×
Interested in our Partner Program for businesses or our Local Guide Program for experienced expats and digital nomads? Click here to learn more.
Expat Exchange - How to Navigate the Health System in Spain
Expat Exchange
Free MembershipSign In
Plaza Mayor in Salamanca, Spain


How to Navigate the Health System in Spain

By Betsy Burlingame

Expat Estate
Expat Estate

Summary: Learn about the health system in Spain: how it can and cannot be used by expats, nomads, retirees and others moving to and living in Spain.

Spain has a public and private healthcare system, both of which are highly regarded and provide quality care. Foreigners, including expats and digital nomads, are allowed to use the public healthcare system in Spain. The public healthcare system is used by both locals and foreigners, and is recommended for serious medical emergencies and major surgery. Public hospitals in Spain are well-equipped and staffed with experienced medical professionals.

Spain's Public Healthcare System

Spain's public healthcare system is known as the Servicio Nacional de Salud (SNS). It is funded by the government and is free for all Spanish citizens and legal residents. The SNS covers a wide range of medical services, including hospital stays, doctor visits, and prescription drugs.

Spain's Private Healthcare System

Spain also has a private healthcare system, which is used by many expats and digital nomads. Private healthcare is more expensive than public healthcare, but it offers more personalized care and shorter wait times. Private hospitals in Spain are well-equipped and staffed with experienced medical professionals. Private healthcare is recommended for serious medical emergencies and major surgery.

Spain's Top Hospitals

Some of the most well-known hospitals in Spain include:

  • Hospital Clínic de Barcelona (private hospital in Barcelona)
  • Hospital Universitario La Paz (public hospital in Madrid)
  • Hospital Quirón Teknon (private hospital in Barcelona)
  • Hospital Universitario Virgen del Rocío (public hospital in Seville)
  • Hospital Universitario Gregorio Marañón (public hospital in Madrid)

Health Insurance Companies in Spain

The most popular private health insurers in Spain are Sanitas, Adeslas, DKV Seguros, and Mapfre. These companies offer a range of health insurance plans, including basic coverage and comprehensive coverage. Expats and digital nomads typically use these companies or specialized expat health insurance providers.

Insider Tips from Expats in Spain: How to Navigate the Health System

"One time I developed a very sore tooth. I was able to make an appointment for that same day, the dentist was very efficient (and spoke English). And the cost was about 12% compared to the same procedure in the U.S. I was impressed," commented one expat living in Tenerife, Spain.

"Very efficient,accessible and definitely inexpensive compared to the nightmare of the US money machine that is healthcare," mentioned one expat living in Spain.

"In Spain, medical services are generally of a high quality. The country has a well-developed public healthcare system, which is free for Spanish citizens and legal residents. Private healthcare is also available, and is often of a higher standard than the public system. Doctors in Spain are highly trained and experienced, and the country has a wide range of modern medical facilities," said an expat in Spain.

"Although the primary care from physicians and the local hospital/clinic are generally adequate, I recommend getting a second opinion before accepting a recommendation for major treatment like surgery, even though you will likely have to pay that out of pocket. Doctors, treatments, medications are dramatically less expensive here. Custom orthotics would have cost me approximately $300 in the US, but are $45 here. ," commented one expat living in Altea, Spain.

"I would say medical care is excellent. For chronic medical conditions, it may be difficult to get an insurance and they will have to pay more. there are other expats with chronic condtions who are able to get private insurance," mentioned one expat living in Spain.

"I would tell them that the private healthcare in Spain is excellence. For a pre-existing chronic condition, some private healthcare may cover at a high costs or excluding them. However, medication cost is very low and it’s possible to pay out of pockets and don’t need an insurance for medication," said an expat in Spain.

"I like health care here. I had a surgery, one that was formerly botched in Sweden (of all countries with reputedly good health care) and sooner or later am likely to need a heart surgery as well (yes, I had a second opinion on that). As an EU citizen I was never asked to pay for any treatment and as a retiree get all medications dirt cheap, even insulin, which makes me remember with horror prices I had to pay when I lived in the US, despite being fully insured..," remarked one expat in Spain.

"Healthcare services in Spain are provided by both public and private institutions. The public healthcare system is funded by the government and is available to all Spanish citizens and legal residents. The quality of public healthcare is generally good, with a wide range of services available, including primary care, specialist care, hospital care, and preventive care. Foreign residents in Spain are also eligible to use the public healthcare system, provided they have a valid residence permit. Expats in Spain can use the public healthcare system by registering with the local health authority and obtaining a health card. This card allows them to access the same services as Spanish citizens, including free or discounted medical care," said one expat living in Spain.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame 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.


Expat Estate
Expat Estate

Expat Estate
Expat Estate

Plaza Mayor in Salamanca, Spain

GeoBlue
GeoBlue

Top-quality coverage for people who live, work, study and travel internationally.
Get Quote

GeoBlueGeoBlue

Top-quality coverage for people who live, work, study and travel internationally.
Get Quote

Contribute to Spain Network Contribute
Help others in Spain by answering questions about the challenges and adventures of living in Spain.

Expat Estate
Expat Estate

Copyright 1997-2024 Burlingame Interactive, Inc.

Privacy Policy Legal Partners & Local Guides