Social security payments in Spain

Those considering moving to Spain, either in the near or distant future, may be feeling the draw of Spain for a variety of different reasons. The low cost of housing, the low cost of living, the proximity to other European countries, or simply the incredible beauty of the Iberian country with some of the most amazing coasts and mountains in the whole continent.

Some of those planning the move will already be aware of the excellent benefits to their health a life in Spain will bring and perhaps are moving to Spain for that same reason.


One of the most important contributing factors to the healthy lifestyle in Spain is the superb climate that ‘Sunny Spain’ is so famous for. Although northern Spain receives a considerable amount of rainfall and central Spain has cold winters, Spanish residents of the Mediterranean coast can enjoy mild winters and warm summers without too much rain.

The Costa del Sol, or ‘Coast of the Sun’, is named accordingly for good reason – Malaga alone enjoys about 300 days of sunshine every year. In addition to this, the town has an average annual temperature of 23° Celsius. Naturally, these kinds of climatic conditions are good news for anyone’s health – neither too cold nor too hot, and lots of sunshine to keep those vitamin D levels high.    Diet

Another clear advantage that living in Spain brings is the healthy and balanced Mediterranean diet, that incorporates the use of olive oil and fresh local fruit and vegetables. The Mediterranean diet is widely recognized for its richness and goodness, and was recently appointed the seal of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage for its importance in cultural history as well as for its healthy gastronomical qualities.

For these reasons alone it is not surprising that Spain was found to be the country with the longest life expectancy in Europe by the World Health Organisation, and second highest in the world, bested only by Japan.

So, aside from these healthy environmental benefits, the next question to ask is: does Spain have a decent health care system that expats can rely on in times of need?

National Healthcare

The simple answer is that healthcare in Spain is of a very high standard and one of the best in Europe. Spain also has 6 doctors per 1,000 people, and spends around 10% of its GDP on healthcare. When compared with the National Health Service of the UK, the Sistema Nacional de Salud (SNS) is usually viewed more favourably.

Is healthcare under the SNS available to all? This depends on your particular circumstances in Spain and your country of origin.

For all who are working in Spain under the Social Security Spain, including those that are self-employed and making social security payments in Spain, national health care is available at no cost, except for a certain proportion of the cost of prescriptions. This also includes dependents and students under the age of 26.

If you are in Spain for a short-time only then it is possible to gain access to state medical treatment if you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) that is available to citizens of EU member states. However, this is only for treatment that is medically necessary and the health system is careful to see that it is not abused by people coming to Spain specifically for the free health service. Use of the EHIC is not encouraged for longer term residents of Spain.

Non-working expats in Spain from EU member countries may be allowed to claim health benefits in Spain through the health service in their own country, but this will need to be checked with the relevant government department in their country.

In recent years austerity measures taking place in many European countries have made claiming for benefits difficult, so the particular circumstances of every individual situation may be different. Information on healthcare for British citizens in Spain can be found here.

Private Healthcare

As well as a public health system, Spain also has private health services and some hospitals and medical centres offer both public and private services.

Those who are unable to gain access to SNS benefits due to no history in the Social Security Spain, hence without a history of making social security payments in Spain may choose to take out private health insurance. This may also be preferable to the state health service because it often comes with the option of avoiding lengthy waiting times, and even of finding a doctor with a stronger English language ability. It is a good idea to look at a number of different health insurance packages before deciding which one is the most suitable.

So after you’ve found your perfect villa in the south of Spain, what do you need to do to put your mind to rest about health matters?

What to do

If you’re working in Spain then you’ll need to register with the social security Spain (TGSS) which has offices throughout Spain since you will eventually be making social security payments in Spain. You’ll also need to register your address at your local town hall and at your local medical centre.

Many doctors in Spain speak fluent English, especially in areas with lots of English speaking residents such as the Costa del Sol. If doctors are unable to speak English then there is also a translator service that can be used. For expats who feel more comfortable with an English-speaking doctor, a list can be found here.

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