Monday, August 3, 2009

Health Care Stories: Madrid, Spain

Desiree gives us the 411 on private and public health care in Spain.

If we have something good in Spain apart from our lifestyle, it is the public health care system. We’ve got a lot of people from Europe coming to get their surgery here, which is quite annoying!! Believe me, while it is one of the best in the world, as always, you will find people complaining because for the regular things like visiting the doctor it can take a few more days than you were thinking, but once you or your family get really sick and are cared for by any public hospital, you change your mind because they don't spare any expense. When you don't work, you are the beneficiary of an employed member of your family. Once you start working, you have your own number and you pay a quantity every month depending on your age and income. Now we have a problem, because in the past the health system was through the central government. But a few years ago they decided to give it to each province, which means that right now depending on where you live you have better or worse care, which in my opinion, living in the province with the best hospitals and care, is very unfair.

Another problem is that in the last 5 years we have grown a lot; we have received a lot of immigrants because we need a cheap work force, and all our public services weren't ready for that many people. That means that right now the health care is worse than before.

I think your private health care is like our public one (except they don't give you a menu for lunch). Here, private health care is faster for doctor’s appointments, but quite poor because they really pay attention to each cost.

Public Health

The Spanish state covers the health and pharmaceutical needs of all its citizens by means of the National Health Service, financed through Social Security contributions and managed by the Autonomous Communities through their Consejerías de Sanidad (Health Departments) and Servicios Regionales de Salud (Regional Health Services). More than 90% of the population use this system for their medical needs.

All employed and self-employed persons must join the Social Security system and pay monthly Social Security contributions. They are given a Social Security card, which must be applied for in the Health Centre corresponding to their address. This entitles them to obtain free medical, pharmaceutical and hospital care, but not dental care.

The system allows members of the public to choose their own GP. Most patients can obtain an appointment with their doctor within one or two days. To consult a specialist, patients must be referred by their GP, except in urgent cases. Unfortunately, as in most European countries, the waiting lists for a specialist visit or for elective or non-urgent surgery are usually long.

In an emergency, the best thing to do is to go to the nearest emergency department and, if necessary, you can call an ambulance by phoning 112.

Drugs are always prescribed by a doctor using an official prescription, and the patient pays 40% of the price. Medicines usually cost less than in other countries, due to price capping by the government.

Pharmacists are open in shifts to offer after-hours service (night and public holidays). You can find out which pharmacist is on duty by looking in the newspaper or in the window of any pharmacy, where a list will usually be posted.

EU citizens who are not in the Social Security System may obtain health care during temporary trips to Spain provided they have obtained the European Health Card in their own country.

Private Health

Approximately 15% of the population has taken out a form of private medical insurance to complement or as an alternative to the public health service. It is possible to take out such insurance with one of the many private medical companies or firms in Spain. These companies have their own clinics, surgeries and laboratories. Prices vary depending on the age and sex of the beneficiary. To give you an idea, a man of 40 will pay around €44 per month, while a woman of the same age will pay €50.


Madrid, Spain

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