Get to know the most important aspects related to healthcare in Portugal. What are the standards, and is it expensive? Learn more!

Last Updated on April 24, 2024 by Prince

Getting to know healthcare in Portugal is one of the main things to do even before moving. With more than 600,000 foreigners residing in the country, Portugal and its public health system guarantee everyone excellent service. But how does healthcare in Portugal work? Do expats really have access to it? What about health insurance? 

Let’s clear all these questions related to the subject. In this article, we’ll talk about the standards of healthcare in Portugal, how to access it, and whether insurance is something you should be concerned about. 

They don’t call Portugal one of the safest and most peaceful countries to live in for no reason. Find out why retirees and tourists trust this country enough to relocate entirely and keep coming back for more! Happy reading. 

What is healthcare in Portugal like?

It is a well-known fact that health systems in Europe are, in general, one of the best and most modern in the world. They are also somewhat socialized, and the idea of insurance, although also valid, is less necessary or of ulterior importance than, say, in the USA or Brazilian model.

Portugal is not an exception to this fact: this country has both a public and private system of health. However, the public parcel of healthcare is by far the most used and functions quite well, apart from one or two exceptions.

It is called Sistema Nacional de Saúde (SNS), which translates to National Health System. It has universal access; that is, anyone in the country can access the services, whether Portuguese or not.

Here’s a list of some services that public hospitals in Portugal offer: 

  • Emergencies
  • Maternity care 
  • Nursing 
  • Dental
  • Post-OP care 
  • Psychiatric care
  • Intensive outpatient program
  • Fatal diseases care

Is healthcare in Portugal considered good? 

As per the World Index of Healthcare Innovation (WIHI), the quality of Portugal’s healthcare system ranks third best for in-patient care and medical infrastructure. The country takes international standards and quality very seriously.

Another research shows that Portugal’s healthcare is ranked higher than that of Greece, Italy, China, Brazil, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and many more. This shows why expat retirees are more than happy to live here! 

Even though public hospitals are of good quality, it takes much longer to be catered to. Always do your own research before going in for a procedure, and consult your family doctor first. 

Expat also have access to healthcare in Portugal

Public Healthcare in Portugal

Portugal has an organigram that shares responsibilities regarding the different aspects of healthcare and services for the public.

The main urban centers in the country have large Public Hospitals to meet all demands, especially more complex ones. In addition to these, there are also Health and Extension Centers for less populated areas. We will explain in more detail how they work below.

Health centers

In these health centers, Family Doctors – general doctors assigned to a household – perform regular appointments, and it’s also where most vaccinations and consultations occur.

In some Health Centers, there are also Basic Emergency Services, but very serious cases are sent to the nearest Hospital.

The norm is that every citizen has the right to a Family Doctor to monitor their health. However, there are some exceptions to the rule. Especially in the Algarve and Alentejo regions, the Portuguese Public Health System usually receives complaints about the lack of doctors. 

It may take you many months, or even years, to get one of these doctors, but you do manage to be seen by other doctors on duty.

Public Hospitals

The Hospitals, particularly District Main Hospitals, also perform consultations, but these are normally more specialized. They are also where the most infirm patients are interned and where emergencies occur.

In addition to these, there are also hospitals with some specific specialization, which are a reference in the country. These are usually located either in Lisbon or in Porto. Take a look at the most renowned public hospitals in Portugal:

How much are the consultation fees in Portugal?

From June 2022 onwards, all primary health care consultations in the Portuguese public service became free, that is, without any taxas moderadoras (moderating fees). Thus, all legal residents of Portugal are eligible for free public healthcare regardless of their nationality. 

Public healthcare in Portugal operates under a cost-sharing regime between the patient and the State. So much for the access to the family doctor, specialized outpatient clinic, and internment. In addition, the State shares the price of medicines according to different levels.

An unreferenced emergency in a public hospital would have a fee of around €14, while an emergency surgery would cost around €16. 

If you cannot afford the costs, requesting an exemption from payment of user fees is possible. In the group of people exempt from payment, there are:

  • Pregnant women;
  • Seniors;
  • Minors;
  • Blood donors;
  • People with renal problems;
  • Firefighters;
  • Unemployed.

If by some unfortunate circumstance, you need surgery, you are exempt from paying.

Using SNS 24

Every public healthcare patient in Portugal has a personalized and structured history of consultations, exams, vaccines, and so on that are shared with private healthcare and among doctors. This facilitates diagnosis and communication between hospitals, health centers, and private doctors.

The Portuguese National Health System is responsible for this. Especially in recent years, after the pandemic, healthcare in Portugal has evolved very quickly. Now appointments are more easily scheduled and even performed over the internet or over the phone with your family doctor.

You also have access to all records via the SNS 24 app, which shows you what vaccines and appointments you had, what fees you paid, what medications you have a prescription for, and so on.

Expat guide to the Sistema Nacional de Saúde in Portugal

Using Public Healthcare as an Expat

European expats in Portugal will be glad to know that every EU citizen shares the same rights as the Portuguese.

Other foreigners from outside the Eurozone must obtain a Número de Utente, a user number of the National Healthcare. To do so, your legal status in Portugal must be regularized. You must have either a visa or residence card within the expiry date. This way, you have access to the same rights under the same conditions.

Furthermore, some countries with bilateral treaties with Portugal also share the rights of Portuguese citizens, namely: Andorra, Québec, Morocco e Tunisia.

Brazilian and Cape Verde citizens also have it easy: by applying to a document called the PB4 in their own countries, they have access to the Portuguese National Healthcare. 

For Brazilians, obtaining a Certificado de Direito à Assistência Médica (CDAM) is enough to access Public Healthcare with the exact same rights as a Portuguese Citizen. These rights are transferrable to all of its dependents.

With a Utente Number in hand, you shall have no problems accessing the Portuguese Public Healthcare System.

To obtain the Utente Number, you will need the following documents: 

  • Passport or National ID Card;
  • Portuguese Residence Permit;
  • NIF Number;
  • Social Security Card (may not be necessary if you don’t work).

If you’ve relocated to Portugal on the basis of work, your employer is most likely to have taken care of your Social Security Number and NIF Number. However, if you’ve relocated through the D7 Passive Income Visa, you will need to locate a Health Center and submit the aforementioned documents. 

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Do tourists have access to public healthcare in Portugal?

Yes, the Portuguese public health system, as well as the private and, like any other country in Europe, does not deny assistance.

If a foreign tourist without residence in Portugal and without a Número de Utente needs medical services, they will be assisted. But the difference is that the service fees will not be co-funded by the State; that is, the tourist will be the only payer.

Portuguese Private HealthCare

Having access to quality healthcare is not a problem for Portuguese citizens and those who have access to National Healthcare since it works exceptionally well and is generally praised worldwide. Most citizens choose not to pay for medical insurance and never even use private healthcare.

If, however, you have the need for more urgent or even specialized care, there is also the option of the private healthcare system in Portugal.

There are many excellent hospitals and private health clinics across the country. The assistance in these services is private, but there are health insurances that can help you to cover the expenses.

Public health system in Portugal is known for its quality

Particularly in the case of dental care, which unfortunately is not covered by Public Healthcare, having insurance can be profitable.

Will I need health insurance?

The private healthcare system in Portugal is expensive, as in any other country in the world. Therefore, health insurance is recommended for co-payment of fees. But the total fee is still much lower than what you would pay in other European countries.

In fact, every traveler in Portugal needs to have health or travel insurance that allows them to be repatriated in the event of a tragedy.

But health and travel insurance are different things. For foreigners who want to live in Portugal and use private hospitals, you will need health insurance. But don’t worry; there are packages of all types, specialties, and prices.

Normally, when you take out health insurance in Portugal, you and your family pay an annuity that entitles you to co-pay for medical services.

In such cases, insurance with a lot of coverage for a person aged 30, for example, would cost €500 a year. 

In this case, the insurance would pay 90% of medical expenses for consultations, exams, surgeries, hospitalizations, and even childbirth. Also, in general, fees for the private health service are €15 per appointment and €35 per emergency. Of course, it all depends on your insurance.

The most comprehensive insurance plan can go up to €1,400 per year, depending on the coverage and the age limits. 

You need to do some in-depth research and get to know a trustworthy insurance manager before committing to any insurance. The indication is to pay attention to reviews and ensure you receive good service from the first contact.

All things considered

If you’re considering moving to Portugal for quality of life, the stability of the political regime, weather, or safety, you can add health to the picture.

Both Public and Private Healthcare have their merits and are recognized as one of the best, even to European standards, and access is open to foreigners.

In Portugal, your health will be in good hands. So don’t be afraid to join the expat community in Portugal, starting with our Facebook Group – All About Portugal For Expats. We’re a community of over 9,000 enthusiasts waiting to help you out with your relocation.

And don’t forget; you can count on Viv Europe’s team of professionals at all stages of your move to Portugal, including creating a Número de Utente or finding an ideal health insurance policy. Let’s turn your Portugal plan into a reality.

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