Mandatory Health Insurance In Europe: Navigating The Landscape – Understanding the Spanish healthcare system or finding the right doctor can be stressful, especially if you don’t speak Spanish yet. If you are an international student or an immigrant to this beautiful country, make sure to familiarize yourself with how the Spanish healthcare system works. To help you familiarize yourself with the Spanish public and private healthcare system, we’ve created this comprehensive guide to healthcare in Spain that will help you navigate the Spanish healthcare system.
If you are moving to Spain to study or work, Spanish law requires that you have health coverage for the entire duration of your stay in Spain. Check out our guide to the best health insurance in Spain for international students and expats to understand your options.
Mandatory Health Insurance In Europe: Navigating The Landscape
Below you will find everything you need to know about public and private healthcare in Spain, including many useful tips and advice so you can stay safe and find the right care for you if needed.
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If you already have specific questions about the Spanish health system and how it works, then check out the topic overview and choose the topic that interests you the most. If you are just starting out and want to know everything possible about healthcare in Spain, then please continue reading all our chapters.
Spain is very proud of its comprehensive and accessible healthcare system. The country provides a high-quality healthcare system, guaranteeing universal coverage for all its residents. The healthcare system in Spain is one of the best in the world and offers both private and public healthcare to its residents.
Spain’s public health system is called the “Spanish National Health System” (Sistema Nacional de Salud or SNS). Residents of Spain have access to the country’s universal healthcare system, resulting in many of its healthcare services being free. The public health system in Spain covers all types of health services, including general medicine, family practice, pediatrics, nursing, physical therapy and a range of other specialties. The system includes health centers called “centros de salud”, public hospitals and clinics, and doctors’ practices. As we said at the top of this article, the public healthcare system in Spain is good, although waiting times can be quite long as it is a public system. If you have an emergency, we recommend that you go to the nearest public emergency room or “emergency room” to make sure you get the treatment you need.
If you want to have freedom of choice when choosing a specialist and you don’t want to be restricted by long waiting times, we highly recommend looking into private health insurance for your time in Spain. In our Private Health Insurance for Spain guide, you can read more about the best options currently available.
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An important thing to understand before coming to Spain is whether or not you have access to the free Spanish healthcare system. The main factors that determine where you come from and what you do here in Spain.
For example, if you work legally in Spain (as self-employed or as an employee of a Spanish company), you have the right to use the public health system. This is because you contribute to the Spanish social security system (“Seguridad Social”) through your work. All you need to do is make sure to register at the “Centro de Salud” nearest to your residence. To register you will need to provide your social security number, passport, empadronamiento and your foreign identification number (eg your NIE).
If you are a citizen of the European Union, European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, you can request a so-called European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access the public health service in Spain. The EHIC is a free card that gives you access to essential, public healthcare during a temporary stay in Spain. For details on the EHIC card and how to get one, please check our Health Insurance in Spain guide.
If you are not a citizen of the European Union, European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland and you do not work during your time in Spain (ie you are an international student), then you do not have access to the public health system in Spain. Continue reading to see what you need to access Spain’s private healthcare system.
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To understand what legal documents you need to work or study in Spain and how to apply for your NIE, TIE or Social Security number, please see our guide on all the documents you need to legally live, work and study in Spain.
To gain access to the Spanish private health system, you will need to contract private health insurance that will cover you throughout your time in Spain. So if you are an international student from outside the European Union, you need to take out the right private health insurance so you can start your visa application process. If you are planning to travel to Spain as a tourist, travel insurance for Spain is sufficient.
Private insurance generally gives you access to Spain’s public and private healthcare system. This means you have access to a number of great benefits, such as direct access to private hospitals with private specialists and translation services, and shorter waiting times.
Private health insurance for Spain can be contracted online, but with so many different providers and offers available, it can be quite complicated to choose the right one. Our guide to the best private health insurance in Spain will help you choose the offer that matches your needs and expectations at a fair price.
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Our current top recommendations for medical insurance in Spain for international students and expats are Sanitas, ASISA, Adeslas, DKV and Axa. All three of these internationals specialize in providing private health insurance for moving to Spain at a fair price. You can ask for a free insurance quote here.
From this point onward this guide is talking specifically about healthcare in the city of Madrid. Outline private and public hospitals, English-speaking services and where to find them.
Hopefully, you won’t have to worry about visiting any hospitals during your time in Spain. But if the situation arises and you find yourself in need of medical attention, it is important that you know which hospitals you can visit and how the visit works.
Your decision to visit a public hospital versus a private hospital depends on one thing – the type of insurance you have. Earlier in this article we broke down the difference between public access and private access and where these two types of coverage come into play when it comes time to visit a doctor. If you have access to the public system then you can use public hospitals and public doctors/health centers, however if your treatment is not an emergency you will need to get a referral from your general practitioner (medico de cabecera) first. You can get treatment from a specialist. If you have access to a private system through private insurance, you can use private hospitals and private doctors at no extra cost – as long as your insurance covers the treatment of your interest.
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If you end up in a private hospital without private insurance, be sure to ask about treatment costs before agreeing to them – you can expect to pay out of pocket. In case of an emergency you can go directly to the emergency department of the public hospital (“Argencias”) closest to your location or call the common emergency number in Spain and Europe (112). This emergency number is free from any cell phone or landline and you should save it in your phone directory now.
Additionally, we have set up a free health advice hotline via WhatsApp for you. We operate an advice hotline in association with HM Hospitals and Sinuse Multilingual Therapy Institute for all health related queries when it comes to psychological help. Attention is given in English and Spanish. The service is only available in Madrid. For a list of English speaking doctors in Madrid, please click here!
If you are looking for an English speaking doctor in Madrid it can be tricky as many Spanish doctors in the public system do not speak excellent English.
However, if you have private medical insurance you will have access to private practices and private hospitals such as HM Hospitals. HM Hospitals provides its patients with a personal medical translator onsite at no additional cost. This way you can talk to your doctor in English or whatever language they cover. They are Madrid’s leading hospital group covering all medical and surgical specialties, 6 general hospitals and 3 integrated centers super-specialized in oncology, cardiology and neuroscience, ensuring that patients receive fully personalized and integrated services 24/7.
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They will liaise directly with your insurance
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