Portugal offers a comprehensive health system to both its citizens and foreign residents. However, the limits of coverage, the overcrowding of certain public hospitals, and the waiting times for access to care lead many insured persons to turn to the private health sector. In order to benefit from better reimbursement, it is essential to take out complementary health insurance.
Health insurance for expats in Portugal
The health insurance system in Portugal
The Portuguese National Health System (Serviço Nacional de Saúde or SNS) is available to all residents of the country regardless of nationality.
Insured persons are registered with their local health centre (centro de saúde) and must choose a general practitioner. After that, they receive all primary services almost free of charge (sometimes with a small out-of-pocket expense), in particular:
Consultations with their general practitioner
Specialist consultations, in private practice or in hospital, on referral from the GP
Hospitalisation in a public facility on the referral of the GP (except in case of emergencies)
Medicines (the reimbursement rate varies between 15 and 90%)
Dental care is also rarely covered (except for certain categories of insured persons such as the under-16s and pregnant women), as are optical aids.
As for care provided in private health establishments, it is covered according to the same basic rates as those applied to private establishments. All excess fees are excluded from SNS coverage.
How to choose health insurance in Portugal: local or international?
The use of the Portuguese health system, therefore, generally leads to out-of-pocket expenses―sometimes substantial―for the insured, many of whom take out complementary health insurance.
Portuguese mutual insurance companies are relatively expensive and usually limit their coverage to care provided in the establishments in their network. Services provided in other countries during a stay abroad are also excluded from their coverage.
With international health insurance, expats in Portugal can benefit from tailor-made protection, thanks to guarantees and reimbursement levels adapted to their needs and situation as a foreign resident.