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Living in Spain - Key Information

Spanish Healthcare 

The Spanish Health Care System: Spain has a public health system so health care is free or low cost if you pay social security (families and retirees are also included). Like many countries, however, the public health service has waiting lists to see specialists and for non-urgent operations.

If you do not qualify for public health care then it is essential that you have private health insurance; you may not be allowed in the country without it. Even if you are under the public health care system it is still advisable (if you can afford) to have private health insurance in order to skip the waiting lists and receive treatment quickly. The most popular private health plans are Adeslas and Sanitas.

Spanish Hospitals: Generally the larger towns have the best hospitals, which can be found by following signs with a big white 'H' or looking in the Yellow Pages under hospitals.

When attending a hospital (except in the case of an emergency) you must present either a social security card, evidence of private health insurance or proof of ability to pay the bills. If the insurance company does not pay to the hospital directly then you should pay yourself (credit cards are generally accepted) and claim this from the insurance company at a later date.

Spanish Doctors: The system of educating doctors in Spain is very different from that used in North America. As is common in Europe, medical doctors receive their training as university undergraduates. With public health care, you will usually be assigned a general doctor where you live when issued your social security card. With insurance, you will be able to select a primary care doctor from those affiliated with your plan. There are a number of doctors in Spain who speak English, especially in cities and resort areas, including doctors who received their training in English speaking countries. Embassies and consulates usually maintain lists of such doctors.

Spanish Pharmacies: Many drugs, including antibiotics, that are available only with a prescription in other countries may be obtained directly from pharmacists in Spain without a prescription. For those drugs where a prescription is required, when given a prescription by a doctor you can pick up the drugs or medicines from a pharmacy which displays the sign of a green cross. Most pharmacies are open from 09:30 until 13:30 and from 16:30 until 20:00 from Monday to Saturday. Outside of those hours a notice will be posted of the nearest pharmacy open after 20:00. There are 24 hour pharmacies in all towns, which pharmacies are indicated by a red light on the pharmacy sign.

If you have a prescription, you pay only 40% of the medicines' cost.

For more in depth information on this topic, we highly recommend:

Living and Working in Spain: A Survival Guide

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