Guide to Spain's World-Class and Affordable Healthcare System

Guide to Spain's World-Class and Affordable Healthcare System

The World Health Organization ranks Spain’s healthcare among the best in the world. Facilities tend to be modern, with state-of-the-art equipment, and Spanish doctors must pass rigorous qualifying exams to get their license to practice. The central government used to be the sole regulator of healthcare, but now each of the country’s 17 Autonomous Communities takes individual responsibility for implementing and executing healthcare.

If you're considering moving to Spain, healthcare is likely near the top of your list of concerns. You’ll be happy to know that the country offers a top-notch healthcare system at a fraction of the cost compared to North America.

Spain's healthcare system is a combination of public and private healthcare providers, with the public system funded by taxes and available to everyone registered with the national health service. Primary healthcare services are free or come at a minimal cost, and private healthcare services are also available for those who choose to pay for them.

The quality of healthcare in Spain is exceptional, with advanced medical technology and facilities that rival the best in the world. Patient outcomes are positive, and Spain is known for its highly trained and qualified doctors and nurses.

Overall, if healthcare is essential for you when contemplating a move abroad, Spain should be high on your list of options. Its excellent and affordable healthcare system, warm climate, cultural richness, and beautiful scenery make it an attractive destination for retirees and those seeking a better quality of life.

Healthcare System

It’s important to understand Spain's healthcare system and how it works for residents and expats alike. Spain ranks sixth out of 89 countries in overall healthcare according to the 2023 Health Care Index, and it ranks second in Europe, behind only Denmark.

Spain has a universal healthcare system (Sistema Nacional de Salud), which means that even if you're not a citizen of Spain, you can still access essential healthcare services. All you need to do is register with the national health service, and you'll receive a health card that covers most medical expenses. This system provides free or low-cost healthcare services, including doctor visits, hospital stays, and prescription medication.

Private healthcare providers are also available in Spain for those who pay for them. Private healthcare can provide quicker access to medical services, a more comprehensive range of treatments, and more personalized care. However, note that private healthcare is more expensive than the public system.

Hospitals and clinics in Spain are generally well-equipped and modern, with highly trained and qualified doctors and nurses. Currently, 13 hospitals in Spain are accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI). Emergency services are available 24/7, and waiting times for appointments and procedures are typically shorter than in many other countries.

Regarding specialized healthcare services, Spain offers a range of options. Dental care, mental health, and reproductive health services are all available, although costs and accessibility may vary.


Spain offers both government-sponsored and private health insurance options. The first option is the aforementioned public health insurance system, which is government-sponsored and available to everyone registered with the national health service. The Spanish government determines the services covered by public health insurance, and you may need to pay a portion of the cost for some services.

Another option is private health insurance. This type of insurance is offered by private companies, designed to provide additional coverage beyond what the public system offers. Private insurance generally offers quicker access to medical services, a more comprehensive range of treatments, and more personalized care than the public system. Depending on your chosen plan, private health insurance may also cover the cost of dental care, mental health services, and reproductive health services.

The cost of private health insurance in Spain varies depending on the level of coverage you choose and your age. Basic plans start at around 50 euros per month, while more comprehensive options can cost several hundred euros. A healthy person aged 60 can expect to pay approximately €125 or 135 USD (183 CAD) per month for private insurance. When choosing a private insurance plan, it's important to consider the benefits and the cost carefully and to compare plans from different providers.

Quality of Care

One of the reasons for Spain's exceptional healthcare is its highly trained and qualified medical professionals. Doctors and nurses in Spain undergo rigorous training and education, and many have the opportunity to specialize in certain areas of medicine.

Spain is known for its expertise in certain medical specialties, including organ transplant, oncology (cancer treatment), and reproductive health. The country has some of the world's most advanced medical technology and facilities, making it an attractive destination for patients seeking top-notch care.

Healthcare providers also hold several accreditations and certifications. For example, the Joint Commission International (JCI) has accredited several Spanish hospitals for meeting high patient care and safety standards. This means patients can receive care in Spain with the confidence that they are receiving care that meets or exceeds international standards.

You may be wondering about the availability of various types of medical treatments, including dental work and cosmetic procedures. Here’s a rundown on some of the procedures on offer in Spain, and their accompanying costs.

Dental work: Most dental clinics offer a range of treatments, from routine cleanings to complex dental surgeries. The cost of dental work in Spain is significantly lower than in North America, with prices for basic treatments starting at around 50 euros. Even more complex procedures, such as implants or root canals, are much more affordable in Spain than in America.

Cosmetic procedures: Spain is also known for its skilled cosmetic surgeons and offers a range of procedures, including botox injections, facelifts, and breast augmentation. These services are widely available and often more affordable than in North America. Prices for popular treatments, such as botox injections, start at around 200 euros.

Fertility treatments: Spain is a popular destination for patients seeking fertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). The country is renowned for having advanced technology and skilled medical professionals. The cost of fertility treatments in Spain for a single IVF cycle starts at around 2,500 euros.

Organ transplantation: Spain has one of the world's highest organ donation rates, and its organ donation and transplantation system is considered a model for other countries. Spain operates on an 'opt-out' approach, where all citizens are automatically considered donors unless they express a desire to not be.

Availability of Medications

While in Spain, you may need to obtain prescription medications at some point. The good news is that many medications are readily available and obtaining them is generally straightforward. Here are some tips for obtaining prescription medications in Spain:

1. Get a prescription from a doctor: You'll need one to obtain prescription medications in Spain. You can see a doctor at a public clinic, hospital, or even through a visit to a private doctor. Be sure to take your health card with you to the appointment.

2. Take the prescription to a pharmacy: Once you have it, take it to a pharmacy to fill it. Pharmacies are easily accessible in most towns and cities; many are open late or 24/7. You can also find a list of nearby pharmacies on the Spanish Ministry of Health website.

3. Be aware of medication names and doses: Spanish medication names may differ from those in your home country. It's essential to be mindful of the names and doses of your medications to avoid confusion.

4. Carry your medication with you: If you're traveling in Spain, carrying your prescription medications with you is a good idea. Keep them in their original packaging and bring a copy of your prescription if you need to show it to authorities.

In emergencies, obtaining medications can be more challenging. Here are some tips for obtaining medication in an emergency:

1. Visit an emergency room: If you need medication urgently, you can visit an emergency room at a hospital. The doctors there can give you a prescription and help you obtain the medication you need.

2. Use a 24/7 pharmacy: Some pharmacies in Spain are open 24/7. Look for signs that say "Farmacia de Guardia" to find a pharmacy open late or all night.

Emergency Services

Knowing the emergency healthcare services available to you if you live in or visit Spain is always essential. Fortunately, the country has a well-developed emergency healthcare system that can provide prompt and efficient care when needed.

Ambulance Services: In Spain, ambulance services are provided by the national health service and are available 24/7. If you need an ambulance in an emergency, you can call 112, the national emergency number. The call is free; an operator will help you in English and Spanish. The ambulance service will take you to the nearest hospital with the appropriate medical facilities.

Emergency Rooms: The emergency rooms in Spanish hospitals are staffed by highly trained doctors and nurses who can quickly assess your medical needs and provide the appropriate treatment. The waiting times for emergency rooms in Spain are generally shorter than in many other countries.

In popular destinations such as Madrid and Barcelona, there are many hospitals and clinics that offer emergency care. In Madrid, some of the most popular hospitals for emergency care include Hospital Universitario Quirónsalud Madrid, Hospital Universitario La Paz, and Hospital Universitario HM Sanchinarro.

In Barcelona, some of the most popular hospitals for emergency care include Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, Hospital Universitari Vall d'Hebron, and Hospital Universitario Sagrat Cor.It's worth noting that emergency healthcare services may be limited in some areas of Spain, especially in more rural locations. If you're planning to travel to a remote area, it's a good idea to research emergency services in advance.

Remember that the national emergency number in Spain is 112, so save it on your phone in case of any emergency.


Spain boasts a world-class healthcare system that is both accessible and affordable. The country provides universal coverage through a combination of public and private healthcare providers, with public healthcare funded by taxes and available to everyone who registers with the national health service. Private healthcare options are also available for those who want to supplement their care. Spain has a highly trained and qualified medical workforce, renowned for its expertise in medical specialties like organ transplant, oncology, and reproductive health. In addition, prescription medications are readily available, and emergency healthcare services are widely accessible.

Planning for your healthcare needs is essential if you're considering living in Spain. We encourage you to research Spanish healthcare to learn more about the country's offerings. You can also contact healthcare specialists who can help answer any questions about healthcare in Spain. Regardless, take advantage of Spain's excellent healthcare system to enjoy a healthy and fulfilling life in this beautiful country.

Featured Image Copyright: ©