Expat Essentials

Sarah Nagaty in Lisbon: How healthcare and health insurance work in Portugal (in a nutshell)

The problem with public healthcare in Portugal is that it is not consistent.

In a very few words so you don’t have to read through a long article, I am sharing with you what you absolutely need to know about healthcare in Portugal. If you are a resident in Portugal (i.e. having a fiscal number), you are eligible to use the public Portuguese healthcare system. You only need to register in the SNS (Serviço Nacional de Saúde), get an SNS number and you are sorted out. You are eligible for doctor’s appointments as well as emergency services (no dental though).

The problem with public healthcare in Portugal is that it is not consistent.

When I first moved to Portugal, I tried getting an appointment with the gynecologist at the Centro de Saúde (The health center) of my area. I turned up for the appointment and the secretary informed me the doctor will not meet me as she had to see many people that day. That was quite shocking for me as I did have an appointment. I filed a formal complaint, the result of I still don’t know (that was three years ago!)

However, I have a friend who got pregnant and delivered her baby, only using the public health system. She said the waiting time was long, yet she received good medical care.

My honest opinion on that matter is: If you can afford, get private healthcare. You will save so much time and receive better attention.

I pay 50 euros per month for my plan. It covers emergencies, consultations, dental care, opticians, operations, X-rays of all kinds, and blood analysis. It even covers physiotherapy sessions. I paid 2 euros per session for the latter under my health care plan. A visit to the doctor would cost me 15 euros instead of 100 euros. Depending on the kind of care you need, the rate of coverage varies.

You can go about getting private health insurance one of two ways:

1) Local Private Health Insurance

You can find affordable options here starting 50 euros or less for good coverage (including dental). The private Portuguese health insurance companies I tried out are Multicare and Médis. They have many providers: hospitals, clinics, and private practices.

Médis, for example, has its own dental clinics. Look up Clínica Médis. I received my best dental care experience
there. Multicare and Médis are not the only private insurance companies in Portugal. However, they are definitely two of the most popular. You have to be ready to receive your documents in Portuguese though. You may also have to deal with websites in Portuguese.

In my opinion, it was doable.

2) International Health Care

This option is more likely to offer a better service. Not only would you have all needed information in English, but you would also receive a more prompt customer service. The two leading expat-friendly companies, Allianz Care and Cigna Global, offer tailored plans. They are also quite popular among expats in Portugal. You can get an online quote from Allianz here.

My quote says I need almost 150 euros a month for their Care Core Plan (quite basic with dental). Cigna gave me a quote starting at 120 euros for their Gold Plan which covers dental, maternity, and cancer care. Get your Cigna
quote here

Make sure you find out from your insurance company if your plan covers the specific needs of you and/or your family. Moreover, do not forget to ask on what is excluded from your plan before you purchase one. And if you are on the move, and your work or life style involves a lot of travelling, inquire about international coverage options.

About the author:

Sarah Nagaty is a PhD researcher of cultural studies in Lisbon. She’s lived in Portugal for three years.

As a student of cultural studies, Sarah is drawn to what connects people from different backgrounds to new cultures and places, how they relate to their new surroundings and what kind of activities they could engage with in their new hometowns.

See all of Sarah’s Dispatches posts here.

See Dispatches’ Lisbon story archive here.

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