portugal for any visits or to attend the biometric appointment.
Once applicants receive their Golden Visa, they are eligible for the Portugal National Health Service (SNS). They will however have to register to the SNS in order to benefit from its services. In addition, recipients of the Portugal Golden Visa can also purchase private insurance over, as this offers access to private practitioners and private clinics. Two of the most recognized private insurance companies in Portugal are: Allianz and Cigna.
D7, Entrepreneur Visa and Health Insurance Requirements
In order to apply for the D7 visa in their home country, applicants will need to purchase travel insurance with health coverage for one year. Proof of this cover will be requested along with other documents when applying for the D7 Visa.
If the initial application is approved in your country of citizenship, a four-month visa for Portugal will then be issued to applicants, who will have to present themselves to the Portuguese immigration authorities in Portugal (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras; SEF) within this time. As applicants have purchased travel insurance they will be covered by that travel insurance throughout their time in Portugal until the D7 Residence Permit is formally issued.
Following a successful appointment with SEF, a D7 Residence Permit (two years) will be granted to the applicant.
Once the applicant receives the D7 Residence Permit, they are entitled to benefit from the Portugal National Health Service. However, keep in mind that it is necessary to register to the SNS in order to benefit from its services. Those who wish to do so can also purchase a private health insurance if they need extra health support.
Portugal’s private healthcare options
Private doctors and facilities are also widely available. Public-private partnerships for new hospitals, changing hospital management structures, pharmaceutical reforms, reorganization of primary care and the creation of long-term care networks have improved the healthcare system in recent years. Virtually all doctors in the public and private systems speak English.
Are you entitled to Portuguese healthcare?
The Portuguese health service is very similar to that of other countries, such as the UK, providing hospital and local health center services. Visitors will find that healthcare for foreigners in Portugal is much the same as it is for residents. The main difference between the Portuguese system and others is that everyone who uses it must pay a small charge for consults and tests.
Emergency care is free, as is healthcare in several other vital situations; without coverage through reciprocity, NHS, or private healthcare. All other services are charged at full price and are sometimes payable at the point of access. Everyone will receive hospital care if necessary, although you will be charged if not covered by the Portuguese national health service, a reciprocal agreement or private insurance.
Healthcare for short-term residents and visitors to Portugal
Short stay visitors with a Schengen visa must have a minimum health insurance coverage of €37k to enter Portugal.
Those applying for temporary visas are required by law to have health insurance, which can be obtained in their current country of residence.
Non-EU students must also prove they are fully covered by health insurance; if they don’t, the Portuguese government will not approve their visa and many schools will not accept their enrollment.
HCCMIS Student Insurance
Healthcare for short-term working residents of Portugal
Working residents of Portugal contribute to Social Security and can, therefore, obtain a Numero de Utente and will be assigned a GP. If you are not yet a permanent resident, but have been resident in Portugal for at least 90 days, you can obtain a document stating this from the local Junta de Freguesia and use this document, a photo ID, their IRS number and a proof of address to obtain a Numero de Utente, which will allow them to access Portuguese health services at a discount.
Government-funded subsystems cover public employees. There are also private subsystems which are similar to the employee provided health insurance elsewhere, for employees of specific types of companies, such as banks and larger corporations.
This type of cover is not the norm, however, and most who have private insurance pay for it themselves.
Healthcare for non-habitual residents tax residents in Portugal
Many people are currently taking advantage of the non-habitual tax regime in Portugal. The scheme was launched in order to encourage investors and professionals of high cultural and economic worth to move to Portugal. First implemented in 2009, there are now over 10,000 NHR residents in Portugal. Those who qualify for the regime can benefit from significant tax reductions, or in some cases can be entirely exempt.
The type of healthcare for those living in Portugal as non-habitual residents depends entirely on specific circumstances. Professionals who are contributing to the social security system will be able to use the Portuguese health service, whereas those who are not may which to invest in private healthcare.
Take a look at our complete guide to the non-habitual resident tax regime for more information.
Healthcare for foreigners in Portugal: EU citizens
Visiting EU citizens are covered by Portugal’s NHS through reciprocal agreements. When traveling to Portugal, they should bring their EHIC card with them and present it to any hospital or doctor to guarantee government-funded care.
There are also many private health clinics all over Portugal, which are relatively inexpensive. You can expect to pay around €40 for an appointment with a general practitioner.
Healthcare for foreigners in Portugal: long-term residents
Those living and working in Portugal who are not covered by reciprocal agreements with their home countries have two options. You can either pay into the social security system, which is incremental in relation to income or opt for a private healthcare plan.
Pharmacies and medication in Portugal
Pharmacies are widely distributed throughout Portugal. Many medicines, including over the counter medication, are subsidized if obtained with a prescription, which makes them very cost-effective.
Is there a language barrier within healthcare for foreigners in Portugal?
Portugal has a history of dealing positively with immigrants in terms of healthcare, and many medical professionals are sensitive to language barriers. Additionally, virtually all doctors in the public and private systems speak English.
Are you looking to move to Portugal?
There are a number of options available to those looking to obtain residence in Portugal. One of the most popular methods is through the Golden Visa Program, which gives those who make investments in Portugal the right to residence in the country. For more information on the ways you can invest, take a look at our guide to the Portugal Golden Visa Program.
Want to learn more about moving to Portugal? Contact us today to see how we can advise on your investment and residency abroad.
Frequently Asked Questions about healthcare for foreigners in Portugal
How good is Portuguese healthcare?
Portuguese healthcare is ranked among the highest in the world, and has greatly improved over the past decade. It ranks higher than the UK, Ireland, Spain, and Italy in terms of patient rights, accessibility, information, waiting times and overall health outcomes.
Is healthcare free in Portugal?
There is a national healthcare service in Portugal, the Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS) which is entirely free for children under 18 and over 65s. It is free for all residents, with vastly subsidised costs for some services.
Are you entitled to Portuguese healthcare?
If you are a resident in Portugal and make the necessary social security contributions, you are entitled to Portuguese healthcare.
Do healthcare professionals in Portugal speak English?
English is widely spoken by healthcare professionals in Portugal.
Following my Golden Visa or D7 visa application when can I start using the Portuguese National Health Service (SNS)?
As soon as your Golden Visa or D7 Visa is approved you can use the Portugal National Health Service. However, you must first register yourself with the SNS in order to benefit from it.
Do I need private insurance if I move to Portugal under the Golden Visa or the D7 Visa?
If you are living in Portugal under the Golden Visa or the D7 Visa you can benefit from the Portugal National Health Service once you have registered. However, you are welcome to purchase a private health insurance policy if you require or wish to have extra cover.