The healthcare system in Spain


All foreign nationals living and working in Spain have to contribute to the local social security system, and, as such, are fully entitled to register with the national health fund. EU-EEA citizens can keep their national health coverage up to one year through form E-101, or up to two years through form E-102. After two years in Spain, EU-EEA citizen must register with the Spanish Healthcare System (INGESA). 

Getting healthcare coverage in Spain

Spain offers free healthcare to all residents, as well as visitors and tourists. Healthcare provided in the framework of the INGESA is free of charge, except for eye and dental care, which is carried out in the private sector. In order to enrol, you must register with the Local Social Security Office (Instituto Nacional de la Seguridad Social) to apply for a Social Security Number. The registration documents' checklist includes:

  • passport or ID card
  • proof of residence in Spain and
  • all supporting documents of your dependants (spouse, children etc..). 

If you are a freelancer in Spain, you will have to subscribe to the RETA, which is a special regime. The TA.0521 form has to be filled at the nearest Social Security office. 

You can then register with a local health centre (Centro de Salud) where you need to ask for a health insurance card (tarjeta sanitaria individual) and to be assigned a GP. The card is sent to the requestor by surface post within approximately two months and will be needed each time you request medical treatment. Once in your possession, you can change or choose another GP without much difficulty. In case you need to consult a specialist, you must first request an appointment through your GP.

Depending on your city, it can take up to 3 weeks to get an appointment with your GP and another 3-6 weeks for a referral consultation with a specialist. For urgent treatment, for example when you need a sick note for work, you will have to spend a few hours waiting to be attended. In case of emergencies you are advised to go straight to hospital.

 Good to know:

While 90% of the Spanish population use public healthcare, there are many locals who opt for complementary private insurance to get faster medical treatment for non-emergency procedures.

The private healthcare system

You can choose private health insurance as a complement to or substitute of the INGESA coverage. With a private insurance, waiting times to consult a specialist are shorter and you can opt to be fully covered for all care, including dental and optometric.

Quality of healthcare in Spain

Spanish public and private hospitals provide quality health care services that meet European and international standards. However, the waiting time in public hospitals can be much longer than in private hospitals and clinics.

Pharmacists, for their part, have been trained to provide first aid, dressings and medication, whether on prescription or not. On-call pharmacies are listed in local newspapers and display a sign in their windows.

 Useful links: 

Instituto Nacional de Gestión Sanitaria
Seguridad Social - Spanish Social Security

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.
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Member since 01 June 2008
Small earth, Mauritius
4 years ago

This is interesting information but my wife and I are not resident and never will be. We are staying in Spain in rented accommodation for 6 months every year from October to March. We are both retired and claim nothing from Spain. On this basis, what are our medical rights. Do we have access to a GP for example and if not, what do we do about minor ailments. John & Joyce

4 years ago

Spanish law now states you can also get free state healthcare in Spain if you were resident prior to 24 April 2013, are under state retirement age, are not working and have an annual income of less than %u20AC100,000. My partner and I have just had our letters from confirming our Social Security numbers and are now waiting for the health cards to arrive.

4 years ago

Actually you need to have been resident prior to 24th April 2012.

4 years ago

Many thanks for your comments but since we only spend around 5 to 6 months a year here in Spain, we are not going to be 'residents'. We have the European Health Card but I am wondering what our situation is when it comes to registering with a local GP for what would be called non emergency treatment. Any information on this matter would be very much appreciated.


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