Bicycle tour at Odeceixe, Portugal.

Healthcare in Portugal as a British expat

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Every year, hundreds of Brits take the decision to move to Portugal. They do it for the better weather, the easy-going lifestyle and the lower cost of living.

But of course, there are also practical things you need to think about when moving to a different country. Will I be able to have an income? Do I need to learn the language? And of course, will I have access to healthcare if and when I need it.

This should be especially pertinent to you if you’re planning to retire to Portugal.

You’ll be glad to know that Portugal has a robust and sophisticated healthcare system. And that it’s relatively easy for British expats to access it, despite the UK no longer being part of the EU.

In this article, we’ll go through Portugues public and private healthcare, what to do if you’re receiving a UK pension, and how the situation looks post-Brexit.

A word about coronavirus
There’s no ignoring the elephant in the room. We can’t really discuss healthcare in any country without discussing the issue that’s blighted governments and expats’ plans the world over.

Like every other country, Portugal has been hit hard by COVID-19. Yet, it has fared better than many of its European neighbours. Accumulatively, Portugal’s population has suffered around 17,000 deaths. A lot less than the UK, which has had just over 170,000 deaths.

Now, with the vaccine programme underway, Portugal has a roadmap out of its current lockdown. By May 3rd, hospitality businesses will be allowed to open with no time restrictions (previously there was a curfew).

We don’t have the time here to discuss the details of how the Portuguese government is tackling the global pandemic. For more information, visit the government’s COVID-19 website.

Healthcare in Portugal post-Brexit
One of the main concerns surrounding Brexit was the ability of UK holiday makers and expats to access healthcare in Europe. Fortunately, it doesn’t look like it should be too difficult for Brits to receive good medical treatment in Portugal after Brexit.

For instance, the Portuguese government is currently considering offering Brits subsidised healthcare, which mimics the European Health Insurance card (EHIC). But this mainly concerns tourists.

The Portuguese public healthcare system
As a Portuguese resident — or someone who’s working in Portugal — you’ll have both public and private healthcare options. Public healthcare isn’t entirely free, but it doesn’t cost a lot of money.

The Portuguese Servico Nacional de Saude (SNS) is similar to the NHS and provides the main hospital and local health centre services.

Usually, expats are treated the same as Portuguese nationals. However, that doesn’t mean that all your care will be free of charge. It’s likely you’ll be asked to make some kind of patient contribution.

These user fees, known as taxas moderadoras, vary depending on what medical treatment you’re having. As ballpark figures, expect to pay around €5 for a GP appointment and around €15 for a visit to A&E. As we said, not eye-wateringly expensive.

Private healthcare in Portugal
Like the UK, there’s private healthcare available for those who want to pay. Naturally, this is more expensive than public healthcare, but it does mean that you should be able to bypass some of the long queues.

It’s a good idea to organise your private healthcare before you make the move to Portugal. This way, you should be able to save money, as expats are usually charged more if they’ve already relocated.

As mentioned before, the Portuguese government is discussing potential options to allow British non-residents of Portugal subsidised public healthcare. Still, nothing is yet set in stone.

If you’re moving to Portugal, it could be a good idea for you to invest in private healthcare insurance — until you become a resident, that is. This way, you can be certain that you’re covered.

UK-funded healthcare
If you’re a Portuguese resident who’s receiving a UK pension, you should be entitled to UK-funded healthcare. For this, you’ll need to apply for an S1 form. You can do this through the NHS Overseas Healthcare Services.

Once you have an S1 form, you must register it on the Portuguese Social Security System. Once that’s done, you and your dependants will have access to Portuguese public healthcare.

Acquiring an S1 form will bring you benefits that go beyond healthcare in Portugal. For example, you’ll also get a UK-issued EHIC form to be used when travelling through other EU countries. And it’ll will enable you to receive planned medical treatment in the rest of Europe. Pretty good, right?

We’re Privalgo — specialists in foreign exchange. Through leading exchange rates and innovative solutions, we help Brits save money and time when they retire to Portugal. Get in touch today to see how we can help you build a rewarding foreign exchange strategy.