Healthcare in Spain
It goes without saying that the UK and Spain have enjoyed a close relationship for many years. Spain is the holiday destination of choice for millions of Brits every year and there are many who choose to work or retire here. It is estimated that there are over 300,000 British nationals living in Spain the greatest number of British nationals living in any EU country.
Unfortunately, it is inevitable that a few visitors or those living in Spain will need to access medical care from time to time. It is important to know how to access the health system even for those only coming to Spain for short visits.
How can I best prepare in case I need medical assistance during my visit to Spain?
Although the UK has left the European Union EHIC cards held by British nationals will continue to be recognised until the end of the transition period. The EHIC card (The European Health Insurance Card) allows EU nationals and currently UK nationals on temporary stays to other EU member states access to necessary medical treatment equivalent to an insured resident of that country. The EHIC card is free and can be applied for online. For UK residents this can be applied for via the NHS online website. It is important to stress the requirement for comprehensive travel insurance as well as the EHIC card in order to ensure you are covered for all necessary medical treatment. Further the EHIC does not allow for repatriation or other costs incurred such as extended stays at your accommodation or the rescheduling of flights.
I plan to live in Spain how will I be able to access medical treatment?
There are various means whereby you can access healthcare in Spain. The private health insurance market is very competitive, and a high proportion of Spanish nationals also opt for this cover. Reasons for this is that it can often mean receiving quicker treatment and dental care which is not covered by the public health service. The Spanish public health service is however known to be one of the best in the world. It can be accessed by those who are working in Spain via payment of their social security contributions. It is also worth noting that those British nationals of working age who are permanently resident in Spain are no longer entitled to NHS treatment in the UK. This right can be recovered if they become once again ordinarily resident in the UK in the future. Regarding UK state pensioners, for those living in Spain or planning on doing so during the transition period they are entitled to an S1 form. The S1 form is applied for via NHS international and entitles the holder to access treatment in Spain and they remain entitled to medical treatment in the UK. The way the S1 works is that the British Government pays for the treatment of British S1 holders living in EU member states. Those British nationals who already are holders of the S1 form will not lose this right after the end of the transition period whilst they continue to reside in Spain or other member states.
It is also worth noting that for those who are not paying social security contributions, have not reached pensionable age or have problems accessing private health insurance due to pre-existing conditions may be entitled to the ‘Convenio Especial’. This entitles an individual to pay into the public health system and pre-existing conditions are not considered. It is governed by each autonomous community and it is often a requirement to demonstrate that you have been registered as living in Spain on the list of town hall inhabitants for a year prior to the application.
If you are planning to live in Spain or another member state, then it is advisable to gather information on the health system and ensure that you will have access to healthcare in case you fall ill. It is also important that even if you are just visiting Spain or any other member state that you have a current valid EHIC card and travel insurance.