Health insurance and health system in Portugal

Health insurance and health system in Portugal

health insurance in Portugal

Finding insurance in Portugal is probably the least obvious thing to do when you move to Portugal. If you don’t speak the language yet, you will find it difficult to know the advantages and disadvantages of each Portuguese insurance to compare, choose and take out. As with other services, we can help you choose your insurance so that you can commit to a contract that is advantageous in your situation.

Choosing your health insurance: English-speaking support

Il peut être très compliqué de trouver les différentes offres de mutuelles santé portugaises, les comparer, lire les contrats qui ne sont pas en anglais et faire le bon choix. Je me suis moi-même fait accompagné par un intermédiaire anglophone dans le choix de mon assurance santé et si vous êtes à ce moment là de la préparation de votre expatriation, alors je vous conseille de faire de même.

Vous pouvez utiliser le bouton de contact ci-dessous et remplir le formulaire associé  pour être mis en relation avec un anglophone spécialisé dans les mutuelles santé au Portugal: analyse de votre situation, de vos besoins, des meilleures options disponibles parmi les mutuelles de santé portugaises ou internationales, souscription, intermédiaire pour les questions ou les demandes d’informations…

Tout sera beaucoup plus clair et beaucoup plus simple, on ne souscrit pas à une mutuelle santé dans un pays d’accueil comme on achète une boîte de chocolat ! Vous vous engagez pour un an minimum et il n’y a pas de retour possible si la couverture choisie n’est pas la bonne.



Portugal Insurance

In Portugal, you may be covered by Portuguese social security to receive treatment in public facilities or by a mutual health insurance company to receive treatment in private facilities. I invite you to read our page on registering with the Portuguese Social Security in case you need more information.

The public sector will be covered by social security and much cheaper for a simple consultation, but waiting times are very long. For example, in an emergency you can go to hospital and see a doctor at a lower cost.

The private sector is much more expensive. On average, you can expect to pay between €40 and €70 for a general practitioner, between €30 and €60 for a dentist and €75 for an ophthalmologist. In the face of these prices, you will have understood the importance of choosing a good mutual health insurance company in order to reduce your medical expenses as much as possible over the year.

The choice of your health insurance in Portugal depends of course on your means which, if they are high, will allow you to choose an expatriate health insurance that offers you a very good coverage with many practitioners in Portugal and a fast reimbursement via web platforms or mobile applications.
If your budget is smaller, you should know that you will need to count on average between €100 and €150 per month for a couple with children. However, there are a few specifics that you should be aware of:

  • Even under cover, between 14€ and 17€ will remain at your expense for a general consultation.
  • The prices listed above generally offer little optical and dental coverage.
  • Every health insurance company requires you to visit practitioners in its more or less extensive “network”.
  • Obtaining a refund generally requires sending information sheets by mail, unlike in other European countries, or this can be done automatically or via a mobile application.
  • A hospital will have to get permission from your health insurance before operating on you. This authorization can be long to obtain it is necessary to anticipate or to have a quick contact in case of emergency.
  • Private hospitals tend to “offer” you several new appointments during an examination, which can quickly become expensive.

Hospital santa maria Lisbon

Mutual health insurance in Portugal

There are several mutual health insurance companies in Portugal, but the ones that offer the most interesting coverage are Médis and Multicare. As in Europe, registration requires you to fill in a very detailed form on the basis of which you may be accepted or refused. You can contact the health insurance companies directly or use insurance brokers who may be able to get you better prices, especially if you are subscribing on behalf of a company in Portugal.

The waiting periods are not negligible here and should be taken into account: for example, it will take about 360 days for chronic illnesses, 90 days for hospitalisation or 90 days for optical and dental care. This is a common approach for mutual health insurance companies but longer in Portugal than elsewhere in Europe: it should be noted, however, that if you change your Portuguese mutual health insurance company, you will not have to start from scratch in terms of deficiency since the duration of your old health insurance will be taken into account by the new one.

The Portuguese health system

The Portuguese health system works:

  • In the public, on a co-financing basis. This means that despite paying your social security contributions, you will have to pay extra if you visit a doctor.
  • In the private sector, on a co-financing basis with your mutual health insurance company: either for a consultation with a general practitioner, a specialist or for an operation. The better your health insurance, the lower your contribution.

When visiting a public clinic or hospital, a treatment fee (taxa moderadora) must be paid in each case. Local clinics offer basic medical services for which you will need to make an appointment in advance or show up in the morning when they open. Public facilities are usually crowded in the morning and waiting times can be very long, even with an appointment. In an emergency, you should go to the emergency room (24-hour medical service) of the nearest hospital.

The quality of the Portuguese health system and of hospitals and health centres is generally good and has improved significantly in recent years. Nevertheless, Portuguese health services have not yet reached the usual high standards.

In holiday regions and large cities, many doctors speak English, but this is more difficult in rural areas where the number of GP surgeries is more limited.

Overall, per capita health expenditure in Portugal is lower than the EU average and the state allocates a relatively small percentage of gross national income to the health care system, although this rate has also increased in recent years.

Public and private health services work together and support each other, although in some regions the number of public clinics is limited and access to care is easier through the private system.

Portugal has a public health system that provides free or low-cost medical care to people registered with the Portuguese social security system (segurança social ), as well as to their families and pensioners. Subsidised medicines are available for people over 65 years of age who are registered with the social security system. These subsidies range from 40% to 100% for less important medicines and there are also subsidies for glasses or prostheses in some cases.

In many regions of Portugal public health centres (centros de saúde), usually open from 8am to 8pm, treat less serious health problems. It is much easier to get immediate emergency help than in a public hospital, but be aware that they do exist. In larger cities, there are 24-hour ambulance services.

English-speaking Portuguese doctors often practice in tourist areas and large cities. Many of them advertise in the local press. For minor problems, you can get advice in pharmacies (farmácias) and there are also pharmacies (farmácia de serviço) which are open outside normal working hours.

English-speaking Portuguese health insurance broker