If you’re living on the Costa del Sol, then you will need access to medical care. Although it’s a very healthy place to live, and life expectancies are long, you need to feel protected should you, or your family fall ill.
The Spanish National Health system is generally very good, with excellent reputation for specialists and we’re lucky to have a wonderful hospital on the Costa del Sol. There are many local health centres which you can join depending on where you live.
You need to get a NIE number and a social security number, then register on the padron in your local Town Hall. This “padron” shows officially where you live and enables you to register for both schools and your local doctor’s surgery.
As long as you, or one member of your family is working and paying their Social Security payments you are all entitled to healthcare. If you aren’t both working, then one of you needs to be a “beneficiario” on the other’s card. Some Doctor’s surgeries will allow you to register as a dependent in the surgery itself, others will ask you to go to your nearest social security office to do it. Here is an excellent guide to getting healthcare in Spain which goes into much more details about the different ways to register and the ins and outs of the system.
Once you’re registered you can make an appointment in person at the surgery, but we recommend using the website of Salud Responde which allows you to do loads of things from home including making an appointment, choosing a doctor, changing contact details and downloading forms. There is also a mobile phone App of the same name, which enables people to book appointments with their doctors and health centres, which has seen a lot of traffic in 2015, as more people use mobile devices.
The main problem for foreigners is ensuring their level of Spanish is up to visiting the doctor, as it can be tough to explain what’s wrong and understand complicated diagnosis or instructions on what to do. Some doctor’s surgeries in the most popular expat areas and the Costa del Sol hospital have volunteer translators on hand to help you, but it’s best to be prepared to speak Spanish if you can.
There are lots of ways that you can learn Spanish. One great resource is Notes in Spanish, where they do regular audio recordings about different topics to help you hear the vocabulary and be able to pronounce it properly as well as understand it in a spoken setting. They have a podcast all about illnesses and doctors with both phrases and vocabulary that will help you to deal with visiting the doctor.
If this is too daunting for you, then there are loads of options for private health cover including the biggest players such as Sanitas (like Bupa). Shop around, as prices vary hugely and it depends on what you need as to which service is right for you.
One popular option here on the Costa del Sol is Helicopteros Sanitarios, which is a middle option as it is a home doctor’s service, where they will come to your home to treat you, as well as having some clinics where you can pop in for an appointment. They also have ambulances and helicopters which can take you to a national health hospital quickly, treat you on the way and help you on arrival to the hospital, briefing the doctors before handing you over to their care. In an area with few ambulances and big distances between hospitals this can be a good option and is a lot cheaper than the more comprehensive health insurances.
For more information on living on the Costa del Sol, the benefits of renting long term here, or advice on where to live please browse our site. We’re here to help you find the best long term rental property and make yourself at home here, so please don’t hesitate to ask.