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.