Essential Guide to the Health System in Portugal
Summary: Discover the realities of the healthcare system in Portugal and how it may serve expats, digital nomads, retirees, and others who relocate or reside in the country.
Portugal has a public and private healthcare system, both of which are available to foreigners. The public healthcare system is called Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS) and is funded by taxes. It is free for Portuguese citizens and permanent residents, and foreigners can use it for a fee. Public hospitals are generally recommended for serious medical emergencies and major surgery, and the quality of care is generally good.
Portugal's Public Healthcare System
Portugal's public healthcare system, Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS), is funded by taxes and is free for Portuguese citizens and permanent residents. Foreigners can use the public healthcare system for a fee. Public hospitals are generally recommended for serious medical emergencies and major surgery, and the quality of care is generally good.
Portugal's Private Healthcare System
Portugal also has a private healthcare system, which is used primarily by expats and digital nomads. Private hospitals are more expensive than public hospitals, but they offer more personalized care and shorter wait times. Private hospitals are recommended for serious medical emergencies and major surgery, and the quality of care is generally excellent.
Portugal's Top Hospitals
Some of the most well-known hospitals in Portugal include:
- Hospital de Santa Maria (public hospital in Lisbon)
- Hospital da Luz (private hospital in Lisbon)
- Hospital de São João (public hospital in Porto)
- Hospital da Boavista (private hospital in Porto)
- Hospital de São José (public hospital in Coimbra)
- Hospital da Luz Arrábida (private hospital in Vila Nova de Gaia)
Health Insurance Companies in Portugal
The most popular private health insurers in Portugal are Seguradoras Unidas, Fidelidade, and Lusitania. Expats and digital nomads typically use these companies or specialized expat health insurance providers.
Insider Tips from Expats in Portugal: How to Navigate the Health System
"Most of the medical professionals speak excellent english. If you choose to live outside the city, I recommend reaching a conversational level of portuguese to make sure you can communicate your needs," commented one expat living in Lisbon, Portugal.
"Is a crime what the US charges for same services I get in Portugal for a lot less," mentioned one expat living in Portugal.
"Public care is available to all...it's just slower and more crowded. Easily affordable private care is like 5 star service," said an expat in Portugal.
"Very happy with the ease of navigating the public system and the swiftness, kindness and efficiency of healthcare staff," remarked one expat in Portugal.
"Coimbra has a severe problem with administration and issuing SNS numero de utente (health care number)," said one expat living in Portugal.
"Many Drs speak English here in the Algarve. Our insurance costs are higher than the US because I had a huge subsidy but actual Drs, prescriptions, tests and physical therapy are incredibly reasonable in cost," commented one expat who moved to Portugal.
"Healthcare is superior in Portugal to that in the states at a fraction of the cost," said one expat.
About the Author
Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.
Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.
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