Health is an important issue when planning a move to Portugal. Below is general information to clarify what to expect from medical services while in Portugal.
As short term visitors, all EU nationals are entitled to free healthcare under the EU reciprocal health agreements. You will need to acquire an E111 form from the local main post office in your country of origin and submit it to the clinic or hospital should healthcare be necessary while in Portugal.
However for those moving to Portugal to live as EU residents, free basic healthcare is an entitlement within the Portuguese health system, including free doctors' appointments and basic medicines. Retired EU nationals, who plan to live permanently in Portugal, need form E121. EU citizens who retire before qualifying for a state pension can receive free health cover for two years by obtaining form E106. Should this temporary cover expire before reaching retirement age, two options are available: Either, you can make voluntary social security contributions, or take out private health insurance. All non-EU nationals will need to take out private health insurance to obtain treatment in Portugal.
If you work in Portugal and are contributing to their social security system, you will be entitled to free treatment across the medical spectrum. Remember that what are considered to be non-essential medicines are not free and charged at between 40 and 100% of the full cost. As pharmacies in Portugal are manned by qualified chemists, many medicines can be bought over the counter at full price, without a prescription from your doctor, making life easier than other systems such as in the UK where a doctor's prescription is mandatory.
As a resident in Portugal, you will be eligible for a medical card allowing free medical assistance from your own GP at a local health centre. To get the card, you will need to submit your residency permit and social security card (issued with the residency permit) and present it at the health centre.
Despite the availability of the state run healthcare system, private medical insurance has its benefits: continued cover wherever you are in the world and faster access to specialists and private hospital treatment.
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