“How retirees in Spain should use the S1 to save on private healthcare”

How retirees in Spain should use the S1 to save on private healthcare

One of the most expensive parts of getting a visa to move to Spain is the private healthcare required for the application. This is typically €800 to €1,500 a year for a person aged 50-65, assuming no pre-existing conditions.

But some good news in the last year – this was not the case in early 2021 - is that British people in receipt of a UK state pension are entitled to access Spanish state healthcare. State pension age in the UK is currently between 66 and 67, depending on your date of birth.

Access Spanish state healthcare with an S1 form

Pension recipients will need a certificate of entitlement known as an S1 form, which is obtained from the Overseas Health Service in the UK 90 days before moving to Spain and is presented with their visa application. The S1 form can be sent to a UK address or a Spanish address.

Further good news is that if just one of a married couple is in receipt of a state pension, but the other is not because they are younger, they can ‘piggyback’ on their spouse’s S1. This is known as a joint S1 form is for married couples, civil partners and those who can show they are a ‘durable partner’.

How easy is it to get an S1 form?

Jude and Ed in Spain

For Jude Baker, 64, who moved with her husband Ed, 75, to Playa Blanca in Lanzarote from Cornwall in October 2021, this has been very good news. The couple purchased a three-bedroom villa to spend their retirement away from ‘cold and wet England’ and each applied for a Non-Lucrative Visa (NLV) as they will not be earning income in Spain.

 “The S1 form was much simpler than all the visa forms, just a few personal details,” says Jude. “I had to do a separate form to Ed, but I was named as a dependent/spouse on Ed’s form. This was then registered electronically at the INSS (Spanish social security office) and we received our Tarjeta Sanitaria (health card) in the post that entitles us to register with the local healthcare centre to be able to use their services.”

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In Spain not all state healthcare is free, even to locals, and 10% of medications and prescriptions is payable.

“When we started to apply for our visas we had to take out a year’s private healthcare which cost us €3,500,” says Jude. “So we are very relieved we do not have to pay that again when the policy expires in a few weeks.”

Can S1 holders avoid paying for any private healthcare if they have their S1 form in place when they apply for their NLV? Melanie Radford of the relocation department of My Lawyer in Spain who assisted the Bakers with submitting both their S1 forms and NLV applications says: “the S1 form is acceptable when applying for the NLV instead of private medical insurance. Once the S1 form is registered, you can access the Spanish healthcare system.

Losing access to the NHS 

But do bear in mind you will lose your right to access the NHS, so make sure the timing is right – you can apply for the S1 90 days before your planned move to Spain. If there is a ‘gap’ of cover during the move process, you are advised that some form of stop-gap private cover might be required.

If British nationals are applying for a golden visa and are of state pension age, they can also use the S1 form in this way.

Having just had a hip replacement operation, Jude is enjoying a sun-drenched recuperation. “We love it here and think that despite all the paperwork needed to get here, it’s worth it,” she says.

Liz Rowlinson