One European country that most people think of as a wonderful place to retire is Portugal. The country is actually a great place to stay. But before you finally decide on finally living into another country, there are some things that have to be attended to, and one very important thing is the health care in Portugal.

Portugal, officially called the Portuguese Republic is one country located in Southwestern Europe, particularly on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal, being in the westernmost part of the mainland Europe, is bordered by the Spain on its east and north, and the Atlantic Ocean on its west. Madeira and Azores, both Atlantic archipelagos, are also parts of Portugal.

Knowing more about the healthcare system in Portugal

The health care system ins Portugal has come a very long way after the government reforms way back 2002 wherein the system have been made more efficient and effective compared in previous years. The Portuguese health care system is basically available to all the eligible populace in Portugal and efficiently works in the same manner as it does to other European Union states. The current system in Portugal has three coexisting systems namely the National Health Service, the health sub-systems which is a specialized social health insurance scheme and the voluntary private health insurance.

As for the short-term visitors, those European Union national are given healthcare thru the European Union reciprocal health agreements. However, you are required to accomplish the E111 form from your local post office from your place of origin and then submit it to a hospital or clinic in Portugal in cases where medical attention is needed.

For those who are planning to permanently move to Portugal and live as European Union residents, there is the free basic health care within the health system of Portugal including free appointments on doctors, as well as free medicines. Additionally, those retired European Union Nationals who have plans of permanently living in Portugal needs to have the form E121. European Union citizens who are to retire before he qualifies for state pensions can still avail of free health covers for to years if he has obtained the form E106. If in case this temporary cover expires before one finally reached the retirement age, there are two possible options. One is to make a voluntary social security contribution, and the other one apply for a private health insurance. Furthermore, all the non European Union nationals should apply for their personal insurance to be able to obtain medical treatment in Portugal.

If you are working in Portugal and you are paying for the social security system, you are automatically entitled for free treatments across Portugal’s medical spectrum. However, you should remember that those non-essential medicines are not given for free. You will be paying from forty to about a hundred percent of the cost. Since most of the pharmacies in Portugal are managed by qualified chemists, a lot of medicines can easily be obtained over the counter without any prescriptions from the doctor. This somehow makes your life easier unlike other systems where the prescription of the doctor is mandatory. This was echoed by an expat in Portugal Expat Forum last June 22, 2009:

I don't know about Portugal in particular, but within the EU the "normal" process for retirees entering from outside the EU is that you must show evidence of private health insurance in order to qualify for a long-stay visa in the first place.

If you're coming to Portugal to work, you are enrolled in the national insurance system (not just health care, but retirement and other benefits) through your employment. But it's the participation in the full social insurance system that entitles you to benefits, not simply residence in the country. The EU countries have some way of transferring balances for those who have paid in one country, but who are taking retirement in another EU country.

Being residents in Portugal, you are eligible for medical cards that provide free medical assistance from your very own doctor at your local health center. In order to obtain the card, you are required to present your residency permit, along with your social security card to your local health center.

Moving to Portugal

When you plan on moving to Portugal to work, live, or retire for quite some time, it is important that you are familiar with the health care available within the country. Depending on where you come from, you may find the health care quality of Portugal below the standards you are used to have, most especially if you are from the United States and Northern Europe. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that Portugal’s health care is bad because certainly it’s not. Portugal’s health care is relatively good, especially with the many improvements observed in recent years.

Additionally, you do not have to worry especially if you have problems speaking the local language. Most of the Portuguese doctors can speak English well, and there are also foreign doctors present, especially in those popular tourist destinations. But you should be aware that seldom do you see English-speaking doctors in rural areas, and not to mention that finding hospitals in these locations is not that easy.

Still, you will find both private and public health care hospitals in Portugal. For the more rural areas, finding private heath care facilities is very rare.

Portugal is one country that does not have its own public health care system providing health care to people that have contributed to the Portuguese social security at no fees per service. The families of those people who have contributions to the Portuguese social security, along with the retirees, are eligible for health care services that are free of charge. People who are over sixty-five years old are also provided with subsidized prescriptions. If you are not qualified to avail for a public health system, you can always apply for private health insurance. If you will only be visiting in Portugal for a holiday, have the holiday health insurance. Take note also that British Hospitals are also present in Porto and Lisbon.

Living In Portugal

One of the many benefits when you decide to live overseas, in a country that provides a public health system is that you are able to have access to health care and medical services just by paying contributions weekly. But if you are moving to Portugal and you are not a citizen from the European Union, then you do not have admission to the public health system of Portugal not unless you are employed and paying for the social security thru automatic deductions from your monthly paychecks. If you do so, then you and your family are entitled for the public health system of Portugal. Otherwise, you can always have the private health insurance companies to deal with your health care concerns.

Living in Portugal and using their health care system was shared in Portugal Expat Forum last January 3, 2009:

We have been living in central Portugal for the last 18 months, without health insurance - just using the local health centre. We registered with the health centre on arrival, and were assigned a doctor. I have had to use the service a few times for myself, husband and children, paying about €2.50 for a consultation - the same amount for an x-ray and ultrasound scan. But when I needed an MRI scan - advised by the doctor - I had to pay the €350 myself.

The main problem I have encountered is a degree of racism in our local health centre, where the director expressly forbids his administrative staff to speak English - the policy being that we are all in Portugal, so we should speak Portuguese. Fair enough, one might say, except when I am facing a health crisis for myself or my child my linguistic capabilities seem to evaporate, and if somebody else's English is better than my Portuguese, it would seem only logical to speak the most easily understood language.

The doctors themselves seem efficient, but as always, information is very difficult to come by. I have heard a rumour that soon everybody will need private health insurance, and that even emergency treatment will be charged for - I have no idea of the truth in this, and cannot verify or refute it.

In general, living in Portugal is really not that bad. Once you have grasped the real idea on how their health care system works, for sure you will not have a hard time adjusting when you are already in the European country.