Health Tips in Portugal




The public health system in Portugal provides free or low-cost healthcare for those who contribute to Portuguese social security (segurança social). Families of contributors and retirees (including those from other EU countries) are also included. The scheme provides for subsidized prescriptions to members over 65 years of age and charges 40 to 100 percent for non-essential medicines as well as substantial contributions for many other services such as optical, dental and spa treatment and other treatments. Benefits include hospitalization and laboratory costs, general and specialist care, discounted drugs and medicines, basic dental care, maternity care, appliances, and transportation.

Those who don't qualify for healthcare under the public health system must procure private health insurance (without which you will not get a residence card).

Those belonging to EU countries and European Economic Area (EEA) countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) can make payments in their home country. This will entitle them to the use of public health services in Portugal and other EU and EEA countries.

Portugal has reciprocal health agreements with other countries. Check to see if there is any such agreement between Portugal and your home country before moving there. This will help you plan your healthcare arrangements before moving.


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Portugal has a good network of hospitals in major cities and towns. Hospital facilities in some rural areas are limited. Most North Americans and North Europeans will find the quality of nursing care and post-hospital assistance below the standard of that available in their home country. There are limited resources for nursing and post-operative care, out-patient treatment, geriatric assistance, terminal illnesses and psychiatric treatment within the public health service.

Most areas have state health centers (centros de saúde) that are open from 8am to 8pm. Treatment for minor health problems and prompt emergency treatment is provided by these centers. Major towns and resort areas have a number of 24-hour emergency hospitals and a good number of private hospitals and clinics. There are some small British hospitals in Lisbon and Porto.

The Portuguese health system in the past was plagued by problems of staff shortages, long waiting lists, dehumanization of the patient - caregiver relationship and inadequate hospital facilities. The situation today is a much-improved one. However, there is still room for improvement. 


Portugal has a number of well-trained GPs and specialists, many of whom speak and understand English. The local expatriate press publishes a list of such doctors. However, most of them practice in and around major cities and towns. Finding English speaking doctors in rural areas may prove to be challenging.