Travelers to Spain and expats living in the country will find that the Spanish healthcare system offers a range of quality public and private services. Spain’s national healthcare system, Instituto Nacional de la Salud, is primarily tax-funded, ensuring universal access to healthcare for Spanish nationals and most Spanish residents. In this system, basic services are free, but patients sometimes have to contribute, for example by paying part of the cost of prescriptions. Dental and ophthalmological services are not covered by this system.
The Spanish health system is increasingly decentralized to the 17 autonomous communities, with the possibility of planning, modifying and modernizing their health infrastructure according to the needs of local residents.
Although Spain’s population is among the healthiest in the world, with an average life expectancy of 83 years and a low rate of heart disease, issues sometimes arise over coordination and varying standards of care between the Autonomous Communities. To improve this, efforts are underway to increase shared access to digital patient health information.
Private healthcare is used less by Spanish nationals, but is preferred by those seeking value-added services such as private rooms and who wish to avoid the sometimes long waiting lists for specialist doctors.
Private providers fill gaps in health care
About 440 of Spain’s approximately 780 hospitals are privately run and operate well, with particular excellence in certain specialties, including ophthalmology. The private healthcare sector in Spain employs over 260,000 professionals and represents 3.5% of Spanish GDP.
Geographically, the highest concentration of high-level private hospitals is in Madrid and Barcelona, with the leading group of private hospitals in Spain being Quirónsalud, a network of 48 hospitals spread across 13 regions. The hospital group receives more than 30,000 international patients per year and has more than 35,000 employees.
Other big players include HM Hospitales, Vithas, Hospiten and the Quiron Group, whose extensive network of private hospitals in Spain includes Quiron Hospital and Centro Médico Teknon, both in Barcelona. As expected, Catalonia has the largest health market among the autonomous regions for total and private expenditure, and the highest rate of people enrolled in private insurance plans.
Expats who work in Spain and contribute to social services are entitled to the same public health benefits as locals. But for those whose situation means they are not entitled to public health care, private health insurance is necessary.
Many of the world’s largest health insurance providers serve Spain, including Allianz Care, Bupa Global, Cigna Global, Globality Health and APRIL International. Premium costs are very reasonable, starting at around €50 per month.