If you’re thinking about retiring in Portugal but are concerned about choices in affordable, quality healthcare, you can stop worrying right now.

First, the country has some of the finest doctors and medical training available anywhere. Teaching facilities include the School of Health Services at the University of Minho in the north, the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Coimbra in the center—renowned for its expansive research fields and PhD programs—and the Faculty of Medical Sciences of the New University of Lisbon in the south.

Second, just like wherever you are living right now, both public and private healthcare is available. Let’s take a look at public first.

Public Healthcare

The National Health Service of Portugal (Serviço Nacional de Saúde) is available to citizens as well as both temporary and permanent residents­­­­­­. As an expat, you must arrange for a Portuguese número de contribuinte, the equivalent of a social security number, at your local Finanças office. Once you have your Portuguese ID number and residence permit, head to your nearest Health Center to receive a User’s Card with a Número Utente, which will allow you access to the State medical system.

To get a residence visa the first time, you must show proof of medical insurance for the duration of the visa period. Upon renewal, however, you will not be asked for this again. If you are a citizen of a European Union country, your ID from that country is honored in Portugal as well, entitling you to the same medical care available to Portuguese residents.

The tax system collects contributions from all tax payers toward the social services network. When services are rendered, the user will be charged a few euros depending on the nature of the visit. For example, the current cost for a consultation, exam, and simple test in a town not far from Lisbon is about $5.25.

Portugal’s cities have a well-respected and efficient Integrated Medical Emergency System, IMES, reached by calling 112, the European Community emergency number. In small towns volunteer fire departments and local medical services assist the local community with emergency and other health needs.

Private Healthcare

Expats will find health services readily available in all but the smallest of towns. There are many private clinics and hospitals available throughout Portugal, Also, you’ll find doctors and dentists who work for the state but also have their own private practice.

Most hospitals are centered in larger populated areas. Every major municipality has access, though, to some facility. Remember that since some hospitals operate on both a private and public basis, make your choice of treatment clear before it is provided.

Several suggestions are:

  • CUF—a hospital/clinic network in Central and Northern Portugal
  • Luziadas clinics and hospitals
  • British Hospital in Lisbon—the oldest private hospital in Portugal

Private Health Insurance

Most middle and upper class citizens have private insurance, allowing on-demand access to a comprehensive network of private hospitals at minimal cost (in addition to public ones). Depending on age and health condition, private insurance can be had for as little as €4 per month, although usually it is more in the €40 per month per person range.

Age is a limiting factor with respect to the companies that provide insurance. If you are older than 55, some companies won’t accept you into their plan, and at 65, the choices become even more restricted. Millennium Bank, however, through their Médis program, offers competitive insurance up to the age of 75, and once in the plan you will not be cancelled.

Three dependable private health insurers are Fidelidade/Multicare (will insure over age 55), Tranquilidade (a multi-line insurance company), and Millennium Bank/Médis (insures over 65).

Sample Medical Care Costs

Healthcare in Portugal costs a fraction of that in the U.S., and savings also exist for those from the UK and other countries who choose Portugal as a destination for routine and elective procedures. Here are some examples:

ExpenseU.S.Portugal PublicPortugal Private
Doctor’s visit$100Free or €5€50
Dental cleaning$120Free€25
Cataract eye surgery$5,000Minimal Co-pay€1,000
Hip replacement$40,000Minimal Co-pay€4,000-€20,000
Mammogram$250Minimal Co-pay€75
Extensive Physical>$500Co-pay>€250
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