In order to decide whether public healthcare in Spain is the right option for you, you need to find out whether you’re eligible to join the system.
The good news is that healthcare under the public system is available for the vast majority of Spanish residents.
Read on to discover the requirements and how to sign up for public healthcare in Spain.
H2 Healthcare in Spain for non-residents and visitors
H3 EEA and Swiss nationals
All nationals from the EEA and Switzerland visiting Spain are eligible for emergency treatment under the public healthcare system providing they have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
You should obtain this card from the appropriate authorities in your home country before you come to Spain.
In the UK, EHICs and information is available from the NHS website. You can apply for your card online. EHICs are generally valid for up to five years – don’t forget to check the validity of your EHIC before you travel to Spain.
H3 Non-EEA nationals
If you’re from a country outside the EEA or Switzerland, you’ll need to take out private insurance to cover your healthcare needs while you’re in Spain.
Many travel insurance policies include healthcare options – make sure they’re adequate for your needs.
H2 Healthcare in Spain for residents
Whether you’re eligible for healthcare in Spain under the public system depends on your status.
H3 Pensioners and retirees
If you’re an EEA national and qualify for a pension in your home country, you are also eligible for public healthcare in Spain.
You should obtain the appropriate form (S1 in the UK) in your home country and give this to the healthcare authorities in Spain (see Getting access to healthcare in Spain below). You have access to the same healthcare facilities as Spanish pensioners.
If you’re working in Spain under a legal contract, you qualify for public healthcare through the monthly contributions to the Spanish social security system made by your employer and yourself. Your situation is therefore exactly the same as Spanish employees.
If you’re self-employed in Spain and have signed up to social security, your monthly contributions include access to the public healthcare system. In order to continue to qualify you must contribute monthly.
If you’re working in Spain legally and have dependents, they are eligible for healthcare under the public system via your social security contributions.
If you don’t qualify under any of the above conditions, you may be interested in the opt-in system for residents who do not qualify for access under any other circumstances. In this system, you contribute a monthly amount (€60 for the under 65s, €157 for 65 and over) in return for using state-run healthcare.
Before you commit to this option, however, compare it with the cost of taking out private health insurance in Spain. A private policy may be cheaper.
H2 Getting access to public healthcare in Spain
To gain access to public healthcare services in Spain if you are eligible under any of the above conditions, you need to do the following:
1. Go to your nearest social security office. This link provides a list of addresses, searchable by region and then province.
You can book an appointment in advance via this link
Note that you need to provide your NIE (número de identificación de extranjeros) and full name in order to book an appointment online.
2. You need to provide proof of identity (passport or national identity card), your NIE, proof of your address (rental contract, utility bill or title deeds) and a certificate of local residence (certificado de empadronamiento).
You obtain this certificate from your local council.
If you are applying for healthcare for your dependents as well, you will need to provide the same paperwork for them.
3. Take the documentation you are given in the social security office to the health centre (centro de salud) in your local area. If you’re not sure which centre corresponds to your address, ask at your local council when you apply for the certificate de empadronamiento.
At the health centre you should request a health card (tarjeta sanitaria). Similar to a credit card in size, the card contains a microchip with your details on it.
The card will be sent to you by post. You will be allocated a doctor – in some cases, you may get a choice – and you don’t need to wait for the card to arrive to book an appointment.