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The public health system in Portugal

Portugal benefits from access to a quality public health system (12th in the OECD ranking). At-risk populations such as children, pregnant women and the elderly have prompt access to care of quality roughly equal to that observed in Europe. 
The Portuguese National Health System (SNS) is composed of : 

  • local health units,

  • of groups of health centres 

  • of public hospitals 

In general, health care is provided by health centres (centros de saúde) and their local branches. When a patient wishes to consult a specialist doctor, an appointment can be made within 72 hours through these centres. This is, therefore, a relatively efficient system, given the delays in access to care observed in other European countries.) 
In an emergency, the patient can go to the nearest permanent care service (Serviço de Atendimento Permanente, SAP) or the hospital. When the waiting period for admission to a hospital exceeds three months, the patient has the right to go to a private clinic contracted by the Ministry of Health.
However, the public health system in Portugal is not free of charge, although it is much cheaper than a private service. Each consultation, whether at the health centre or in hospital, has a co-payment. A general medical consultation costs on average €4.50 and general emergency service costs around €18.

The private health system in Portugal

Portugal’s private health system is totally independent of the public system. Acts and care provided in private establishments are not reimbursed by any social security system. In private establishments, the patient is, therefore, responsible for all his or her medical expenses.
There are 107 private hospitals in Portugal (almost as many as public hospitals), which are generally state-of-the-art, modern and with rapid access to care. In Portugal, a consultation with a specialist in a private hospital costs on average €80. It is therefore very common to have recourse to private insurance. 

Private health insurance in Portugal

Private insurance, in Portugal, as in other countries, adapts its rates to the age and takes into account the health risks of the customer. 
Most Portuguese private health insurances offer various formulas such as : 

  • Hospitalization” products: with high deductibles and sometimes with no age limit

  • “Partner network card” products: the discount card entitles you to a percentage discount on the public prices of the private network (40-50%).

  • Mixed network/reimbursement” products: products at the first euro, covering most of the expenses incurred with the partner network, and reimbursing part of the costs incurred outside the network or abroad.

These private coverages allow the Portuguese population to access a more comprehensive healthcare offer, combining public and private services.