In Southwestern Europe, where the energy of the Atlantic swell blends with the warmth of the beaming sun, lies Portugal. With so much to offer —from the quality of life to lush natural wonders and superb cultural heritage —, it is no wonder that the Iberian Peninsula attracts so many expatriates looking for a new home.
But what about expat healthcare? Get to know the basics of the Lusitanian healthcare system and choose the best expat health insurance experience for your stay in Portugal!
The SNS: the Portuguese public health system
Created in 1979 in the aftermath of the Carnation Revolution and modelled on UK’s National Health Service, the Portuguese public health insurance system is directed by the Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS) and supported by the country’s five regional health agencies.
Portuguese public health services are not completely free: patients have to pay their share to the “co-payment” system, i.e. a share of the medical costs — in particular for the following healthcare services:
- GP visits at home, local health centres, hospitals, and any other approved healthcare facilities
- Emergency care
- Additional medical examinations carried out by approved institutions (except from hospitals)
The price of the ‘co-payment’ may differ depending on the type of medical consultation. For example, a GP visit at a health centre will cost you about €5 and a consultation with a medical specialist €7.
However, health services are free of charge for certain groups of people, including pregnant women, children up to the age of 12 and people over 60.
Who is covered by the SNS?
- Portuguese nationals
- Nationals of the EU, the EEA and Swiss expats
- Foreigners residing in Portugal (if reciprocal systems or bilateral agreements)
- Asylum seekers, refugees and stateless residents
Non-EU nationals whose countries do not have an agreement with the Portuguese national health system will not be able to access the public health system until they are registered as residents.
How to get access to the SNS services?
To get access to the public health system, you need to register with the local health centre (centro de saúde) closest to your place of residence. You will be given a health card that needs to be kept handy for any public medical procedures.
Once you register, you and your family members will be assigned a ‘family doctor’ (medico de familia), who can refer you to any specialists as required. In general, you can easily get a basic medical checkup at the local health centre (routine consultations with a general practitioner, vaccinations, etc.).
If you have to wait more than three months to get an appointment at a public hospital (e.g. for a surgery), you have the right to turn to a private healthcare institution under agreement with the Ministry of Health and you will be reimbursed for the medical expenses.
In case of emergency, you can also go to the nearest ‘permanent care service’ (Serviço de Atendimento Permanente, SAP) or to the hospital.
What is covered by the SNS?
- GP visits and medical consultations at health centres
- Visits to a specialist
- Hospital fees
- Prescription drugs
- Maternity care
- Eye care
Dental care is generally not covered by the SNS.
What are the limitations of the Portuguese public health system?
- Patients are not free to choose their healthcare provider
- Long waiting lists for non-urgent medical care in public hospitals due to shortage of medical staff and a surplus of patients
- Regional disparities in accessing healthcare
- Long waiting lists for visits with specialist practitioners
Portuguese private health system
Alongside the SNS, the Portuguese private health system is made up of several private health entities. Most of these provide medical services to beneficiaries of specific professional healthcare schemes and private health insurance subscribers. Although the private healthcare system seems to be more efficient (state-of-the-art clinics, shorter waiting times) than its public sector counterpart, its services are not covered by the SNS. It is your choice to pay the premium or to get reliable private health insurance.
Why choose Foyer Global Health as your private health insurer?
Whether you own a company, you’re a retiree or an employee, Foyer Global Health provides all expatriates with holistic healthcare coverage, regardless of their profile, their life plans, or their destination. Expatriation is ingrained in our DNA: we understand your specific needs and make sure you get all the freedom, security, and peace of mind you want.
- We protect your health in Portugal, your home country, and everywhere else in the world
- You have access to the best international health services, both in the public and private sectors
- Our health coverage solutions for expatriates are efficient, holistic, and tailor-made: they are effective from the first euro, cover a wide range of healthcare services and fit perfectly to your needs
- We offer healthcare solutions at a competitive price (ask for a quote!)
- You are free to choose your local and international private healthcare provider
- You have quick access to excellent healthcare professionals, avoiding long waiting times for medical treatment
- We provide you with a 100% digital experience (digital medical services, instant messaging available, etc.)
Need a quote or some clarifications? Get in touch with our team of experts! They will help you find the health insurance plan that best suits your needs!