The Spanish medical system

How public and private systems work

In Spain, there is a parallel public health care system and a network of private health insurance companies. You don’t have to have private health care to obtain medical treatment in Spain, but it does enable you to get quicker treatment for non-emergency procedures, specialist consultancies and analytic tests.

Public health care

Over 90% of the population in Spain makes use of the public system for their medical needs. The most frequent model allows residents in Spain to choose their primary care doctor (GP), through which they access the rest of the system. In order to consult a specialist, patients must first be referred by their primary care doctor (except in emergencies). Since medical care is covered by the state, there should usually be no out-of-pocket expenses. However, dental and eye care tend to be covered privately, as public resources are quite limited when it comes to this type of healthcare.

Unfortunately, as in some other European countries, there can be long waiting lists to see specialists and for elective and non-emergency surgical care, although wait periods depend on the specific treatment needed.

Private health care

An estimated 18% of the population holds private health insurance including most civil servants who have the choice of coverage by the public or private systems. Private insurance is used either as a supplement or an alternative to public care.

The advantage of private insurance is that companies have significantly shorter waiting lists and sometimes better facilities. Adeslas, Asisa and Sanitas are the largest private healthcare providers in Spain


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