Accessing healthcare in Spain

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Accessing healthcare in Spain

If you are or are going to be working in Spain then you will contribute to the Spainsh Social Insurance Scheme through deductions made from your salary and you will receive a social insurance card.

The card shows your personal information and your affiliation number - which is important as it means you can then apply for your personal health card at the Health Centre closest to wherever you live in Spain.

Your health card will entitle you to free medical and hospital care for you and dependent family members. In addition, the Spanish healthcare system will pay 60% of the pharmaceutical costs of any medicines prescribed by a Doctor. You will only need to cover the costs of the remaining 40%.

If you qualify as a UK state pensioner and will therefore not be working (this includes people who receive long-term incapacity benefit, severe disablement allowance, retirement pension and widow's benefit or bereavement benefit), then you and any dependent family members should usually be eligible to receive health care cover from the UK to cover the costs in Spain.

Even if you are not a UK state pensioner you may be eligible to receive some entitlement depending on your National Insurance contributions during the two years prior to your departure from the UK. Although, if you are not going to be working, it is advisable to acquire private health insurance cover before coming to live in Spain.

To become eligible in Spain as a UK state pensioner you need to obtain an E121 form for both yourself and any dependent family members. To do this you need to register with your nearest 'Instituto de Seguridad Social' in Spain and as a resident at your local town hall (Ayuntamiento). They will keep a copy of your registration documents and then send a duplicate copy to the Department of Work and Pensions in the UK.

Once you have been issued with your health card - you will be able to receive any health care required. Although it is always a good idea to get private health insurance whilst your application is in process as it is not guaranteed that any claims will be backdated.

It is good to know that there are two and a half times as many doctors per patient in Spain than in the UK. The UK in fact does transfer a monthly sum in the region of £150 to Spain for every UK pensioner who is legally resident in Spain, yet it is interesting to note that according to research by Spain's Ministry of Health, some three quarters of Brits have not applied for a residence card. Perhaps this is partly due to Brits foreseeing potential language difficulties.

But don't worry - although the process might seem a little complicated and daunting there is literally 'Help' at hand.

A 30-year old voluntary organisation called 'Help' has been operating across Spain from Murcia right up to Gandia - providing all kinds of information and advice for ex-pats on the medical system in Spain including helping with translating for those that don't speak Spanish.

Each 'Help' faction functions separately according to the need of its area. For example 'Help' in Denia focuses mainly on helping the hospital where the organisation runs a charity shop and translation services. There is no payment policy - but donations are gratefully received.

Its factions include, but are not exclusive to Javea, Moraira, Benitachell, Calpe, Benidorm and Torrevieja.

Each faction has its own chairperson (some details below). Unfortunately 'Help' does not have a website, but there is a Care and Welfare Guide regularly distributed via the Costa Blanca News (again details below) in which 'Help' features.

For more information visit:

'Help' Organisation:

Javea Chairperson: Elizabeth Holmwood NBE
Tel: 0034 96 57 95 078, email:

Denia Chairperson: Mavis Wilkinson
Tel: 0034 96 642 1434 or 966 42 4757


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