Healthcare in Spain
Hopefully you will never need it, but if something should happen to you in Spain, it is good to know that the Spanish healthcare system is one of the best in Europe. In fact, the World Health Organisation ranks Spain as the eighth (2022) best country in the world in terms of healthcare. The Spanish healthcare system may work a little differently than you are used to. Therefore, we provide you some explanation.
Private insurance or public health care
Everyone who pays social contributions in Spain is entitled to public health care. This applies to everyone who receives a pension from Spain or another country, for people who are employed in Spain and for people who have their own company or work as a self-employed person in Spain. If you do not qualify any of these, you can apply for private health insurance. This is also possible if you are covered by social security but want extra service and comfort. Private insurance usually offers shorter waiting times, individual rooms and an interpreter. The choice of a private insurance depends on your personal situation, your budget and your requirements. If you are only visiting Spain for a short holiday, then the health insurance in your home country is usually sufficient and you can apply for a travel insurance for (urgent) medical care during your stay in Spain.
Public hospitals and private clinics
If you are covered by social security, you can register at a health centre ("Centro Salud") in your place of residence. You visit this centre if you want to make an appointment with a family doctor. In case of urgent medical help you need to go to a first aid post (Urgencias) in a hospital. There are two types of hospitals in Spain: public hospitals and private clinics. In both cases the care is of high quality, but public hospitals, for example, have several beds in one room, while private clinics offer more comfort and have individual rooms. Private clinics are sometimes so luxurious that you feel as if you are in a hotel. In addition, most private clinics provide an interpreter, which is, of course, useful if you do not speak Spanish well enough. We have noticed that more and more public hospitals also have an interpreter.
The European Health Insurance Card
Emergency care in Spain is free for EU citizens who have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). However, the card does not cover non-urgent private medical care. Therefore, private doctors and clinics do not accept the EHIC.
We hope that you will never need the number, but in case of an emergency you can call 112 in Spain. This is a free phone number. If you are in a tourist area, you can usually get someone on the line who speaks English (and in some cases even German or French).