Public and Private Health Care in Spain
Healthcare is an important consideration when moving abroad. In other words, it’s vital to learn about how the Spanish healthcare system works. So when you need to visit a doctor or have an emergency you know what to do.
Firstly, if you’re a European resident, apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before you leave your home country. This enables you to free public health care in European Union countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Importantly, this card only applies if you’re on holiday or staying abroad for the short-term.
For British residents here’s the link to apply: European Health Insurance Card.
How to register with a doctor in Spain
The Spanish healthcare system is controlled by regional authorities. The Catalan Public Health system is called CatSalut: Servei Català de la Salut. As in the UK, you need to register with a doctor before you can use the service. The national health surgery is called CAP, and there’s a CAP in every district.
In order to register with a doctor, you need a Spanish social security number, to be registered with your local town council (ayuntamiento), and show photo ID. Your registration paper from the town hall (empadronamiento) must be less than three months old.
See details on how to register at your local ayuntamiento here.
I recommend that you use a gestor or ask a Spanish or Catalan speaking friend to help you get your social security number. If you don’t speak Spanish it can be very difficult. The main social security office is opposite Estació de França in Barcelona.
Useful Phone Numbers
General emergency: 112. Medical emergencies: 061. Ambulance: 092.
CatSalut: Tel: 934 038 585. web.gencat.cat/en/
Sanitat Respon: 24-hour helpline Tel: 902 111 444
Public Spanish Healthcare in Barcelona
Once you have all the necessary documentation, go to your local CAP and register. You will be given a provisional identification document document identificatiu provisional. The permanent health card: targeta sanitària individual (TSI) will be sent to you by post. This TSI is valid throughout Spain.
If you need more specialised treatment, the CAP doctor will refer you to other specialist departments. If you require emergency treatment at a hospital you will also be covered by your targeta sanitària individual.
- As a pensioner retiring to Spain, you’ll be eligible for a TSI and free prescriptions.
- When self-employed (autónomo), you have to make monthly payments to the social security system in order to qualify.
- If you’re employed in Spain, part of your wages are deducted to cover national health care.
If you need emergency medical care you will always receive it. However, if you failed to register with the Spanish healthcare system you may end up receiving a bill for your treatment.
Private Spanish Health Insurance
Private medical insurance is considerable cheaper in Spain than it is in the UK. Here are some of the main companies in Spain that offer private medical insurance:
- Sanitas (part of Bupa): www.sanitas.es
- Cigna: www.cignaglobal.com
- Bupa: www.bupa-intl.com/for-you/country/healthplan-complete
- DKV: eng.dkvseguros.com
- Allianz: www.allianz.es
Some private medical insurance dictates that you use their own doctors and medical centres. Other insurances let you choose your medical centre or doctor and they cover you for that treatment.
Because of this, some medical centres offer services aimed at the expat community in Barcelona. Clínica Sagrada Familia is one of them (see below).
Full assistance Spanish healthcare service for foreign patients
Clínica Sagrada Familia is a private medical clinic which includes a free support service to foreigners in Barcelona. It’s a private clinic. Therefore, you need to have private medical insurance or pay for your treatment. The clinic has been established for over 40 years, and offers a wide range of specialities from general practice to heart surgery.
The assistance service for non-Spanish speakers is called Tourist Care Assistance. The service provides language translation, will arrange for someone to accompany patients to outpatient or emergency visits and clarify any medical query you may have. This personal assistance comes at no additional cost to the medical treatment you receive. To receive treatment you need to present your ID and medical insurance card.
Tourist Care Assistance covers:
- Free onsite translators, 24 hours, 7 days a week
- All medical services, specialities and emergencies 24/7
- Express emergencies in the event of minor pathologies
- Arranging specialist consultations with the minimum delay (all specialities covered)
- Doctor callout, 24 hour service
- All lab and RX-tests and hospitalisation, on ward or ICU
- Direct billing to foreign insurance companies
- Ambulance service 24/7
- Escorting patients and support for special requests
- Special attention to avoid delays and inconvenience
- In case of hospitalisation, a choice of rooms including a VIP room with TV
- Free wi-fi
Turo Parc Medical Centre
The Turo Parc Medical Centre is also a very good resource for visitors and expats. The staff there speak many different languages and you can have treatment whether you have health insurance or not.
I have reviewed this clinic on the directory part of this website: Turo Parc Medical Centre.