State Healthcare in Spain is based on one’s Social Security contributions through employment or being a self-employed (autonomo) person. Those holding a European Health Insurance Card which has been acquired in their country of origin previous to their travel to Spain may also be eligible.
If you are a resident in Spain, you will be using your Social Security Card (tarjeta de la seguridad social). For general medical assistance you will have to find what is called a ‘Centro Medico’ (Medical Centre), for a consultation with a General Practitioner who advises and refers you for further diagnosis and recommended courses of treatment. Through the State Healthcare system you CANNOT access specialists directly and, once having received an appointment through your GP to see one, this is likely to be weeks or in some cases months ahead.
Spanish hospitals are well organised and equipped, offering a very high standard of care. The average hospital doctor is not likely to speak multiple languages but quite often the hospital is able to provide a voluntary translator should you not speak Spanish at all. The most important State hospital in the Marbella area is the Hospital Costa del Sol, located at Los Monteros (east side of Marbella). They can receive inpatients anytime at their Emergency Department but beware, they prioritise by the seriousness of the condition rather then from the order of arrival, so if you have twisted your ankle or have a nasty cough, you may be sitting there for some hours waiting to be treated.
PRIVATE HEALTH CARE
There is a vast network of private doctors, health centers and hospitals in Spain that are easily accessible to anyone holding a private medical insurance policy or willing to pay. The consultation fee generally varies between 60€-150€, depending on the specialist, with whom you can make an appointment directly. On this stretch of the coast there are various Hospitals such as Hospiten (Estepona area), USP Hospital (Marbella) and Xanit (Benalmádena) that provide state of the art facilities for both specialist ‘walk-in’ consultations and in-house operations to a high level. These hospitals and doctors are generally multi-lingual and are accustomed to treating foreign patients.
The most important private health centers and hospitals are affiliated to one or other (or multipe) of the biggest Private Medical Insurance providers in Spain, such as SANITAS, ADESLAS, BUPA, FREMAP, CASER, ASISA, DKV, and although these policies come with a pricy monthly fee (as from 60€), they provide perfect peace of mind and convenience for most of those living in Spain as a foreign country.
DOCTOR TO HOME
Another interesting medical service we are lucky enough to have on the coast is Helicopteros Sanitarios. It is an emergency and home doctor service complete with Helicopters and many Ambulances working around the clock, coordinated from a medical centre offering a large team of specialists, nursing services and medical check-ups. Their annual package is realistically priced and provides home assistance as soon as first symptom appear, no matter how minor, with a thorough examination, diagnosis and treatment in the comfort of your own home. Attending your children’s flu at night or providing an emergency treatment anywhere you may be on the road, it’s not about whether you can afford to join Helicopteros Sanitarios, but rather whether you can afford not to be a member.
In Spain, dentists are not covered either by the State or by private medical insurance. The latter will offer you a basic package for maintenance and some emergency treatment, but essentially you will have to pay for dental treatments, there is no way around it.
WORDS BY Andrea Blackwell