Public healthcare in Portugal is provided free of charge to all residents. This policy was implemented in June 2022. However, there are some exceptions where a small fee, typically around €20, may still be required for certain appointments.
To access public healthcare, you need to obtain a Número de Utente (health system user number) by registering at a health center (Centro de Saúde) in your area of residence. Once you have your user number, you can visit the assigned health center or district hospital.
Private medical centers in Portugal generally offer affordable prices, with consultations ranging from approximately 40-50 euros and emergency care from 100-120 euros (prices may vary). Having health insurance can help reduce the cost of services. Health insurance not only allows for cost reduction, but also provides access to a wider range of services, eliminates long wait times to see a doctor, and covers expenses not covered by public funding. Local health insurance is also necessary when applying for a residence permit through the SEF (Immigration Service).
How do I get insurance?
To sign a contract you have to:
- go to an office (there are offices in almost every significant locality)
- contact an insurance agent, some of whom are English-speaking (online, by phone, or in person).
What does the cost depend on?
- depends on the list of agreed-upon services (including serious pathologies, hospitalizations, surgeries, pregnancy, childbirth, and dental care);
- depends on the client's age and health status.
What is essential to check when entering into an agreement:
- Whether or not there is a deductible (franquia);
- The amount of the expected co-payment (comparticipação) and reimbursement (reembolso);
- The duration and existence of a "no-action" period (período de carência);
- The number of clinics/hospitals/doctors cooperating with the insurance (tem acordo).
You can go to public and private clinics. For medical services, even with insurance, most often you have to pay even in public clinics. The amount depends on several factors. If you have a residence permit, many services may be free.
What else is important
What is Reembolso?
When a doctor does not have a direct contract (não tem acordo) with the insurance, the patient has to pay 100% for the service at the time of service. Depending on the terms of the contract, the insurer may pay an amount (percentage or fixed value) upon the presentation of a bill (check for services). There may be a limit on the amount of coverage per year.
What is Comparticipação
The insurance company's participation in paying for services. You pay a flat amount for the consultation, for example, 15 €, regardless of the total cost, and the insurance company assumes the rest of the cost of the service by default.
What is Período de carência
The period from the conclusion of the contract until the insurance takes full effect. You cannot use the company's complete services (for example, hospitalization), despite having paid prémio mensal. Until this period, you cannot pay for medical assistance (all or specific ones, e.g., for a previously known illness) through the insurance company. This period is usually between 3 and 12 months. Nevertheless, having insurance even during the período de carência will reduce your cost of seeing a doctor.
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