The good news for British retirees moving to Portugal is that their healthcare costs will be covered by the UK government, even if they have moved there after the withdrawal agreement, or are moving in the future! We cover more about post-Brexit healthcare rules…
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Can I still use my EHIC/GHIC card when visiting the doctor in Portugal?
Yes, you can! Reciprocal healthcare is continuing, meaning that there is a healthcare agreement in place between the UK and the EU. This includes the use of the EHIC and new GHIC cards, both of which are valid until they expire. You just need to make sure you take them to a public hospital or health centre, as they are not accepted within private healthcare.
When your EHIC card expires, just visit the GHIC portal and apply for one. Your EHIC will remain valid until it expires. It’s important to remember, however, that these cards are generally used for emergencies only and should be supplemented with full health or travel insurance. There are certain things that they don’t cover, such as medical repatriation.
These cards are handy for those who are going to visit their holiday home or going to Portugal for a holiday. However, if you are moving there permanently, you should register with the Portuguese healthcare system.
Can a UK pensioner in Portugal get free healthcare?
The agreement that the UK has made with the EU for reciprocal healthcare means things continue pretty much as they were before for UK state pensioners. Pensioners need to apply for an S1 form via the overseas healthcare service, which they are eligible to apply for once they receive their state pension. You then need to register this form locally (in Portugal) for this to take effect. They can also include dependents on that, such as a spouse, a civil partner, children under 26 and so on. They get that from the NHS Business Services Authority and everything about registering for an S1 form is on the gov.uk website.
The important point to remember is that this entitles you to the same healthcare that a Portuguese pensioner receives, rather than what you would receive in the UK from the NHS. This means that most things are free, such as general medicine, primary care and secondary care. However other things, such as dental care, would need to be paid for. There is also usually a small charge on prescriptions.
If you are moving to Portugal on a permanent basis, do you still have full access to the NHS?
If you are planning on moving to Portugal now or have moved since the beginning of the year, you don’t automatically retain your right to NHS services. This is because the NHS is a resident-based system, so you need to be ordinarily resident to access its services. There are some small exceptions to this, such as if you are a student.
On the whole, if you are moving to Portugal from this point onwards, you won’t retain access to the NHS. When you are travelling back to the UK, ensure that you have travel insurance. If you need primary care, for example, to visit A&E or the GP, you won’t be charged, but for anything beyond this, it wouldn’t be covered.
If you live in Portugal, you may be entitled to a Portuguese EHIC to use when you return to the UK. This card allows you to receive medical assistance during a temporary stay in the countries of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. The EHIC will cover you for emergency needs in the UK.
If you move to Portugal before you reach pensionable age, do you need private healthcare?
Everyone who’s registered as a resident can also register to access the Portuguese national health service (SNS) on the same basis as a Portuguese citizen. This applies if you’re employed, self-employed or not working. How much you pay will depend on what you’re being treated for and how you’ve accessed the healthcare system. To find out more about how to register, visit the gov.uk website.
For those moving to Portugal after the Brexit transition period, you will need a visa to go there initially. You will, therefore, be required to have health insurance for the duration of your visa and until you have residency in Portugal.