Considering a move to Portugal? For anyone planning to live long-term in Portugal, medical insurance is a must.
Yes, the country has a solid public healthcare system — but private health insurance in Portugal is something you need to seriously consider as well.
Not sure how to compare and choose the right medical insurance in Portugal? Read on for some vital tips before you sign up.
Why should I have health insurance in Portugal?
With health insurance, the benefits for expats or long-term visitors almost always outweigh the costs.
You’ll have faster access to doctors — even specialists or surgeons. If you’ve ever waited for an appointment in Portugal’s public healthcare system, that alone will make private medical insurance seem like a bargain.
If you’re visiting Portugal, you can still see a doctor if you’re sick or hurt during vacation; you’ll just have to pay for treatment.
As a tourist, you should always have travel medical insurance in case of emergencies. And if you’re moving to Portugal from the US, you’ll need to show proof of insurance in order to apply for your visa.
Health insurance in Portugal is different than basic travel insurance. Visa insurance, also called international health insurance or expat insurance, is a little different from both of these.
We talk more about visa insurance in this article. And we discuss the importance of travel insurance here.
Public versus private healthcare in Portugal: The basics
You’re probably aware that in Portugal, you have two healthcare systems available: public and private. Here’s a quick rundown of each.
Public healthcare in Portugal
Healthcare is complex, no matter where you are. In general, Portugal’s national public healthcare system is available to all citizens and residents of Portugal.
Public healthcare is managed by Portugal’s Ministry of Health, through the Serviço Nacional de Saúde (National Healthcare Service). The SNS website is in Portuguese, but non-Portuguese speakers should take a look anyway; it’s an important resource for healthcare information, including a search page to help you find doctors in your area.
Private healthcare in Portugal
Private healthcare is also available to everyone in Portugal. The private medical facilities in Portugal offer better access to care — thanks to shorter wait times, for example — and that care comes at a premium price.
To strike a balance between cost and service, many people get private health insurance, which helps cover expenses at private healthcare facilities. Most expats, as well as most working people in Portugal, sign up for private medical insurance.
Note: Don’t confuse private healthcare with private medical insurance. As we mentioned, anyone can be treated at a private hospital, whether you have private health insurance or not. However, with private health insurance, that care will likely cost a lot less.
What’s the cost of health insurance in Portugal?
When you’re comparing insurance providers, your personal situation and health history are going to affect the cost of your policy.
As you might expect, insurance providers in Portugal consider a number of factors, including:
- Medical history and pre-existing conditions
- Level of coverage you’d like
- Deductible you’re willing to pay
- Lifestyle or profession (for example, are you an extreme sports fanatic?)
Depending on the benefits and deductibles in your plan, your price will move up and down. The good news is, the cost of private health insurance in Portugal is relatively cheap when compared to health insurance plans offered in the US and northern Europe.
One potential bump in the road: Some private health insurance companies in Portugal do not insure people over the age of 55; others stop coverage at age 65. If you’re retiring to Portugal and think your age might be an issue in getting medical insurance, look into an international insurer who can cover you as a resident of Portugal.
Note also that it’s often possible to get a lower cost per person if you sign up for a family health insurance plan — even if your family is just two people.
One of the best things you can do for yourself is take the time to get at least two or three quotes from different insurance companies. Then, carefully compare benefits, networks, access to any specialists you might need, and costs. Once you have quotes side-by-side, the process usually feels more manageable.
But isn’t healthcare free in Portugal?
The short answer is sometimes — depending on who you are. Portugal’s public healthcare system is well developed, offering free or low-cost medical care to citizens and legal residents who have paid into the Portuguese social security system. It also covers kids under 18 and retired people.
Basic services are free for those who are eligible, and other services are available at reduced costs.
As with any healthcare system in the world, of course, there are benefits and drawbacks. With free or low-cost care as a benefit, long wait times for appointments are definitely a well-known drawback.
The main reason for this is oversubscription — meaning more people in Portugal are signed up for public healthcare than the system can easily support. The wait, for instance, for some non-emergency surgeries can stretch into years in the public system.
Read our article on healthcare in Portugal to find out more about healthcare services you have access to as a resident.
Which insurance provider should I choose?
As with so many issues related to healthcare, it depends on your circumstances. We’ve pulled together recommendations and factors you should consider that can affect both coverage and costs.
The best private insurance companies in Portugal have a robust network of hospitals and doctors all over the country. This means you’ll have access to high-quality healthcare services in most cities in Portugal. Even if you’ve settled in a tiny village in the Portuguese countryside, a larger network can mean a shorter drive to your doctor’s office or hospital.
Some of the most highly recommended private insurance companies in Portugal are:
Here is a brief overview of the different plans available from each company we have mentioned here.
The Allianz website offers four insurance plans:
- Hospitalização e Ambulatório
- Hospitalização e Ambulatório Completo
All four are extensive, and there’s a cost simulator on the site that can give you an idea of prices. Some of the more notable options they offer are:
- Maternity care
- International medical coverage
Note that this cost simulator asks for more personal information than the others we tried out (including your NIF). If you don’t feel like giving that much information just to get sample costs, we recommend you contact Allianz directly to compare options and get a detailed quote.
Cigna Global has a huge portion of their website devoted to medical insurance. Their four basic plans are:
- Close Care
All the Cigna plans cover X-rays, hospital stays, surgeries, and intensive care. Silver, Gold, and Platinum plans also cover major medical expenses like kidney dialysis and transplant services.
As you’d expect, covered services increase at each level. Silver covers more medical care than Close Care, Gold covers more than Silver, and so on.
We didn’t see a cost simulator on the Cigna site, but they did have a detailed breakdown of coverages for each plan, including your options for deductibles. As you know, a higher deductible will often result in lower premiums, but the flip side is that those out-of-pocket costs can come unexpectedly.
Weigh all your options, and contact Cigna Global for quotes and coverage.
Bupa has an online quote estimator, so we used our example person: a 44-year-old woman living in Portugal.
Rather than show a range of plans, Bupa offered a base price of €365 ($404) per month, with a list of optional coverages. It was like an ala carte menu, and easy to use. For instance, we opted for extra coverage for dental, vision, vaccinations, and checkups, and it bumped up our monthly cost to €520 ($576).
For more information on Bupa, or to get your own quote, visit Bupa Global.
Médis has three main plans, called, not surprisingly, Option 1, Option 2, and Option 3. Each option increases both the level of coverage and the cost.
We tried out Médis’ cost simulator, which asks only for your age. We plugged in 44, and a few seconds later, received a chart of costs and coverages. Starting us off was Option 1 at €14 ($15.50) a month, and pretty lean on coverage.
Option 2, which the Médis website recommended as our best choice, came in at €51 ($56.50) per month.
The most robust of our choices was Option 3, which would have cost us €77 ($85) per month.
You can do your own online simulation here (website in Portuguese) then contact Médis to sign up.
Multicare Fidelidade has a similar online experience to Bupa. They have a quote generator, but it gives the price for a single base plan, then says there are options available.
The cost of the base plan for our 44-year-old example was lower than several of the others, coming in at €26 ($229) per month. It’s definitely not the most robust coverage package of the bunch, but it’s one of the most affordable.
We weren’t able to see estimated costs for more coverage, so if you’re interested in a more comprehensive policy, contact Multicare.
Is dental care included in private health insurance in Portugal?
Dental insurance is normally offered as a separate plan from regular medical insurance. Some insurance providers offer comprehensive health coverage that includes dental care. Again, take a few minutes to check out each provider and ask what’s covered.
If dental insurance is a must-have for you, see if you can get a discount for “bundling” medical with dental. While you’re at it, you might want to see if a provider will bundle other insurance policies as well, like life, auto, or home. A little shopping around can probably get you a solid package deal.
How to buy private health insurance in Portugal
If you’re an American expat, you might be surprised to learn that private health insurance can be subscribed to through your bank in Portugal. Most Portuguese banks have agreements with health insurance providers.
For example, if you bank with Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD), you can get Multicare Fidelidade health insurance. You just need to speak with your account officer, who can take you through the various health insurance packages, lay out costs for each package, and then help you sign up for any package you choose.
Can you sign up for health insurance online?
You can — at least to provide the initial information about yourself and what you’d like.
With most major insurance providers, you can fill out a medical questionnaire and request a quote online. Some ask you to download a form and send it back to the insurer via their website. Shortly after, a rep from the company will contact you to verify the information and offer coverage options.
Health insurance coverage in and outside of Portugal
Finally, when choosing a health insurance plan in Portugal, consider whether you’ll need just a local healthcare plan (meaning it provides healthcare coverage only in Portugal), or an international healthcare plan as well. The latter is best suited to expats who live in Portugal but frequently travel outside of Portugal.
If this sounds like you, look into an international plan. It could save you time (and possibly money) by taking the place of travel medical insurance purchased for each trip.
Do you have questions about health insurance in Portugal that we haven’t addressed yet? Share your questions in the comments section below.
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