Healthcare in Spain

Spain is a country in Europe with a population of over 46 million. Their healthcare system regularly ranks as one of the best in the world and is usually the highest rated in the European Union. It was also ranked as the healthiest country in the world.  Healthcare in Spain is established widely throughout the country. There is healthcare available within 15 minutes of every residence. Spain has one of the highest life expectancies in Europe. The Spanish Constitution of 1978 establishes the right to health protection and healthcare for all citizens. Healthcare is public, free, and available to every Spanish resident. Healthcare in Spain was decentralized in 2002, from being controlled by the central government to being the responsibility of each of the 17 Autonomous Communities that take individual responsibility for implementing and executing healthcare. 

The current healthcare system in Spain consists of three organizational levels. First is the central level. It is run by the Ministry of Health. It is the state’s central administration agency and is in charge of issuing health proposals and planning and implementing government health guidelines, among other things. The second level is the Autonomous Community. Each of the 17 Autonomous Communities is responsible for offering integrated health services to the region. The last level is the local or “areas de salud”. They are responsible for the management of the health services offered at the Autonomous Community level. They are defined by taking into account factors of demography, geography, climate, socioeconomics, employment, epidemiology and culture. The “areas de salud” are subdivided into smaller units called “zonas basicas de salud”.  

Public healthcare in Spain is called SNS (Servicio Nacional de la Salud) or seguridad social. It covers a range of healthcare services, including general medicine, family practice, pediatrics, and a range of other specialties, nursing and physical therapy. The system has its own doctors, clinics and hospitals. Many Doctors have their own practices. Healthcare centers are all over the country, no more than a few minutes from your residence. Even small villages have at least one clinic but it might not be open every day. Family doctors and pediatricians are appointed to patients within their region. They will refer patients to a specialist when needed. Spouses and children of the insured person also benefit from coverage. Private healthcare in Spain runs alongside the public system. Some providers offer both public and private care. Many people choose private insurance to give them access to wider and quicker treatment. Around 19% of the population has some form of private healthcare coverage. 99.7% of the Spanish population uses the public healthcare system and only 3% of the population decides to go with the private sector. 

The public healthcare system in Spain is free for every citizen apart from some small costs. This is made possible because it is funded by social security payments from employed and self-employed workers. Everyone working and paying taxes in Spain is eligible for public healthcare. The elderly, children, unemployed workers can all access healthcare for free even if they don’t pay social security. The costs of public healthcare may vary between autonomous regions as well. The seguridad social typically pays most, if not all of the cost of medical treatment and hospitalizations. As wells as up to 40% of the cost of prescribed medications. The patient pays the rest, or buys supplemental insurance to cover the difference. Most out-of-pocket payments are for prescriptions, dental care and some specialized treatments.  

Spain has a well-known and high-quality healthcare system. They are usually recognized for their excellent mental, prenatal and child healthcare. Medical staff is well trained and most go on to work in the public sector. Most residents are generally happy and satisfied by the healthcare in Spain. However, there are some issues. Residents are not allowed to choose their own doctors. There can also be a wait time for some procedures and treatments from specialists. Overall, Spain has a well-regarded and well working healthcare system.