Medicine in Portugal: how to get insurance, find a doctor and more

Medicine in Portugal: how to get insurance and find a doctor in 2020

Medicine in Portugal

Medicine in Portugal
Medicine in Portugal: how to get insurance and find a doctor in 2020 7

Before you move to Portugal, you should familiarize yourself with the local health care system. For example, medical insurance will be required upon entry – and it must be properly arranged. Medical care in Portugal is organized unusually, for example, this country has its own system for making an appointment with the doctor. You need to know how to get medical services for free, how to get a family doctor, and more.

How medicine works in Portugal. All about the health care system.

Life in Portugal has many advantages and the health care system is one of them. You must be a legal resident or citizen of Portugal to receive health care services.

We recommend that you take out medical insurance if you are staying in the country for a long time. It will save you from long lines and endless electronic lists. Once you obtain the policy, you can quickly sign up for any procedure and go directly to your doctor.

Residents have the choice of going to a public or private specialist. The quality of service provided is top-notch in both options. The difference is that the private clinic offers to choose their own family doctor, while the public clinic assigns one at the place of residence.

The birth in Portugal is free of charge for doctors. The woman is also entitled to free care at all stages of pregnancy. A child born in Portugal is entitled to MPM or citizenship

Medicine in Portugal. Interesting facts.

We have already talked about the excellent level of Portuguese medicine. Proof: high vaccination rates and a long life expectancy of 81 years. At the same time, medicine is less state-sponsored than in other EU countries. We believe that the reason for the compatibility of high levels of medicine and low subsidies lies in the developed private sector.

Most of Portugal’s population complains of health problems caused by obesity and alcohol. Cardiovascular disease and cancer are common.

Public medicine in Portugal

Medicine in Portugal
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The public health sector is managed by Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS) or Portugal’s National Health System. In order to qualify for treatment in public health clinics, a resident must register with the local authority of his or her locality. This body is called the junta de freguesia. So, in this council, it is necessary to request proof of address. This certificate, visa, and resident card are needed to register with the local health center (Centro de saúde). The polyclinic gives you the number of the health center (Número de Utente) to which you are assigned. When you need a doctor, you go to the clinic, show the number and you get the service without any problem.

Note that public hospitals provide their services free of charge. Some fees are charged only for emergency room visits and in some cases the family doctor charges. The cost of these services varies from 5 to 20 euros.

In a public health clinic, you can order all services except cosmetic surgery and dental care on a standard policy. A person applies for prevention, diagnosis, treatment of any disease.

There are many public hospitals — any town, even the smallest, has not only polyclinics but also a local medical center.

How to get a doctor and a prescription for medication

A family physician is assigned at registration. The whole family can go to him or her for help. If no family physicians are available, you become on a waiting list. Until the family has a personal physician assigned to them, the care will be provided by the physician on-call.

If a person needs a specialist, they go to their family physician as their first point of contact, where they get a referral.

Medications are obtained from pharmacies. Some are dispensed without a prescription. Those drugs for which a doctor’s prescription is needed can be obtained at a low cost. They may be subsidized by the government, which means you will pay only a percentage of the full cost.

Cost of medical services 

See a situation where you have to pay for medicine:

    • There are fees to be paid for doctor’s appointments at primary care centers.
    • Pays for emergency care
    • Pays a percentage of diagnostic tests.

The percentage for diagnostic examinations is different for each of the procedures, but usually, the final cost does not exceed 40 euros. This money can be reimbursed at the time of filing your tax return. 

Pros and cons of the Portuguese health care system

Pros and cons of the Portuguese healthcare system
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The pluses include:

  • Most services are free. The average cost for a number of services does not exceed 20 euros.
  • Highly qualified medical staff.
  • Public hospitals are well-staffed with modern resources.

The disadvantages:

  • Lines if you don’t have insurance.
  • Emergency rooms are often overcrowded.
  • Portugal has few junior medical staff. 


A brief overview of private health insurance

Private health insurance is not what most citizens turn to. Basically, it is only necessary for those who, for personal reasons, do not trust public health clinics.

Private health insurance is also necessary to avoid waiting lists. There are those who mostly use public health care, but buy insurance for private procedures and thus reduce waiting times.

Types of private insurance

Companies offer several private health insurance plans, from simple to expensive. People choose the one that fits their needs, there are no hard and fast rules.

Basic insurance covers hospitalization and surgery. Some services are added optionally:

    • ambulatory services;
    • family doctor appointment
    • Multi specialist appointments
    • examinations and tests
    • physiotherapy
    • childbirth
    • dentistry

It’s worth noting that insurance that covers dentistry, ophthalmology, and prosthetics, and other specialty areas cost more.

The family can get one insurance plan. An adult handles the paperwork with the insurer for himself or herself and then adds family members.

What does private insurance cover?

Insurance can cost differently, but all plans offer a fixed amount that can be spent on treatment in a branch. For example, it’s 5,000 euros for childbirth. If the treatment exceeds the limit, the client pays the difference.

The insurance is not available immediately, but only after a waiting period of 90 days.

A person with any medical need will be able to get skilled care at both public and private clinics. You can always count on free care if you don’t have enough money for treatment, and if you want insurance — many types of policies are available at private clinics.