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Healthcare in Portugal

Whether you are off to the sunny beaches of the Algarve or to see the historic cities of Lisbon or Porto, you’ll be joining the thousands of Brits who jet off the Portugal every year. Most of these trips and happy and care free, but it is always worth thinking about what cover you have in place for a medical emergency. EHIC cover is one possibility, but it is wise to consider taking out additional travel insurance, not just for medical care but for other holiday emergencies too.

EHIC in Portugal

EHIC is a reciprocal arrangement between the countries in the EU, and if you have applied for cards for the whole family before arriving in Portugal, you can use them to access Portuguese state healthcare. Portugal’s economy has been under increasing pressure in recent years, and this means public hospitals are often overcrowded and have lengthy waiting times. State healthcare is not free, and you will have to pay a percentage of your treatment cost. This cannot be claimed back under EHIC. Expect to be asked to contribute around 5 euros to see a GP, or 10 euros to be seen in an Accident and Emergency department. Children are seen free of charge. Any diagnostic tests such as X-rays or MRI scans are charged for, as are prescription medications. Always make sure that the doctor knows you are being treated under EHIC arrangements, and keep copies of all your receipts and invoices.

Portuguese healthcare is generally fairly good quality, and in tourist areas and cities it shouldn’t be too difficult to find an English speaking doctor. In rural areas the language barrier can be much more of an issue. If you are planning on staying in Portugal for a longer period, then you have to register with the Portuguese social security system.

Travel Insurance in Portugal

There are many private hospitals and clinics in Portugal, predominantly on the Algarve and in Lisbon. All of these offer similar standards of care to the public sector, but in more comfortable surroundings and with less of a wait for diagnosis and treatment. If you have taken out travel insurance, your insurer might be willing to pay for you to have treatment privately, but you have to agree this first. Often the insurer can liaise directly with the hospital over payment, but always keep copies of all invoices and receipts. If you run up a large bill paying for tests and diagnosis in the state system, you might be able to have this reimbursed by your insurer too. Remember to take basic information about your policy number and name of your insurance company with you on holiday. terms and conditions carefully, especially if you have suffered from health problems in the past.

In addition to enabling you to access private healthcare, travel insurance could meet the cost of transferring you back to the UK for further treatment, or extra accommodation costs for relatives who remain in Portugal as you recover. Policies vary in what they will cover and the limit on claims, so check the terms and conditions carefully, especially if you have suffered from health problems in the past.