Portugal Universal Health Care

Portugal is one of the countries that offer universal health care around the world. Universal health care in Portugal is administered through local and regional health centers. The National Health Service in Portugal is known as Service Nacional de Saude, (SNS). The service is publicly financed. Basic national health care is administered through public medical centers and it is available to all residents of Portugal. Portuguese citizens and foreigners enjoy the same healthcare benefits.

Is Healthcare Free in Portugal?

Universal healthcare is available for all Portuguese citizens and foreign residents. Portugal provides free healthcare to children below 18 years of age and people aged 65 years and above. People in other age brackets can still access healthcare at subsidized costs.

Disadvantages of Universal Healthcare in Portugal

The universal healthcare in Portugal has its disadvantages.

  • You cannot choose your own doctor. Patients are assigned to a general practitioner. If you have to meet a specialist, he/she must be referred by the general practitioner.
  • Shortage of medical staff. Public hospitals lack medical staff. The shortage of medical staff is even worse outside major cities/towns.
  • Long waiting times. Due to shortage of staff causes long waiting time in hospitals.

These are reasons for people to additionally pay for a private health insurance.

How to Apply for Public Health Insurance in Portugal

If you want to access universal healthcare in Portugal, you need to apply for insurance cover. If you are employed, your employer can enroll you if you make contributions to the social security system in Portugal.

If you are self-employed, you can register with the social security institute. Once you have registered, you can now apply for health insurance. You then need to visit a local health center to get assigned a doctor. Make sure to carry your social security card, passport and residence permit. You will get a healthcare card that you will be using to get subsidized healthcare services.

For residents who don’t have a residence permit, they can get a certificate from the local municipality to ascertain that you have been in Portugal for more than 90 days. You need to present this document and other paperwork when applying for public health insurance in Portugal.

Private Health Insurance

If you do not qualify for universal public healthcare, you can get private health insurance. If you are an expat and don’t want to wait for too long, you can get private health insurance. With private health insurance, you can access eye care and dental treatment that is not provided by SNS. The company you work for may also be offering private health insurance which you can benefit from. Some of the best private health insurance providers in Portugal include:

  • Allianz. It is among the largest health insurance providers across the world. You can get a quote online and access health insurance services digitally. Mobile claims processing is also available. Completed medical claims can be processed within 48 hours.
  • Cigna Global. It is also a global health insurance provider that is trusted by doctors, hospitals, clinics and all over the world. It also provides group health services for NGOs, IGOs and corporations. Cigna has been providing health insurance for the last 60 years.
  • AXA Global Healthcare. They provide international health insurance that is based on your needs. All their plans have coverage for emergency services like ambulance transport. You can lower your premiums by adding excess. You also get to chose how to pay the premiums; either monthly, quarterly, or annually.

Healthcare in Portugal for UK citizens: The healthcare in Portugal is suitable for UK citizens because hospitals in Portugal can offer receptions and support services for patients in English.

Note that nurses in Portugal are paid much less than in wealthier EU countries. This has lead to an exodus of nurses and even more pressure on the nurses that are staying in Portugal. This is the case both in public as well as private health institutions.

Private health insurances in Portugal do not have good coverage outside of Portugal. It is a good idea to check specific conditions, excess and maximum coverage and compare these with international insurance policies.

Health Insurance Costs in Portugal

Residents of Portugal can access health services at subsidized rates. Some treatments attract higher fees but are available to vulnerable groups like low-income earners, children, adults aged 65 years and above, and students at low costs.

The cost of private health insurance in Portugal is the range of hundreds and thousands of euros per year. You will also need to pay an excess fee to make a medical claim. However, the cost of private health insurance depends on the coverage that you buy.

Public Health Insurance Coverage in Portugal

Is healthcare free in Portugal for EU citizens? EU citizens with a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or equivalent will be able to use the Portuguese public healthcare system free of charge for up to 90 days, and thereafter will need to be registered as official legal residents to continue using the system.

Public health insurance is available to the following parties in Portugal.

  • Employees and their dependents. People who contribute to the Portuguese Social Security are entitled to Public Health Insurance coverage.
  • Retirees. Retirees get subsidized healthcare. Early retirees can opt to voluntarily pay the social security contributions or get private health insurance cover.
  • EU or EEA residents. Residents of the EU or the EEA or Switzerland and are visiting Portugal can use their European Health Insurance coverage to access subsidized healthcare in Portugal.
  • Students. EU, EEA and Swiss students qualify for Portuguese Health care insurance through the European Health Insurance Card.
  • Short-term visitors. Short-term visitors can access the Portuguese healthcare services under their medical insurance or travel insurance.

Portuguese Public Health Insurance Coverage

If you have a Portuguese public health insurance cover, you get to enjoy the following:

  • Hospital treatment. Portugal has around 200 hospitals, both public and private. You need to get a doctor’s referral to see a specialist. Otherwise, your insurance cover will not cater to medical expenses. You can get a medical appointment if you have private medical coverage. Those using public health insurance have to wait longer.
  • Maternity cover. Portuguese healthcare takes care of maternity costs. You do not have to pay a fee for medical examinations. Expectant mothers get 100%salary for 120 days maternity leave while fathers get 5 days paternity leave.
  • Sick pay. If you make contributions towards social security, you are entitled to sick pay that is between 55% and 75%. You can get your salary for a maximum period of 1,095 days.

SNS does not cover eye care and dental treatment. If you want to access these services, you will need to pay for them. However, SNS caters to dental treatment only to the vulnerable groups. You will also need to make a small contribution to access emergency medical services like ambulance services.

Portugal Healthcare for Tourists

Tourists visiting Portugal cannot access public-funded healthcare. As a tourist, you need to buy travel medical insurance before visiting Portugal. If you are a tourist from the European Union, EEA or Switzerland, you can access public healthcare in Portugal through your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or equivalent for up to 90 days.

Final Word

Portugal has a good health care system, but it’s not up to par with systems in countries like the UK, the Netherlands and Germany.

It is among the few countries that have universal healthcare. Both residents and expats can enjoy similar health benefits. However, public healthcare does not include eye care and dental treatment. You may need to get a private cover for such treatments. Children, elderly adults and vulnerable groups get to enjoy free healthcare services.

Vincent is a writer and researcher with an interest in finance, banking, startups, and remittance. He holds a Bachelors degree in Applied Statistics with computing. He founded Nexin Startups, an online platform offering startup advice to investors and entrepreneurs. Read more about us and our authors.