Portugal Country Guide

Everything you need to know about moving to Portugal

Healthcare and Health Insurance for Expats in Portugal

Portugal offers high quality, affordable care to all residents.

Portugal’s healthcare system is known for its high-quality medical services, advanced technology, and accessibility. By seeking care across public and private systems, expats can get the best of both worlds – extremely affordable care and on-demand services.

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Overview of the healthcare system in Portugal

Portugal’s healthcare system is generally considered very good. It is ranked #12 in healthcare efficiency by the World Health Organization and #25 in the Numbeo 2023 health care index (above Canada and the U.S.).

 

Portugal offers approximately 250 hospitals, with half being private facilities. The country’s dual healthcare system includes the national public system, called Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS), and a private system. The public healthcare system, SNS, provides comprehensive coverage, including primary care, hospital services, and prescription medications. While wait times for certain specialist appointments and scheduled procedures can be long, emergency services are readily available and efficient and there is excellent support to manage chronic conditions. Public health insurance covers most costs. All Portuguese residents are eligible for National Healthcare Services!

 

The private healthcare system in Portugal offers modern facilities and many English-speaking staff, and is accessible on a pay-per-visit basis or through private health insurance.  You can make appointments directly with specialists in the private system or get referrals from a primary care physician. Typically, all services will be available in the same location – appointments, exams, and analysis. The private Portuguese health system is also good for certain services that are generally not available in the public system, such as psychology and dentistry.

 

Pharmacies are available everywhere across Portugal. In every neighborhood there is one pharmacy that is identified to stay open 24 hours a day. 

Accessing Healthcare as an Expat in Portugal

Registering for the Public Healthcare System: To register for the public healthcare system, the SNS, in Portugal, you will need to get an SNS number, or Número de Utente. Your Centro de Saúde is your main port of call and where you receive primary care in the public system. This is also where you can register to get your Número de Utente.

 

Emergency Services: In the event of a medical emergency, 112 is the universal number to access emergency services in Portugal. 

 

Medication Availability and Cost:  All pharmacies in Portugal are identified by a green cross. Once you are registered in the public healthcare system with SNS you are entitled to receive prescription medication free of charge or with minimal copayment. Before this, you can still get a prescription from any physician in Portugal and pay privately. Many medications that require a prescription in the U.S. may be available over the counter in Portugal. 

 

Largest private health providers in Portugal:

 

All of these providers offer nearly all specialities and procedures you could want. Between them they offer approximately 55 hospitals across the country.

Accessing Medicare while living in Portugal

Medicare, the U.S. government’s healthcare program for individuals aged 65 and older, is generally not accessible to U.S. expatriates living abroad. While Medicare provides comprehensive health coverage within the United States, it does not extend its benefits to individuals residing overseas, with a few exceptions. Expatriates who return to the U.S. periodically and meet specific criteria may continue to use Medicare on a limited basis. However, Medicare typically does not cover medical services received abroad, so expats are advised to secure private health insurance or rely on their host country’s healthcare system for medical coverage while living abroad. 

Selecting Health Insurance as an Expat in Portugal

The biggest private insurers in Portugal are:

 

The largest international health insurance providers are:

 

What you need to know about Portuguese health insurance: To get a private health insurance plan in Portugal, you must first have your NIF (Portuguese tax identification number) and a Portuguese address. When shopping for plans, please make sure you select insurance that meets your needs, rather than opting for the plan that is offered by your bank. You should check to be sure there is a good network of providers included. Coverage levels in Portugal may be less than what you are used to in the United States, but could still be very adequate. For example, coverage of €2,000-5,000 for outpatient treatments may be sufficient, as healthcare costs are much lower in Portugal.

There are no deductibles in Portugal and co-payments are either a fixed percentage or amount, depending on the procedure. Note that premiums on Portuguese health insurance can change every year, so it’s important to check about price increases before your annual renewal!

StartAbroad's Recommendation

Every expat’s healthcare and health insurance plan should be tailored to their specific case. 

 

In general, for individuals who get residency in Portugal, we recommend combining enrollment in the public SNS healthcare system with use of the private system and private insurance. Once you are a resident you can enroll in the SNS and enjoy a range of health services. The private system will be easier to navigate, especially in English, and offer quicker access to specialists and elective procedures.

 

When applying for your visa to Portugal you can enroll in travel insurance to cover your initial 120 days in country. However, once you arrive in Portugal you should enroll in private health insurance to cover your health needs for the long-term. You may choose to enroll in a Portugal-specific plan or to sign up for an international health insurance plan that provides global coverage.

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