Healthcare in Spain

If you’re considering spending your retirement years in Spain, one of the main things you are likely to want to know more about is how you can access healthcare – how does the system work in Spain? How good is it? What is your ‘entitlement’?

High-quality healthcare system

The good news is that the healthcare system in Spain is ranked among the best in the world and one which guarantees universal coverage for all residents. It consists of both public and private provisions with accessibility varying depending on your circumstances.

In the first instance, if you intend to make Spain your new permanent home you will initially need to make your own arrangements for healthcare provision. In order to apply for the temporary residency ‘retirement visa’ which enables you to stay for longer than 90 days in any 180-day period, you will need to show proof of private healthcare cover for the duration of your first year. So, you will need to factor this cost into your plans.

Once you have lived in Spain for over a year and provided you have been registered on the ‘padrón’ at your local town hall for that time, you can apply to join the public health insurance scheme in Spain, the Convenio Especial. You pay a monthly fee to join the scheme and this gives you access to the Spanish healthcare system.

When you have lived in Spain for 5 years you can apply for permanent residency and this will give you access to state healthcare on the same basis as a Spanish citizen.

Healthcare costs covered by the UK

There is an alternative option through which you may be entitled to free state healthcare, with the costs being paid for by the UK. Eligibility for this option requires that you are a resident in Spain and receive a UK state pension. If you fit these criteria you will need to apply in the UK for an S1 form, a certificate of entitlement. This will entitle you to the same healthcare benefits as a Spanish national and you will continue to be covered by the S1 form for as long as you continue to receive the benefit (your UK state pension). If you receive your healthcare through the S1 route then you cannot join the Convenio Especial.

Private provision in Spain

Private health provision in Spain runs alongside the public system and some providers offer both public and private services. Many people in Spain choose to take cover for private treatment so they can access wider and quicker treatment. Private healthcare cover is popular with many British expats.

Decentralised system

The Spanish healthcare system is decentralised, which sees service delivery organised at a regional level. You will therefore need to check in the area in which you live for the conditions of accessibility and availability; for example, some of the Spanish islands may not have a state healthcare provider and you may need to travel to another part of the country to access those services.

Entitlement to healthcare in the UK

Finally, it is also worth bearing in mind what this means for your access to healthcare in the UK. Access to the NHS is residency-based and therefore if you move abroad on a permanent basis you may lose your entitlement to free NHS healthcare in the UK. Some exceptions do apply so it’s worth looking into this so you are fully aware of your situation.

Spain is ranked 6th in the world list for life expectancy so you can be assured that the general health of the population throughout the age ranges is good which is supported by a healthy and relaxed lifestyle as well as a great healthcare system.