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How the health system works in Spain for foreigners and travelers

When foreigners or travellers travel to Spain, they often ask about the health system in our country. In order to respond to these doubts, we set out below what the law says.

In order to better understand how it all works, we need to know that the Ley Organica sobre Derechos y Libertades de los Extranjeros en España y su Integración Social is that which regulates health assistance for foreigners in Spain.

Specifically, in this law it is stated that foreigners are entitled to health assistance within the terms of the health legislation.

Nevertheless, we have recently seen changes. For example, the latest royal decree attempts to safeguard universal and free healthcare for any resident of our country independent of nationality and even if that person does not possesses a legal residency permit.

With the new norm in place, foreigners who travel to Spain have the right to public healthcare, gives that this right is not tied to contributions to Social Security. Therefore it is not obligatory to hold a Spanish health card or be registered in a Region of Spain in order to beneficiate.

¿How is it regulated?

With a view to controlling possible abuses of the system, a series of measures have been implemented. One of those measures is to confirm residence in Spain after more than 90 days.

As regards operations such as transplants of organs and so as to avoid healthcare tourism, it is a requirement to be in Spain more than 2 years for those operations.

However, there are exceptions. For example, immigrants without residence papers can equally access healthcare. They only need a report by social services specifying that they do not have financial means.

Therefore, foreigners and travellers must comply with the requirements in order to access free healthcare in Spain.

Another option for travellers is to take out health insurance which covers healthcare and in this way avoid any need to worry. This is an additional cost but it is a stressfree way to travel.

It is imperative to inform yourself before travelling.