International healthcare, medical insurance in Barcelona


Public Health Care

The public healthcare system is known as Seguridad Social. The system offers universal coverage as a constitutionally-guaranteed right. However, the public health service may only covers 75 percent of the cost of treatment. There are no out-of-pocket expenses.

Public insurance does not allow for discrimination relating to age, sex or state of health for coverage. Although the level of premium can vary from one company to another, they must be identical within the same company for all insured persons of the same age group and region, regardless of sex or state of health. This does not apply to complementary insurance, where premiums are risk-based.

Private Insurance

About 12 percent of the population of Spain has private health insurance (up to 25 percent in Barcelona). Expats may prefer private healthcare in order to have access to more options for treatment and physicians. The largest benefit in private health insurance is the ability to avoid the long queues of the public health system.

Most employers offer a private health insurance for expat assignees. Check your company contract, or use it for bargaining.

If you need to secure your own insurance, investigate what exactly is covered and where. Most Spanish health insurance providers offer plans that best suit the local market, so it may be best to consider an international provider.


Prices for private insurance start at about 30 euro/month for a 30 year-old male. There is usually an initial fee of about 30 euros. It can be difficult to secure insurance for people over the age of 57.

Private providers operate in different ways; some reimburse the amount spent on healthcare, others pay medical bills directly. Inquire when you are investigating companies.

The European Health Insurance Card

The European Health Insurance Card allows access to medical assistance for EU citizens traveling to another Member State. It also expedites reimbursement of expenses.

    The European Health Insurance Card is issued to:
  • EU nationals
  • Nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA)
  • Spanish nationals
  • Family members of the above, whatever their nationality
  • Nationals of other countries, who are covered by a social security system in one of the Member States of the EU, the EEA or Spain

The pocket-sized plastic card contains basic information such as the card holder's name and surname and date of birth, but no medical details. It is easy to use as it has a gold chip that contains complete medical history and records.

The card can be used at any kind of health service, like a general practitioner, a hospital or a pharmacy. When the need for health care arises, treatment will be provided according to the rules of that particular Spain (for example if health care is free of charge in that Member State, the visiting patient will also be entitled to free medical care when presenting his/her European Health Insurance Card). It is not permissible to use it if the patient intentionally decides to obtain medical treatment abroad.

Update 16/01/2013


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Expatriate health insurance in Spain

With so much to deal with before leaving your home country, (taxes, moving house, paperwork etc.) the careful planning of your expatriation to Barcelona is an essential step. As far as healthcare is concerned, your local social security scheme won’t be accompanying you to your host country and, once abroad, you might be surprised by the care system you find in Spain So, before leaving, make sure you have appropriate cover!

Designed for either short or long stays, APRIL International’s insurance policies offer protection against any problems that might arise before departure or during your time in Spain: cancelling your trip, medical expenses following an illness or accident, needing to be repatriated, causing damage to a third party or losing your luggage.

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Find more definitions and general answers on expatriation issues in the Expat FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions).

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