Becoming ill in a foreign country is something that we all worry about, especially if you don’t speak the local language and the healthcare system is totally alien. Although most of us take good health for granted, somewhere a long the line you are going to need to see a doctor and you should be prepared for that eventuality.
Many people relocating to Spain are on a budget until they establish themselves. For many, the big question is: Am I Entitled to Free Health Care?
Spain’s public health service is known as the Instituto Nacional de la Salud (INSALUD). If you make Spanish social security contributions via your employment or your business you and your family are entitled to the same free health care as a Spanish National. Once you register to pay Social Security, you will become a member of INSALUD. You will be provided with a social security card (tarjeta) and be assigned a doctor.
For more information on Social Security contact the Instituto Nacional de la Seguridad Social www.seg-social.es (there is a page available in English).
If you are an EU National and have made contributions to your home Social Security scheme for two years prior to your arrival in Spain, you may be entitled to public health cover in Spain for a limited period dating from your last payment at home. In order to qualify for this, you need to take Form E106 (pick this up at your local Social Security branch) to the local provincial office of the Instituto Nacional de la Seguridad Social.
To ensure that you can see a doctor, before arriving in Spain you should apply for one of the following forms depending on your circumstances:
European Health Insurance Cover
For tourists and non-residents, form EHIC (European Health Insurance Cover) has replaced the old E111. The form E111 is no longer valid. You can apply online at www.dh.gov.uk/travellers. Have a photocopy of your EHIC ready to show the doctor the original and hand in the copy. You will find lots of information on health for travellers on the site mentioned above.
This is applicable for those who settle in Spain after early retirement, i.e. before the normal UK pensionable age (60 for women, 65 for men). However, you will still need a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and you will be automatically be sent an EHIC Application Pack with your E106 form.
UK pensioners (anyone receiving an Old Age Pension or a disability pension) who live in Spain will be entitled to receive free medical treatment under the same conditions as Spanish State Pensioners. The UK pays Spain an annual lump sum per pensioner to cover their health costs and prescribed medicines are free. To establish your entitlement you must obtain form E121 from the DSS in the UK.
To register a UK-issued form E121 you need to go to your local INSS office – Oficina del Instituto Nacional de Seguridad Social with your E121, application for a residence card and your passport. The INSS will then issue you with a ˜tarjeta de afiliación’ and assign you an outpatients clinic (ambulatorio) and INSALUD doctor. You must apply for a residence card before your E121 can be registered.
To obtain an E106 or an E121 contact:
Department of Social Security (DSS)
Pensions and Overseas Benefits Directorate:
Newcastle Upon Tyne
You will need to apply for these forms at least 8 weeks before travelling. The DSS will not send forms to a UK address so you will have to make arrangements for them to be sent to Spain.
If you aren’t covered by Spanish social security, it’s imperative that you have private health insurance (unless you have a very large bank balance). The policies offered by Spanish and foreign companies generally differ considerably in the extent of cover, limitations and restrictions, premiums, and the choice of doctors, specialists and hospitals.
Find below a list of private insurance companies:
DKV Seguros: http://www.dkvseguros.com
Usually prices are about 30â‚¬ /month for someone around 30 years old.
In An Emergency
In an emergency look for the urgencias (emergency) section of the nearest hospital. Before you have established yourself, for less urgent problems, it would be advisable to go to a private clinic to avoid a long wait.
Farmacias (Chemists) in Spain are also excellent as a first port of call as they are very informative and you can usually buy a lot more over the counter than you can in the UK. There is at least one chemist in every town and in the main towns they work on a rota system to ensure that there is one available 24 hours a day.
In Spain, all dentists are private meaning that you will have to pay for every visit and treatment. Prices are similar to those of the UK although levels of service tend to be a lot higher. There are many international dentists available on the Costa Blanca and the Costa Calida including British, German and Scandinavian.
There are several hospitals and clinics in the area, both private and public.
Vega Baja Hospital
Public hospital located in Orihuela. You may also hear it being called San Bartolome or Orihuela Hospital.
Tel: 966 776 166
Hospital de Torrevieja
Recently opened (October 2006) public hospital on the outskirts of Torrevieja towards Los Balcones.
Tel: 965 721 000
Private hospital in Torrevieja with the best cancer unit in Spain and one of the best X-ray departments.
Tel: 966 921 313
Located in San Javier, this hospital, although for the nearby military camp, is also open to the public.
Tel: 968 570 050
Public hospital with a top cardiology unit.
Tel: 966 679 000
Alicante General Hospital
Sometimes also known as the Provincial Hospital, this public hospital has been recently remodelled to include several specialised units, including burns.
Tel: 965 938 300
Alicante also has many smaller private hospitals many of which have contracts with the public health departments so you could find yourself referred to one for specialised treatment.
Torrevieja itself also has three main clinics; La Loma, Nueva Torrevieja, with 24 hour emergency unit, ambulance service, X-ray clinic and maternity consultation. Patricio Perez in the town centre where specialists hold consultations and the Acequion Clinic where services include therapy sessions. All of the above have blood analysis clinics as well as a group of nurses for treating minor ailments
You will find that there is usually bilingual staff on hand at the private hospitals although you will more than certainly need a translator if attending a public clinic or hospital.