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What happens if I need medical attention during my stay in Spain?

As you know, 1 January marks the end of the various agreements that the United Kingdom had with the member countries of the European Union, putting an end to the transition period established by Brexit.

Despite the time that this transition has been in force, including provisions and agreements that have been extended over time, some questions continue to arise in this regard. Among the most important are those related to residency and the periods during which British citizens can stay, in our case in Spain, and those related to healthcare.

Today we will address the main questions on the subject and answer the main doubts that have arisen in recent weeks in view of the arrival of British citizens in Spain.

Firstly, and in general terms, healthcare in Spain is considered universal and public, which means that any person in an emergency situation is entitled to receive public healthcare.

However, all residents in Spain must register in order to access healthcare in a regulated manner. Once this procedure has been completed, and as is the case for Spanish citizens as well, basic public patient care services are free of charge, with the exception of medicines prescribed by a health care doctor, which are usually at a reduced price.

In this case, British citizens with a valid health insurance card can continue to use it until its expiry date.

From this point onwards, access to the Spanish national health system must be in one of the following ways:

  • Entitlement to health care if they are employed or self-employed and paying social security contributions in Spain.
  • Registration of the UK-issued S1 form at the social security office.
  • Entitlement to health care as a permanent resident if you have lived in Spain for 5 years.
  • Direct payment to the public health insurance scheme (Convenio Especial)
  • European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) for temporary stays for study or as a posted worker.

It is important to note that British citizens working in Spain, either as employees or self-employed, are entitled, as are their families, to state healthcare under the same conditions as a Spanish worker.  However, their dependants must register separately with the Instituto de Seguridad Social (INSS).

But what happens in cases where a person is resident in Spain but is not working?

In these cases, once you have been resident in Spain for at least 5 years, you will be entitled to apply for permanent residence, which will give you access to state healthcare under the same conditions as a Spanish citizen.

Once you are a permanent resident, you must register with your local Social Security office to receive health care.

There are also cases where you have not obtained residency and are not working. In these cases, if you have been resident in Spain for more than one year, you can apply for public health insurance through the “Convenido Especial” (Special Agreement), which includes the payment of a monthly fee that gives you access to the Spanish health system.

Finally, we can find the case of students in Spain, whether it is Erasmus, a Master’s degree or some kind of doctorate or postgraduate studies.

In this case, you will need to apply for a student GHIC to obtain the necessary health care, provided by the State, during your period of study in Spain, either for part or all of your course. This means that you will get the necessary health services under the same conditions as a Spanish citizen, either free of charge or at a reduced cost.

If you have already obtained a valid student EHIC, you can use it until the card expires.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or if you think we can help you.

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