Portugal is one of the most attractive countries in Europe for foreigners looking to relocate or invest. The country offers many benefits, including a mild climate, beautiful landscapes, and a high quality of life.

Healthcare is one of the essential services that foreigners take into account when moving to another country. In this guide, we will explore healthcare in Portugal, private health insurance options, medical costs, local health centers, mental healthcare services, and other important information for foreigners.

Portugal's Public Healthcare System

Portugal's public healthcare system is known as the Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS). The government funds the SNS and provides healthcare services to all citizens and legal residents in Portugal. The national health system is based on the principles of universality, equity, and accessibility.

The SNS covers primary healthcare, hospital care, emergency services, and prescription medication. Children under 18 and people over 65 are entitled to free SNS healthcare, whilst others may be asked to pay small fees for their healthcare, which the government otherwise subsidizes.

How good is Portuguese healthcare?

The World Health Organization ranked Portugal's healthcare system as the 12th best in the world in 2019. The country continues to have one of the best healthcare systems in the world, as it ranks 25th in the 2023 Health Care Index by Numbeo. The healthcare system is a hybrid one that offers both public and private services.

Portugal came 22nd in the World Index of Healthcare Innovation’s 2022 rankings. This took into account the quality of healthcare, science and technology, and fiscal sustainability. Portugal has a high life expectancy and a low infant mortality rate.

In the Portuguese public healthcare system, doctors and nurses are highly trained and speak English, which makes communication easier for foreigners. However, the public health system may have long waiting times for non-urgent treatments.

Where to go if you need healthcare in Portugal

If you need healthcare in Portugal, you can go to a health center (Centro de Saúde) or a hospital that is part of the SNS. You can find a list of health centers and hospitals on the SNS website.

Registering at a health center

To access public healthcare, you need to obtain a user number and register at your local health center or national health services center. Foreign citizens who reside legally in Portugal are entitled to a user number, known in Portuguese as your Número de Utente.

You must submit your residence permit and tax identification number (NIF) to register. You might be asked for proof of the health benefits you are entitled to (e.g., exemptions and contributions). You can use your tax records and social security number (a NISS) to prove this.

Image of nurse walking down a Portuguese hospital hallway wheeling a box of medicinal items, Portuguese healthcare | GetNif

Portugal Visa Applicants and Health Insurance Requirements

Foreigners who wish to live or work in Portugal must obtain a visa that suits their situation. If you want to work in Portugal, you must get a work visa, whereas if you want to just live in Portugal, there are certain visas that provide residency benefits, such as the D7 Visa.

You can check out the different visas available and their requirements in our blog posts:

Depending on your visa type, you may be required to have health insurance. If you’re a European Union/European Economic Area/Swiss national, make sure that you have an up-to-date European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) when moving to Portugal.

You can use your EHIC to access Portuguese public healthcare while waiting for your Número de Utente or private insurance coverage.

Health insurance requirements for the Portugal Golden Visa

The Portugal Golden Visa program is an investment-based visa that grants residency to non-EU citizens who invest in real estate or other approved investments. Golden Visa applicants must have travel insurance that covers medical emergencies in Portugal.

Note that the Portugal Golden Visa is ending, so if you're interested in the scheme, we recommend applying for it as soon as possible.

Health insurance requirements for the D7 Visa and Entrepreneur Visa

The D7 Visa is a long-term visa for applicants with a steady passive income. This can come from dividends, investments, and pensions. The D7 Visa is also known as the retirement visa.

The D2 Visa, also known as the Entrepreneur Visa, is for foreigners who want to start a business in Portugal. You must have a business plan and the resources to support yourself and your business.

Both residency visas require health insurance covering medical emergencies in Portugal.

Image of Portuguese hospital waiting room furnished with grey couches with blue cushions, Portuguese healthcare for foreigners | GetNif

Portugal's Private Health Insurance

In Portugal, private healthcare is widely available and used by a significant portion of the population, with experts estimating that 10 to 20 percent of the population has private health insurance. The private healthcare system is often used in addition to the public healthcare system, as they provide faster access to appointments and treatments and more personalized care.

Private health insurance providers in Portugal offer a wide range of services, including medical consultations, diagnostic tests, surgeries, and hospitalizations. The private healthcare system is generally considered to be of a high quality, with state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, highly trained medical professionals, and shorter waiting times.

Private hospitals in Portugal are often covered by private health insurance, which is widely available and affordable. Private health insurance plans in Portugal offer a range of options, from basic coverage to more comprehensive plans that cover a wide range of medical services and treatments.

Portugal's robust private healthcare sector offers high-quality medical services to those who can afford them. Private hospitals and clinics have shorter waiting times, modern equipment, and English-speaking staff. Some of Portugal's leading private medical insurance providers are CUF, Luz Saúde, and Hospital da Luz.

Despite the availability of private services in Portugal, the public healthcare system remains the backbone of the country's healthcare system. The government invests heavily in the public healthcare system to ensure that it provides high-quality, accessible healthcare services to all residents.

The private healthcare sector in Portugal plays an important role in complementing access to public healthcare by providing additional options for those who can afford it.

However, the government's commitment to providing universal access to high-quality healthcare services ensures that the public healthcare system remains the most important and reliable source of healthcare services for the majority of the population.

Are you entitled to Portuguese healthcare?

If you are a legal resident in Portugal, you are entitled to use the public health system. To become a legal resident, you must have a residence permit that allows you to live in Portugal for more than three months.

Healthcare for short-term residents and visitors to Portugal

Short-term residents and visitors to Portugal are entitled to emergency healthcare services, including urgent medical care and hospitalization, regardless of their nationality or immigration status.

However, short-term residents and visitors must have health insurance coverage for non-emergency healthcare services, such as routine check-ups, consultations, and non-urgent medical procedures.

EU citizens who are visiting Portugal can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access healthcare services in the country. The EHIC covers necessary medical treatment for pre-existing conditions, routine maternity care, and medical emergencies. However, it's important to note that the EHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance, which is recommended for all travelers to cover additional medical expenses and other unforeseen circumstances.

Non-EU citizens visiting Portugal should have travel medical insurance covering medical expenses, hospitalization, and repatriation in case of emergencies. Some countries require their citizens to have travel medical insurance before leaving the country.

Healthcare for short-term working residents of Portugal

Short-term working residents of Portugal, including those on work visas and short-term contracts, are entitled to access the Portuguese healthcare system, including the public healthcare system (SNS), as long as they have a valid Social Security Identification Number (NISS).

Short-term working residents must register with the Portuguese Social Security system to obtain a NISS. Once registered, they can access healthcare services like Portuguese citizens, including doctor's appointments, hospitalization, and prescription medications. However, it's important to note that short-term working residents may be required to pay a portion of the costs for healthcare services, depending on their individual circumstances, such as their employment status and income level.

Healthcare for non-habitual residents (NHR) in Portugal

Non-habitual residents (NHR) in Portugal are entitled to access public healthcare.

The non-habitual residency scheme is for foreigners who have been granted tax residency status in Portugal but have not been tax resident in the country for the past five years.

To access the Portuguese healthcare system, NHRs must have a tax identification number (NIF) and register with the Portuguese Social Security system to obtain a Social Security Identification Number (NISS). With a valid NIF and NISS, NHRs can register with the SNS and obtain a user number, which allows them to access healthcare services in the same way as Portuguese citizens.

NHRs are entitled to the same healthcare services as Portuguese citizens, including doctor's appointments, hospitalization, and prescription medications. However, it's important to note that NHRs may be required to pay a portion of the costs for healthcare services, depending on their individual circumstances regarding healthcare costs, such as their income level and residency status.

NHRs who are retired and receive a pension from a foreign country may be entitled to healthcare coverage through an agreement between Portugal and their home country. This agreement may cover the costs of healthcare services, including doctor's appointments, hospitalization, and prescription medications, without any additional fees.

Healthcare for foreigners in Portugal: EU citizens

EU citizens who live in Portugal can use their EHIC to access medical treatment in the public health system.

Healthcare for foreigners in Portugal: Long-term residents

Foreigners who live in Portugal for more than three months must have a visa that allows them to reside in Portugal. They can access the public health insurance system if they have a Social Security number and pay the corresponding fees. Alternatively, they can use private medical insurance.

Pharmacies and Medication in Portugal

Portugal has a large number of pharmacies (farmácias) that offer prescription and non-prescription medication. Pharmacies are easily accessible and usually open from 9 am to 7 pm. Some pharmacies may also be open 24 hours a day.

If you need a prescription medication, you must have a prescription from a Portuguese doctor or a doctor from your home country that is recognized in Portugal.

Is there a language barrier within healthcare for foreigners in Portugal?

Portuguese doctors and nurses are highly trained, and the vast majority speak English, which makes communication easier for foreigners. However, it's always a good idea to bring a friend or family member who can help you communicate if you don't speak Portuguese or English.

Mental Healthcare in Portugal

In Portugal, mental healthcare is essential to the national healthcare system. The country has made significant progress in improving the ability to access mental health services and reducing the stigma associated with mental illness.

The Portuguese National Mental Health Plan, launched in 2007, aims to promote mental health and prevent mental illness through the implementation of community-based mental health teams. The plan also emphasizes the integration of mental health services into primary healthcare and the development of specialized mental healthcare facilities for those with severe mental health struggle.

The public system in Portugal provides mental healthcare, including psychiatric consultation, psychotherapy, and medication management, free of charge or at a reduced cost. Mental health treatment is available at public hospitals, community health centers, and mental health clinics.

Portugal also has a number of private mental health clinics and centers that offer a range of mental health services, including therapy, counseling, peer-to-peer groups, and specialized treatment programs.

Image of stethoscope next to laptop. Two hands with red nailpolish typing on laptop, Portuguese healthcare for expats | GetNif

Health Service for Women in Portugal

In Portugal, women have access to a range of health services that cover their specific health needs, including preventive care, maternal and child health, sexual and reproductive health, and treatment of gynecological and breast cancer.

Preventive care is essential to women's health, and in Portugal, women can access regular health screenings and check-ups. These include cervical cancer screenings, mammograms, and blood tests to detect any underlying conditions. Preventive care is available both in public and private healthcare settings.

Gynecological and breast cancer are significant health concerns for women worldwide, and in Portugal, women have access to screening, diagnosis, and treatment services. Women aged 25 to 60 are offered free cervical cancer screenings every three years, while mammograms are offered to women aged 50 to 69 every two years. Women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer may also be offered genetic testing.

Maternal and child health services in Portugal are free and available to all pregnant women, regardless of their nationality or immigration status. These services include prenatal care, childbirth, and postnatal care; maternity and childcare services are offered in public hospitals and clinics. Women can choose to give birth in a hospital or at home with the support of midwives and obstetricians. After giving birth, women and their newborns receive follow-up care and support.

In terms of sexual and reproductive health, women in Portugal have access to a range of services, including family planning, contraception, and abortion. Family planning services are available both in public and private healthcare settings, and women can choose from a range of contraceptive methods, including oral contraceptives, intrauterine devices (IUDs), and implants. Abortion is legal in Portugal, and women can access safe and legal abortion services in designated hospitals and clinics.

Healthcare Service for Children in Portugal

Portugal has a public health service that provides pediatric care and health advice to children. The service is free of charge and available to all citizens and legal residents in Portugal. Private pediatric services in private institutions are also available.

Are you looking to move to Portugal?

If you're considering moving to Portugal, don't hesitate to contact us today. We can help set you up with a NIF and Portuguese bank account.

You’ll need your tax identification number, the NIF, to start working in Portugal, pay taxes, sign contracts such as a private health insurance plan, access public healthcare, or sign a rental agreement. A Portuguese bank account also helps pay bills, transfer money, or make payments in Portugal.

We can help set you up with the NIF and bank account from anywhere in the world, making your relocation to Portugal hassle-free.

We also know you’ll find our blog posts helpful in moving to Portugal. We cover everything you need to know about moving to Portugal like:

Frequently Asked Questions about Healthcare Portugal

Is healthcare in Portugal good?

Yes, the quality of healthcare in Portugal is very high. The Portuguese healthcare system is a mixture of public and private services, and both are highly regulated to ensure quality and safety.

Is healthcare in Portugal free?

Healthcare in Portugal is not entirely free, but the government highly subsidizes it. The Portuguese National Health Service (known as the SNS) provides free or low-cost medical care to all citizens and legal residents, regardless of their income level.

However, patients may have to pay a small fee for certain services, such as doctor's visits, hospital stays, and prescription drugs. Private services are also available in Portugal but tend to be more expensive than public healthcare services.

Where does Portugal rank in healthcare?

Portugal ranks relatively high in healthcare when compared to other countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Portugal ranks 12th in the world in terms of overall healthcare system performance. The Portuguese healthcare system is considered to be efficient, accessible, and of high quality, with a strong emphasis on preventive care.

Can expats get healthcare in Portugal?

Yes, expats living in Portugal can access the country's healthcare system. If you are an EU citizen, you can use your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access free or low-cost medical care in Portugal.

If you are a non-EU citizen, you may need to purchase private health insurance to cover your medical expenses. Portugal also has a bilateral agreement with some countries, which allows their citizens to access the Portuguese healthcare system under certain conditions.