Private Healthcare in Portugal: Find out how it works and if it is worth using

11 de March, 2019

Private Healthcare in Portugal: Find out how it works and if it is worth using

Reading: 5 min

There are several health models implemented worldwide and, no different, public health and private health subsystems coexist in Portugal. In this article I will explain how the private health system works in the country and whether it is worth making the investment to use it.

If none of them is free, what is the difference between the public health system and private health in Portugal?

The public health system is the one subsidized by the government and, despite being very similar in philosophy to our SUS in Brazil, in Portugal it is not completely free, since there are fees to be paid for consultations, emergencies and treatments depending on the disease. Some cases are exempt, both because of the cause of the disease (e.g. oncological diseases) and because of low income.

In turn, the private health system is one whose services are not subsidized by the government. This type of system has grown considerably in recent years in Portugal, especially after the crisis that hit Europe in 2008/2009, due to the decrease in investment in the public health sector.

2. First of all: how do I register as a user?

First, you must register yourself in a Family Health Unit (also popularly called a Health Center), in your area of residence, preferably as a patient, only then will you have an associated health number called User Number. From then on, your family doctor will start the entire health care chain.

For this to happen, it is essential to have your PB4 in hand. This document already mentioned in previous article, know everything about it.

What are the main benefits of private health in Portugal?

Faster access to care, the possibility of choosing a doctor and, therefore, greater comfort for the patient are the main factors in the demand for private health in Portugal.

For example, imagine that you have diabetes and that, although you are accompanied by your “Family Doctor” in Portugal, you are still out of control. Remembering that in Portugal for any person registered in the National Health System is designated a “Family Doctor”, responsible for all their minor monitoring or that does not require the intervention of another specialist. If you choose to continue your care in the Public System, your “Family Doctor” will request an endocrinology consultation at the Hospital in your area of residence and it will be necessary to wait for a response from the Hospital to schedule your appointment, and this wait may last for months. But if you have the possibility of going to a private hospital or clinic (care by the Private Health System in Portugal), the consultation may only take a few days to be carried out.

Who are the main service providers?

In Portugal we have large groups of private health service providers, mostly composed of hospitals and clinics, such as Lusíadas, Luz Saúde and José de Mello Saúde (CUF Hospitals).

At the same time, there are also smaller service providers and doctors with their private offices, in a very similar way to what happens in Brazil.

Want to know how to become a doctor in Portugal? See here how to practice medicine in the country.

private health in portugal hospital

Health Insurance

Several health insurance plans are also offered in the Portuguese market and some have excellent coverage, which even include International Hospitals such as Johns Hopkins (USA) or Clínico de Navarra.

Health Insurance Prices

Insurance rates vary widely depending on the coverage, company chosen and age of the insured.

They can vary from 10€ up to 70€ per month, for example, for 30 years old people. They are usually much cheaper than what we are used to in Brazil, but they work by maximum spending quotas in each category according to the coverage chosen in the insurance.

For example, if you need a hospitalisation with a total value of €20,000 and you have chosen an insurance policy that will have a maximum coverage of €15,000 in hospitalisation (10% contribution, minimum €200 and maximum €500), you will have to pay €500 of the co-participation in the costs of the €15,000 covered by the insurer and a further €5,000 that the insurer will not cover.

It is worth remembering that all private health insurance in Portugal is subsidized by the user. That is, in addition to the monthly amount, it is also necessary to pay an amount at the time of use, as in the previous example.

Are you a doctor in Brazil and want to know how to request equivalence of your medical degree in Portugal? See here how to apply for your medical degree equivalence step by step.

Prices of consultations

The prices of coparticipation of the procedures and consultations also vary according to a table of the chosen insurance. Consultations, for example, can cost from €15 to €50 for the insurance user, as well as there is wide variation in the values of laboratory tests, surgery or other invasive procedures.

Waiting period for health insurance

There is also a waiting period here, which varies according to the type of procedure and the insurance contracted, but an average of 1 year for scheduled births and surgeries, 90 days for hospitalizations and 60 days for outpatient care.

Another observation is that most health insurance companies establish a maximum age to ensure the user if the insurance is taken out from 55 years of age, ending the contract when the user turns 65 years of age.

Health insurance coverage

In addition, it is important to understand that most private health plans do not cover pre-existing illnesses, psychiatric illnesses or drug or alcohol abuse treatments, aesthetic treatments and surgeries, artificial fertilization, and injuries from sports competitions or accidents at work.

For example, if you already have a previous cancer diagnosis, it will not be covered by insurance.

If you are considering moving to Portugal, see if it is better to apply for Portuguese nationality or a visa for residence in the country.

After all, is it worth using private healthcare in Portugal?

The cost of insurance, when compared to Brazilian health plans, is cheap and compensates for the use. In addition, the prices paid for consultations (from 60€ can be increased to 15€) and procedures (abdominal ultrasound scan from over 50€ to only 12.5€) reduce considerably, which allows greater security of immediate care by the specialty of interest, since the public health system in Portugal works as a reference.

Again, the exact values of consultations and procedures vary between the various hospitals and private clinics, as well as the amount reimbursed by the user will depend on the health insurance chosen.

When it comes to quality, there is an overlap between the public and private sectors because many of the professionals in the field work in the two systems, but with the advantage that in the private sector there are no long queues and it is possible to choose which professional to serve from.

Therefore, if your goal is to have comfort and agility the answer is yes, of course it is worth it!

Article published on the Euro Tips website: https://www.eurodicas.com.br/saude-privada-em-portugal/

Dr. Mariana Ramalho
Associate Medical Consultant



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