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Health insurance in Spain

Spain's public health service (the Sistema Sanitario Público) offers an excellent standard of healthcare. The health service is administered by regional authorities and hence differs slightly from area to area, but all regions offer a network of highly qualified doctors and modern, well-equipped medical facilities. Many hospitals and medical centres in Spain also offer private healthcare, so there is also the option to purchase private health cover in Spain if you prefer this level of service.
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Who is eligible?

If you are an EU citizen or hold a visa that allows you to work in Spain, you can register for an official medical card (tarjeta de sanitaria) that lets you access the same medical services as a Spanish national. First you must sign up for a social security number to demonstrate that you are making national insurance contributions – these are normally deducted automatically from your wages. You can then apply for your medical card through the nearest INSS (Oficina del Instuto Nacional de Seguridad Social), or Social Security office. Pensioners or those who receive disability benefits from another EEA country are normally also eligible for free healthcare in Spain if they hold an S1 (previously E121) form that demonstrates their status. While waiting for their cards to be processed, EU citizens can access public healthcare in the short term by presenting their EHIC (European Health Insurance Card).

What services are provided?

The Spanish health service covers all essential primary healthcare services, including family GP services, specialist and emergency services. These can be accessed through doctor's clinics and hospitals in major centres, or through medical centres (Centro de Salud) in smaller communities. Bear in mind that the exact services offered in these smaller centres may vary depending on size and location, so if you require a specific type of medical treatment, it's worth verifying in advance that it is offered in your area under the public health system – otherwise you may have to fund the cost of travel to another area for treatment. It is also worth noting that dental care is not covered by the public health scheme, and prescriptions are subject to a co-payment scheme in which residents are liable for a certain percentage of prescription costs based on their income level (prescriptions are free for pensioners). Although for the most part the cost of dentistry and prescriptions in Spain is quite reasonable, if you are concerned about expense, health insurance may be a good choice. Expats may also wish to consider a private health insurance policy while in Spain as repatriation due to death or illness is not covered either by the Spanish health system or the EHIC.
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