Benefits include general and specialist care, hospitalisation,
laboratory services, discounted drugs and medicines, basic dental care,
maternity care, appliances and transportation.
Most Portuguese are covered by Portugals public health scheme,
including retired EU residents (with a residence card) receiving a state
pension. If you arent entitled to public health benefits through
payment of Portuguese social security (seguranηa social) or
receiving a state pension from another EU country, you must usually have
private health insurance and must present proof of your insurance when
applying for a residence card. If youre an EU national of retirement
age, who isnt in receipt of a pension, you may be entitled to public
health benefits if you can show that you cannot afford private health
Anyone who has paid regular social security contributions in another EU
country for two full years prior to coming to Portugal (e.g. to look for
a job) is entitled to public health cover for a limited period from the
date of the last social security contribution made in their home
country. Social security form E106 must be obtained from the social
security authorities in your home country and given to your local social
security office in Portugal. Similarly, pensioners and those in receipt
of invalidity benefits must obtain form E121 from their home countrys
social security administration.
You will be registered as a member of social security and will be given
a social security card, a list of local medical practitioners and
hospitals, and general information about services and charges. If youre
receiving an invalidity pension or other social security benefits on the
grounds of ill-health, you should establish exactly how living in
Portugal will affect those benefits. In some countries there are
reciprocal agreements regarding invalidity rights, but you must confirm
that they apply in your case.
Citizens of EU countries and European Economic Area (EEA) countries
(Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) are able to make payments in their
home country entitling them to use public health services in Portugal
and other EU and EEA countries.
The Portuguese health system places the emphasis on cure rather than
prevention and treats sickness rather than promoting good health.
Theres little preventive medicine, although this has changed in recent
years and there are now regular health checks for children and older
people, and a full immunisation programme for children.
The public health service has limited resources for out-patient
treatment, nursing and post-operative care, geriatric assistance,
terminal illnesses and psychiatric treatment.
In the past the Portuguese health system was criticised mainly for
perfunctory treatment due to staff shortages, long waiting lists as a
result of a shortage of hospital facilities, and a general
dehumanisation of patients. Many of these problems were related to
crippling bureaucracy and bad management.
Although many of these problems still exist, the situation has generally
improved greatly in recent years and the health system has become much
more transparent. Among other things, patients now have a list of
rights they can expect from the health service. However, its generally
considered that the Portuguese health system is badly in need of a
general over-haul (which has been promised by successive governments but
has yet to materialise).
The department of social security in Portugal has a free telephone
hotline (linha verde) for information and enquiries operating
Monday to Friday from 9am to 7pm (Tel. 800-290 029) and a comprehensive
website (in Portuguese only), which includes downloadable documents and
If youre entitled to social security health benefits in another EU
country or in a country with a reciprocal health agreement with
Portugal, you will receive free or reduced cost medical treatment in
Portugal. EU residents should apply for a certificate of entitlement to
treatment (form E111) from their local social security office at least
three weeks before they plan to travel to Portugal.
The form E111 can be used for a stay of three months duration only. If
you use the E111 in Portugal, you must apply for reimbursement to
Portuguese social security (instructions are provided with the form),
which can take a number of months. However, you can still receive a
large bill from a Portuguese hospital, as your local health authority
assumes a percentage of the cost only. Note that a form E111 issued
abroad (i.e. not in Portugal) isnt valid in Portugal if youre a
Participating countries include all EU member states and most other
European countries, excluding Albania, Switzerland and Turkey. The USA
doesnt have a reciprocal health agreement with Portugal and therefore
Americans who arent covered by Portuguese social security must have
private health insurance in Portugal. British visitors and those
planning to live in Portugal can obtain information about reciprocal
health treatment from the Department of Social Security, Overseas
Branch, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE98 1YX, UK.
This article is an extract from
Buying a Home in Portugal.
Click here to get a copy now.