Healthcare In Portugal

One of the pivotal reasons why we were comfortable with the idea of moving to Portugal was its excellent public healthcare system. We had heard that it was one of the best in the world and the residency permit via the D7 visa gave us access to it from day 1. 

Getting On The System 

Once we had the SEF interview sorted and had settled in, we turned our attention to getting registered on the SNS (Servico Nacional de Saude), the public healthcare system. Figuring out the how and where proved to be more difficult than we expected and our first couple of forays to medical centres drew blanks. In the end we registered with Serenity Portugal, a ‘healthcare concierge’, whose reference we got on social media. They promised to help with all medical matters in Portugal including advising us on insurance.

Once we had our membership with Serenity sorted, they helped us out by recommending the correct medical centre to go to and register ourselves. To get on the SNS you will need to carry originals and copies of the following documents: 

  • Passport (front and back page)
  • Residency cards 
  • Residency certificate (from the local authority)
  • NIF registration 
  • Proof of residence (we carried our rental contract)

Supposedly this can be done online and we did try to do it via email but it didn’t work. Forcing us to try in person for the third time. Luckily the third time around proved to be effortless and we managed to get the job done. Once this was sorted, Serenity advised us on our insurance and we were completely covered. 

Public vs Private

Private insurance, our Serenity manager explained, was advisable even though we had free access to the Portuguese healthcare system. Private insurance would help us access the private healthcare system for day to day ailments. This was necessary as access to medical help through the SNS could be cumbersome and time consuming, especially for day-to-day ailments. Considering our ages, we decided to opt for a private insurance package as well. For the three of us, we pay 260 Euro a month for a reasonable coverage. Make sure you choose a package that includes dental visits and ophthalmology appointments. 

Keep in mind that free access to medicines from the SNS begins only after a 1 year period. Luckily we went back twice to India so we were able to stock up on medicines. I felt like a pharmacist, illicit of course, every time I returned to Portugal.

Our First SNS Appointment

Yesterday we had our first appointment with the doctor at the SNS. We did use Serenity to get us this appointment and had to wait for a few months before we did manage a slot. However, there is a quota kept aside for emergencies and severe medical issues, so do keep that in mind. Once your appointment is made, you will receive and email and sms confirmation as well as a call closer to date confirming your attendance. Don’t do as we did and not pick up the call as we ended up forfeiting our original appointments and had to rebook. Luckily it was only a 2-week wait for the next available slots. 

On reaching the USF centre assigned to us, we made our way to the waiting room. There was a machine at the door (thankfully in English) where we had to enter our SNS number into the machine and we then had to wait until our number was called. The waiting room was quiet and not too crowded, an amazing fact for anyone who has been to the hospitals back home. After about 15 mins. my number flashed on the board, directing me to the appropriate room. The doctor was a young fellow who spoke excellent English and patiently entered my medical history into the system. Must say, I did feel like a sickly fellow after giving him chapter and verse of my medical background. But he seemed unfazed, telling me I was in pretty good shape.

Melanie’s consult was next and we wound up by noon, a pretty effortless excursion that we would love to see repeated every time. Fingers crossed. 

Our overall experience with the healthcare system has been positive for which we are very grateful.



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