Healthcare system & insurance in Spain

Spanish healthcare system is ranked among the best in the world. Here’s how to sign up to free state healthcare in Spain, or apply for health insurance. If you’re living and working in Spain you’ll likely have access to free state Spanish healthcare, paid partly by social security payments, which will be deducted from your wage.

Public and private healthcare in Spain

Spanish healthcare consists of both private and public healthcare, with some hospitals (Spanish name – centros de salud) offering both private and state healthcare services (asistencia sanitaria pública). You don’t need to have private health insurance to get medical treatment in Spain but it usually allows you to get faster treatment for non-emergency procedures.

Around 90% of Spaniards use the public healthcare system, with some 17% signed up to some sort of private healthcare scheme. In total, 98% of the population are insured for Spanish healthcare. However, healthcare expenditure has been decreasing in recent years and waiting times can be long. For example, the waiting time for operations in Spain has increased over the past few years, averaging 89 days in 2016.

An expat, you are entitled to free state healthcare if you are:

  • resident in Spain and work in employment or self-employment and pay social security contributions,
  • resident in Spain and receiving certain state benefits,
  • resident in Spain and recently divorced or separated from a partner registered with social security,
  • a child resident in Spain,
  • a pregnant woman who is resident in Spain,
  • under 26 and studying in Spain,
  • a state pensioner, or
  • staying temporarily in Spain and have an EHIC card (see below).

If you don’t have the right to state healthcare you have to organise private health cover. If you have been registered on the padrón at your town hall for a year, the Spanish government has a state insurance scheme  with a basic monthly fee. This is administered by the authorities in each autonomous region.

Pharmacies in Spain

Pharmacy opening hours

Pharmacies are usually open Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 2pm and 5pm to 9.30pm, and Saturdays 9.30am to 2pm. There’s usually a notice on the pharmacy window or door with details of the nearest 24-hour pharmacy (farmacia de guardia) – or you can find a list of pharmacies online.