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Health Care In Portugal: A Guide

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High-Quality Health Care In Portugal

The Hospital of Sant Anna between Cascais and Lisbon in Portugal.
The Hospital of Sant Anna

Health care in Portugal is international-standard. It ranks by WHO as the 12th (out of 190) best system among UN-member countries.

Medical tourism is a growing industry in this country. Due to all cities and large towns having excellent hospital and health care facilities. In contrast, some remote areas may be several hours from full-service care.

Anyone considering Portugal as a retirement destination, must understand the health care system. Especially those coming from the United States.

Portugal has two separate health care systems. A publicly financed National Health Service (Serviço Nacional de Saúde, or SNS). This is available to all citizens and functions in the same manner as any other nationalized European health care system. The other is a private health care network available on a fee basis.

How To Qualify For Health Care In Portugal

retiree receiving health care in Portugal

It’s your right to use the public health care system for free or with only modest co-payments if:

  • You are a resident citizen of the European Union,
  • Anyone legally working in Portugal,
  • And if you contribute to the social security system through automatic deductions from paychecks.

If you meet these requirements, your family can also receive the benefits.

EU citizens visiting on a short-term basis will need a European Health Insurance Card. Those intending to stay longer will need to apply for a health user’s ID number. So they need to register as residents with the local town hall. Also to have acquired a residence certificate for health care in Portugal.

Non-EU citizens intending to relocate to Portugal will need to provide a letter from a doctor. This should state that they are in good health and free from any communicable disease.

Turn this in with the visa application. You will need proof of adequate health insurance.

This could be an invoice or an annual statement showing:

  • the name of the insurance company,
  • policyholder names,
  • and dates that this coverage is valid.

Also proof of repatriation and evacuation coverage.

Health Care in Portugal at a Glance

Portugal’s national health system tends to lean more toward the reactive than the proactive… when it comes to dealing with illnesses or medical conditions. Meaning that they put more emphasis on curing something than preventing it in the first place.

Doctors are generally trained to North American or European standards. Some are even foreign-born themselves. Many speak English, especially in the tourist destinations. Although that will not be the case in rural areas.

Most doctors divide their time between the SNS and private practices.

Some hospitals and health centers offer both private and state-provided health care. It is up to patients to inform them which service they need. They often have separate surgery times for private patients and those treated under the state system.

Also, if they ask you to pay upfront, you are not being treated under the Portuguese health service. All hospital treatment in the state system requires referral from a doctor.

Pharmacies in Portugal

Pharmacy on Largo Sao Domingos street in Porto city on Iberian Peninsula, second largest city in Portugal
Alamy/Konrad Zelazowski

Pharmacies (farmácias), identifiable by their green cross, are available throughout Portugal.

They are usually open from Monday to Friday, 9am to 1pm, and 3pm to 7pm. Likewise, on weekends they are open from 9am to 1pm. A list of pharmacies providing a 24-hour service is available from any regular pharmacy.

There is not one set prescription charge in Portugal. Subsidized prescription medicines are available from 15% to 90%. Which depends on their use and need. Even users of the state system often need to make co-payments when buying prescription medication.

Due to qualified pharmacists managing most of the pharmacies in Portugal, you can get many medicines without a prescription.

Find the closest pharmacy in Portugal here.

Dentists in Portugal

Child receiving health care in portugal at the dentist

Only children between the ages of 3 and 16 and pensioners over the age of 65 registered with the state system have access to free dental care in Portugal. Therefore all other adults must make co-payments in the state system. Or avail themselves of the network of private dentists.

It is extensive and up to North American standards for the most part. A general consultation will cost 25 to 30 euros in most areas; a cleaning between 65 and 75 euros.

Click here for dental clinics in Portugal.

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