Updated: February 16, 2023
With expats from all walks of life coming to call Portugal home, it is not difficult to see just why the country is so popular. With beautiful beaches, stunning landscapes, and historic cities, it is easy to get lost in the charm of Portugal. However, when moving to any country there are many practical aspects to consider. One of the most important is healthcare, and you will be pleased to know that healthcare in Portugal is very good and is increasingly tailored to expats in Portugal.
In this article, we’ll provide you with everything that you will need to know about healthcare in Portugal. We will split this into public and private healthcare sections, followed by examining your eligibility to access healthcare here, followed bysome practical information that you should be aware of.
In this article we will cover the following:
- Portugal healthcare: Public options
- Portugal healthcare: Private options
- How good is Portugal’s healthcare?
- Are you entitled to Portuguese healthcare services?
- Portugal visa applicants and health insurance requirements
- Healthcare for non-habitual residents in Portugal
- Healthcare for EU residents in Portugal
- Healthcare for long-term non-EU residents in Portugal
- Healthcare for short-term residents and visitors in Portugal
- Emergency healthcare in Portugal
- Portugal healthcare: Practical information
- Maternity and childcare healthcare services
- Plus much more!
Portugal Healthcare: Public Options
The national health service in Portugal is called the Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS) and is publicly financed. Basic national healthcare is administered through local and regional health centers and public hospitals, with all healthcare included in this except dental services. If you are a resident of Portugal, then you do not have to worry, as you’ll have complete access to the SNS. Health care under the SNS is completely free for children under 18 and people over 65.
As a country resident, you’ll be treated the same way a Portuguese citizen would. The public Portuguese healthcare system is generally free, but bear in mind that there is a patient contribution that you will need to pay and that the price of this will vary. For example, general practitioner consultations will cost you less than a consultation at the Accident & Emergency, and X-rays, scans, and other tests will require an added fee. The level of English in public health centers, although not quite as good as in private healthcare in Portugal, has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, particularly in the more expat-heavy parts of the country.
Portugal Healthcare: Private Options
Private healthcare services in Portugal have been in the country for a while and there are now many private healthcare facilities up and down the country. Private healthcare in Portugal is also considerably lower than in the USA. For instance, private health insurance can be secured for less than €120 per month. Note that the cost of insurance will vary depending on age and existing health conditions.
Public-private partnerships have significantly improved healthcare over the past years. This includes creating new hospitals, producing long-term care networks, and reorganizing primary care, amongst other improvements.
How good is Portugal’s healthcare?
According to the Health Care Index 2023 by Numbeo, Portugal ranks in the 25th position, highlighting that it has one of the best healthcare systems in the world.
Alongside this, according to the 2020 Health Care Index, Portugal’s healthcare ranking is considered high, ranking 27th out of 167 countries, and performing particularly well in terms of the quality of infrastructure. The World Index of Healthcare Innovation 2021 also ranked Portgual 17th in their rankings, which takes into account quality, choice, science & technology, and fiscal sustainability.
If you are moving to Portugal to enjoy your retirement, you will be happy to know that the Integrated Medical Emergency System offers very rapid response times, something to put your mind to rest.
Are you entitled to Portuguese healthcare services?
The SNS is similar to healthcare systems in other countries, providing local health and hospital services. Healthcare for visitors is very similar to healthcare for residents. The main difference between the Portuguese health system and some other healthcare systems, such as in the United States, where healthcare is very expensive for visitors, is that each person who uses the SNS will have to pay a small charge for consultations and tests.
As an expat in Portugal with a residence permit, you should be registered at the health center (Centro de Saúde) and must hold a User’s Card. This is obtained from the health center by presenting proof of residence. If you are from a non-EU country, you must also provide a social security number.
Portugal Visa Applicants and Health Insurance Requirements
Portugal Golden Visa and health insurance requirements
Portugal Golden Visa applicants who travel to Portugal before obtaining the Golden Visa will need travel insurance that they can get in their country of origin. The documents should state that it is valid and renewable in Portugal.
After being issued their Golden Visa, they will have access to the Portugal National Health Service (SNS). They will need to register beforehand to benefit from the service.
D7 Visa Portugal healthcare and health insurance requirements
The D7 Visa is an excellent option for individuals that are looking to move to Portugal but do not want to make a significant investment in the country. To apply for the D7 Visa in their home country, applicants need to purchase travel insurance that includes health insurance for one year. Proof of this is required, along with the other documents necessary to apply for the Portugal D7 Visa.
Once the initial application is approved in your home country, a four-month temporary visa is issued to applicants, whereby they will need to present themselves to the Foreigners and Border Service (SEF, Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras). Applicants will have purchased travel insurance, including health insurance, so they will be covered until the D7 Residence Permit is formally issued.
After visiting SEF, a D7 Residence Permit will be granted to the applicant, which is valid for two years, after which it can then be renewed for a further three years. D7 Visa holders can then benefit from the Portugal public healthcare system, although they will need to register to the SNS to benefit from the services. Also, individuals can purchase private health insurance. Private health insurance allows access to private clinics, private hospitals, and private practitioners, so it could also be a good option.
You can see more about the two visa types in our article: How to get Portuguese Residency?
Healthcare for Non-Habitual Residents in Portugal
The Non-Habitual Tax Regime is increasingly popular in Portugal – this is essentially a scheme by which foreigners can receive attractive tax benefits. You can read more about it in our Complete Guide to the Portugal NHR Tax Regime.
The type of healthcare for non-habitual residents in Portugal depends on their specific circumstances. Professionals contributing to the social security system will be able to use the SNS service, while those who are not should consider private healthcare as an option.
Healthcare for EU Residents in Portugal
Visiting citizens of the European Union (EU) in Portugal need not worry as healthcare in Portugal for them is covered under reciprocal agreements. EU citizens will simply need to bring their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to the hospital with them and present it to the hospital or doctor to secure government-funded care. The European Health Insurance Card entitles you to necessary medical attention within EU/EEA member states and Switzerland.
EU residents will also have many private health clinics across the country to consider. These are relatively inexpensive – as a ballpoint, you can expect to pay approximately €40 for an appointment with a general practitioner.
Healthcare for Long-Term Non-EU Residents in Portugal
If you live and work in Portugal and are not covered by reciprocal healthcare agreements with your home country then there are two options on the table. You can pay into the social security system or consider a private healthcare plan.
Healthcare for Short-Term Residents and Visitors in Portugal
Anyone who needs to apply for a visa to Portugal will need travel insurance. Short-stay visitors with a Schengen Visa must have a minimum health insurance coverage of €30,000 for Portugal and the entire Schengen Area. Visa officers will ask to see proof of this. Those that do not need a visa to enter Portugal will not need to have travel insurance, although it is highly recommended.
Travel insurance options
Schengen Zone Insurance
Those with a temporary visa need health insurance under Portuguese law, which can be obtained in their home country.
International health insurance options:
Non-EU students must prove that they have fully valid health insurance. If they do not, the Portuguese government will not approve their visa, and schools and universities will not accept their enrollment.
Student health insurance options:
Emergency Healthcare in Portugal
Emergency healthcare in Portugal is free, without coverage through reciprocity, the NHS, or Portugal’s private healthcare insurance. However, other services are charged at full price and sometimes need to be paid at the time of access. Don’t worry, you will receive hospital care if needed, although you will be charged if the SNS does not cover you unless you have private insurance or a reciprocal agreement.
Portugal Healthcare: Practical information
Firstly, it is good to know that almost all of the doctors in both public and private healthcare facilities in Portugal speak English. Alongside this, foreigners are well-catered for in Portugal, with many professionals understanding language barriers. Indeed, there are many tourists, retirees, and expats that move to Portugal, so it is unsurprising that the Portuguese are well adept at catering to the needs of foreigners.
Pharmacies and medication in Portugal
You should easily be able to find pharmacies in Portugal, just look out for the big green cross on the shopfronts. Many medicines, including over-the-counter medication, are subsidized if obtained with a prescription, making them fairly cost-effective.
Mental healthcare in Portugal
The primary healthcare facilities for the Portuguese mental healthcare system are provided through mental health teams that work in health centers and hospitals in the country. Studies have found that as much as 30 percent of Portuguese residents experience some kind of mental health problem.
While mental health is evidently an issue in Portugal, the mental healthcare system and the provision of mental health services are not as developed as in many other countries, with fewer psychiatrists compared to other EU countries – 12.4 psychiatrists per 100,000 inhabitants.
Your GP should be your first port of call, and you can access mental healthcare services through the SNS Portuguese healthcare system in Portugal. You can have access to the following from your GP, depending on your situation and service availability:
- Medication prescription
- Referral to counseling or a specialist
- For more serious conditions, a referral to an emergency or psychiatric unit
- Referral to a community-based program
It is worth noting that the SNS provides only some mental health services, which may be limited in scope. The local healthcare system operates the SNS24 Line (in Portuguese), which provides free 24/7 psychological counseling services. Psychologists can perform assessments and interventions, in Portuguese, in the context of mental and psychological health issues.
It may be a good idea to have private insurance to access a wider range of services as, with private health insurance plans, professionals will generally have very good English and be able to provide a service tailored to your needs, be it mental healthcare services or other kinds of healthcare.
Maternity and Childcare Services
Health services for women in Portugal
Women’s healthcare in Portugal is delivered in health centers, clinics, and hospitals. The SNS covers maternity care, and expectant mothers generally receive care at the public hospital close to where they live. You can also purchase private health insurance if you want to go down this route. With private insurance, you can access private services, clinics, and consultations, and the level of English is generally of a very high standard.
Parental care will take place in the hospital, and during the initial appointment, the mother-to-be will receive a Pregnancy Booklet. This is where her doctor will record the ongoing medical information about the pregnancy process. Parental classes are offered in maternity wards, although they are not usually subsidized through the public Portuguese healthcare system. Midwives will be on hand to help with the delivery of the birth.
You can access gynecologists by speaking with your GP. Gynecologists work at health centers and clinics and can provide health advice, along with conducting routine examinations.
Healthcare services for children in Portugal
Children can access health services in Portugal for free. The social security contributions of their parent/guardian cover this under the Portuguese National Health Service (SNS). Children have regular health checks from birth and access services for screening, examination, vaccinations, and nutritional healthcare. A record to chart their progress will also be provided.
Portugal has a national vaccination system that is included in the SNS. This includes vaccinations against the following diseases: Hepatitis B, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Polio, Measles, Mumps, and Rubella.
Moving to Portugal: All You Need to Know
If you are looking to move to Portugal, there are several things that you will need to consider, and healthcare is just one of them. If you are looking to buy property in Portugal, then we have you covered. Our book, Your Expert Guide to Buying Property in Portugal, has all you need to know about the process of buying, with six easy-to-digest steps. In the book, we also cover what it is like to be an expat in Portugal, information on taxes and legal fees, the most desirable locations to buy, and a section on moving to Portugal, amongst many other things that you should be aware of.
If you are unsure of which location is most suitable for you or how to buy property in Portugal, you can book a call with a Goldcrest advisor who will be able to provide expert advice tailored to your needs. You can book a call here.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Portugal Healthcare
1. Is healthcare in Portugal free for expats?
f you are a resident, then you have access to the Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS) and will only have to pay a small fee. Yes, Portugal’s healthcare cost is very affordable. Note that for more expensive procedures, such as X-rays, you will have to pay more. For children under 18 and people over 65, healthcare under the SNS is completely free. The prices for private healthcare will vary.
2. Do healthcare professionals speak good English?
Yes, almost all healthcare professionals speak good levels of English. As an expat in Portugal, you will not need to worry.
3. How good is Portuguese healthcare?
According to the Health Care Index 2021 by Numbeo, Portugal ranks in 24th position. Highlighting that it has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Due to the heavy influx of tourists, retirees, and expats, the Portuguese are very experienced in catering to foreigners’ needs in terms of healthcare.
4. Do expats get healthcare in Portugal?
All Portuguese residents will typically have the same healthcare rights as the Portuguese themselves. You will need to be a resident of Portugal and register at the local health center. Note that you should register at the nearest health center to your residence in Portugal.
5. Can US citizens get healthcare in Portugal?
If you are a legal resident in Portugal then you will be able to access healthcare and benefit from the health services in the country. The public healthcare system in Portugal is of a very high standard. For US citizens, if you are not a resident, you should note that Portugal does not offer free medical treatment for visitors. Under European Union rules, non-EU citizens are required to have valid health insurance.
6. How is healthcare in Portugal for UK citizens?
If you are a legal resident in Portugal then you will be able to access healthcare services and have public health insurance. The medical costs are very low for the Portuguese healthcare system, compared to in the UK. Be rest assured that public healthcare services are also very good in Portugal.
7. Is Portugal healthcare free?
If you are a Portuguese resident then you have access to the Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS) and will only have to pay a small fee. For more expensive procedures, such as X-rays, the fee will be higher. For children under 18 and people over 65, healthcare under the SNS is completely free. The prices for private healthcare will vary.
8. Where does Portugal rank in healthcare?
In 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked Portugal in the 12th place of world healthcare systems. With both private and public healthcare options, the country offers universal health coverage through the Servico Nacional de Saude (SNS).
9. Is healthcare expensive in Portugal?
In Portugal, healthcare is not expensive if you are a Portuguese resident. You will only have to pay a small fee. More expensive procedures, like X-rays, come with a higher fee and can start to become more expensive.