Health Care in Spain

by Jose Marc Castro on August 10, 2009

FACTSABOUTIntlHealthINSURANCEUpon deciding on relocating into some country, there are some major things that need to be ascertained, things that play major factors into one’s life into another country. Aside from thinking much about the life that waits for in the country, health care is also another major concern.

Spain is one Western European country that consists of the Peninsular Spain, located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It also has two archipelagos and two separate autonomies cities in Northern Africa.

Mainland Spain is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea on the south and the east, the Cantabric Sea including the Bay of Biscay on the north, and Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean on the west. The Spanish territories also include the Balearic Islands on the Mediterranean on Canary Islands on the African Coast. The country shares land borders with Andorra, France and Portugal, and the British colony of Morocco and the Gibraltar. Spain is one of the largest of three other states that comprise the Iberian Peninsula aside from Andorra and Portugal. Its total land area is 504,030 kilometers squared, making it Western Europe’s second largest country.

What You must Know about Medical Care in Spain

The Spanish Medical System is one of major public funds expenditures by government. The System accounted for 8.4% of GDP in Spain in 2006 and is a public parallel health care institution that works alongside a network of private health insurance systems. Over 90% of the populace uses this system for their medical needs.

If you are a visitor or an expatriate in Spain coming from a European Member state, you are generally free from hospital and medical care expenses. Having presented your EHC or the European Health Card, you will be attended by a general practitioner at your local center. But if you are not able to make it to your local health center, the general practitioner will be the one to pay you a visit on your place. If the situation requires you to see your specialist or be admitted to a hospital, the general practitioner can give you a referral or a medical certificate. Most hospitals in Spain also has Emergency and Accident services.

What the European Health Card Does

By definition, the EHC allows an individual duly insured to be covered by a statutory social security system of the EU countries to allow receipt of medical care and services from another member state at a discounted cost. With your EHC or the European Health Card, you can receive similar healthcare services like any Spanish citizen. Expiration dates are indicated on the European Health Card and are not valid in European countries like Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland.

Where to Obtain the European Health Card

The European Health Cards are available from relevant healthcare organizations from your country of origin. Private hospitals and doctors in Spain though, do not honor a European Health Card. If you prefer to have a private health care, you are expected to settle your own hospital bills or you can apply for an insurance policy that covers your preferred health care.

What Health Forms are Necessary?

During your whole stay in Spain, if there is a need for a specific treatment like hemodialysis, you are required to fill out an E-112 form, together with an authorization from appropriate institutions from the country where you came from. Remember also that dental treatments are not generally covered in Spain except for those emergency extractions.

However, if you happen to forget your EHC card, it is your responsibility to pay for you pharmaceutical, medical and hospital bills in advance. You then seek for reimbursements from the appropriate health care organization from the country you came from, providing all the receipts of your payments.

Keep in mind that your European Health Card is not applicable if you only travel to Spain just to seek for special medical treatments. The same thing also applies to all the other European countries. On the other hand, there are still some countries that use European Health cards just yet. In this case, travel with your relevant documents gathered from your country. These documents are designated as valid until you have introduced your new card. But for further details, be responsible enough the contact the appropriate office from your place of origin and ask for full details regarding the current requirements in receiving medical attention in Spain.

Advice was provided in Spain Expat Forum last August 31, 2009:

There are changes to the issuing of European Health Insurance Cards for UK State Pensioners living in Spain. Note that people’s healthcare in Spain is not affected. The only change is for when UK state Pensioners registered on an E121 form need to travel from Spain to another EU Country. The changes are due to take effect from 1st May 2010.

Access to healthcare: UK European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

Not a European Union Citizen? Know More the Health Care in Spain

Some of the other countries that are currently following the European Community rules are Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. These countries enjoy similar health care benefits like its member countries. Additionally, people that come from countries in which Spain has some form of a bilateral agreement like Peru, Paraguay, Ecuador, Chile, Brazil and Andorra, can also avail of free hospitalization and medical care in cases of medical emergencies or accident. You simply have to present the corresponding health certificated from the country you came from. In the event that you do not have with you the certificate, simply pay upfront for the doctors, the hospitalization, and the medicines. Ask your heal care service or insurance provider to fully refund your expenses. Just make sure that you present the necessary receipts.

How the Spanish Health Care System Works

The National Health Service of Spain has a wide network of hospitals and health centers all throughout the country. The health centers of Spain provide primary healthcare services that include family and GP services, nursing and pediatrics, social workers, and physiotherapists. These services are aimed to at least be located just within fifteen minutes of a place of residence. Additionally, if circumstances require, it is possible for the medical professionals to go to the patient’s residence.

Medical Treatment in Spain

The health care system in Spanish is very good. Its hospitals are very modern and are well equipped. The pediatricians and the doctors are excellent. Although there are some differences in policies between the Spanish and the British health systems, overall they are generally quite similar. However, the biggest difference between the two is the levels of nursing care. Spanish nurses are efficient and well trained but they do not perform the way British nurses do. Instead, feeding and personal care in Spain are normally taken cared of by the family of the patients instead.

If you plan on living in Spain, keep in mind that most of the medical staff are not English-speaking. But then, you can always seek for voluntary translation services when you set an appointment with your doctor. Just make sure that it is available in the specific area of Spain that you intend to live in. This was echoed in Spain Expat Forum last August 28, 2009:

The doctor, dentist thing, well I go private, but I believe if you pay into the system here you can go to any of the clinicas or hospitals. Once you’re a resident I dont think the E111/106 will be available to you

Over-all, Spain is one option if you have plans of living into another country.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

nicole November 25, 2009 at 3:32 pm

does it cost? is it free or does the private health companies pay for it?


Recoha August 31, 2010 at 11:09 am

Not true, Health in Spain is universal and free and unless it can be proven that you are doing medical tourism and are able to pay for it yourself, you will not be asked to pay.
UNLIKE th UK the food in a hospital is good, tasty and PROVIDED FOR FREE by the hospital and nurses.
I've been in hospitals in Spain quite a few times and service is excellent and you usually get your own room or share with few people in a cleen place with yoilet and TV, unlike UK's overcrowded rooms full of viruses, dirty and very unconfortable.


Fiona December 27, 2010 at 7:30 pm

I would like to take out private medical cover in spain. I live in the uk but travel to spain every month so would like to get regular checkups, possible an mri scan and just a general good bill of health. Can anyone advise the best policy to buy?


Anne June 21, 2011 at 5:36 pm

I have been with a large private health insurance company in Spain for 8 years; (A few years ago they changed to M M).I cannot believe that today when I arrived with an appointment for an essential cardio excercise test they turned me away and refused to do it because they could not swipe my 'tarjeta! no test no further care.

Just since January after bronchitis and lung congestion I began to suffer from a completely out of rythm ventricular heart beat,(proven on a 24hr ECG). I am only 63yrs.
I was seen as an emergency at the local hosp[ital- very good until they said they would tel or send an 'urgent' app. it arrived for the 25th May!
Obviously every day was scary, so I sort private cardiologist. and cancelled the hospital app, Now what do I do. Denia hospital has closed its books for all new Cardio apps.No cardiologists after 2 left in the springtime.
I think its time to sell up at a loss and return to the UK,
I agree were welcome as guests in Spain before, but have been paying heavily for that privalege. maybe we are not welcome any more?


Anouk October 27, 2011 at 8:53 am

Hi anne. i am making a programme for uk tv Channel 5 about Spain and Healthcare. I think you might be able to help me. Could you possibly give me a call onSpanish mobile : 648 651 607. My name is Anouk . If anyone else in the Benidorm / Denia area can help please give me a ring.


James Smith November 26, 2014 at 6:39 pm


my wife and I are both pensioners and are thinking of moving to Lanzarote, will we get free health care.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: