Portugal’s healthcare system is among the best in the world. Yet it is very affordable, especially compared to what people pay for healthcare in the US. In fact, for many of the most common services, it’s free.
The Serviço Nacional de Saúde, or SNS for short, offers free universal health coverage for all residents of Portugal younger than 18 and older than 65. For everybody else, there are three coexisting systems that offer world-class medical care at prices everybody can afford.
Healthcare in Portugal
Besides the SNS, there also are special social health insurance systems for specific professions, as well as voluntary private health insurance.
The Portuguese Constitution stipulates that all residents are entitled to health protection. As a result, the Ministry of Health oversees the SNS program which offers free services for everybody who needs it — although there are some small fees for things like visiting emergency rooms in order to discourage non-emergency users from clogging up hospital ER waiting rooms.
Like other publicly funded healthcare systems, it can take a little longer for things like seeing a specialist or for having elective procedures than it does in the US. But the quality of healthcare in Portugal is comparable to other European and North American countries.
If you don’t want to wait, you can purchase private health insurance and see private healthcare providers. But generally, most people can rely on public healthcare to cover most of their medical needs. And if there is a life-threatening emergency, you don’t have to worry about being presented with an enormous hospital bill at the end of your stay.
Visitors to Portugal can use the country’s healthcare system but usually are required to pay a small fee. But because healthcare in Portugal is nationalized, these costs are usually far lower than they would be in their home country.