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One of the most important things to consider when emigrating is what will happen in the case of a medical emergency. In Portugal for example, there is a state-run healthcare system, similar to the NHS, however you must register as a resident to be eligible for it. In this blog article, we will cover everything you need to know about healthcare in Portugal, and whether you should consider private healthcare instead.


Portugal’s Healthcare System

Portugal offers a healthcare system which is similar to the NHS in many ways, however it is important to familiarise yourself with it in order to decide whether it will suit your needs or not. 

Although it is only free for those under 18 and those over 65, the government in Portugal heavily subsidises the cost of healthcare for everyone else, including residents. The public healthcare covers:

  • Regular consultations and treatments
  • Appointments with your doctor
  • In/out-patient care
  • Emergencies
  • Maternity treatment
  • Optical care

It is worth noting that visits to the dentists often come with a small charge.


How good is the healthcare available in Portugal?

Ranked 12th in the world by the World Health Organisation, Portugal’s health care system is renowned for its affordability and is backed up by a high life expectancy – 82 years. It is estimated that Portugal invests on average 9.6% of its Gross Domestic Product into its healthcare system – roughly the same amount as in the UK! However, the average waiting times for operations such as cataract surgery and hip replacements are longer than in the UK; this is due to a shortage of doctors over recent years. Nevertheless, you should register for the healthcare system, as it affords you the same treatment level as a Portuguese national.


What do you need to register for the healthcare system?

As a Portuguese resident, you can access the Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS) for mainland Portugal; to qualify, you need to obtain your social security number from the Seguranza Social (Portugal’s social security department) and then register at a local health centre in order to receive a healthcare card. Don’t forget to bring a passport/national ID, social security card and residence permit when you go to register!

Those who receive a state pension and some other benefits are eligible for the Portuguese healthcare system if they fill in an S1 form. This must also be registered with the social security system.


Private Healthcare in Portugal

If you are not eligible for state healthcare in Portugal or you want to avoid any long waits to get treatment, we would recommend looking into private healthcare packages. These can give you access to public and private hospitals, possibly with better facilities. They can also provide cover for healthcare expenses and reduce communication issues if you haven’t mastered Portuguese yet! Although most doctors in the cities are good at speaking English, you may encounter language difficulties with the state healthcare system if you move to a rural area. 

To access private healthcare, you will often pay between €20 and €50 a month, depending on age and health. For example, options are more limited for those over 55, so it can often take a lot more research to find a suitable plan.

RHJ Law can offer you advice on the best healthcare plan for you if you are planning a move to Portugal and are considering the private healthcare route. Contact us via our website or phone us on our UK number, 0114 227 0070 or our Portuguese number, +351 220280143.

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