Portugal has a good quality healthcare system. In fact, the World Health Organization has ranked the publicly funded national health system, Serviço Nacional de Saude, as 12th best in the world.
Expats moving to Portugal from another EU country can use the healthcare issued in their own country until they obtain a residency permit. For expats coming from the US it is a little more complicated. US citizens must obtain a D7 visa if they plan to move to Portugal. Having private health insurance coverage is one of the visa requirements. Among the companies that offer the necessary coverage are: Cigna Global Health and Allianz Care.
Services easily accessible to expatriates
There is a network of health clinics in towns and villages throughout the country where you can see a doctor or nurse. In small villages, clinics are usually only open a couple days a week. Hospitals are located in the larger towns. There are also numerous private doctors, clinics and hospitals.
Once you have a residency permit you can register with your local health center (Centro de Saude.) You can then book appointments (Marcação para consulta) by phone, in person or online. Many doctors speak excellent English, so you don’t have to worry about communicating.
Costs are low
Portugal’s health insurance system covers most costs. But you may have to pay a small charge for the consultation and tests. Services are free for those over 65 years old. It’s worth knowing that costs at private clinics are very affordable compared to the US. For example, a visit to a dermatologist to remove sun damage skin spots cost just 60 Euros, without insurance.
You typically need a doctor’s referral to visit a specialist. There are specialists at local hospitals and certain clinics. However, there can be long waiting times for some services.
It’s usually easy to get appointments at labs for medical tests. Staff are quick, efficient and polite.
Private health insurance widely available
Allianz and Cigna are some of the largest health insurance companies operating in Portugal. Be aware that some health insurance companies do not insure people over 55. For other companies, the limit may be 65 years or 70 years old. In that case, an international health insurance plan is probably the best option. Banks in Portugal also offer health insurance.
Some useful numbers
For an ambulance in case of a medical emergency, call 112.
SNS (Serviço Nacional de Saude) hotline: 808 242 424 available 24/7 also in English