expat network

Free Healthcare After A Move To Spain?

As a couple we are considering a move to Spain. I am 57 and eight years in from breast cancer, and my husband is 69 with a pacemaker. We are just starting to look and wanted any advice you can give.

Andrew Apps of expat financial advisers Bellwood Prestbury answered this question.

As an expat, you are currently entitled to free state healthcare if you are:

  • Resident in Spain and work in employment or self-employment and pay social security contributions,
  • A state pensioner, or
  • Staying temporarily in Spain and have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).


If you have been registered on the ‘padrón’ at your town hall for a year, the Spanish government has a state insurance scheme (‘convenio especial’) which you may be eligible for. A basic monthly fee would be payable, however as the state system is funded by social security contributions, you would need to check any special conditions/restrictions that may be applicable in your own area. Not all regions will open their schemes to expats who have not previously contributed into the social security system..

If you don’t have the right to state healthcare you will need to arrange for your own private medical insurance (or fund your care) either under a local (treatment only provided within Spain) or an international plan (allowing treatment to be sourced outside of Spain, including the UK).

In terms of international coverage (we cannot advise on local healthcare products), whilst there are a number of insurance providers (companies) offering a choice of cover options for expats living in Spain, many of these will not accept new entrants after the age of 69, so given your husgand’s age his choice of options is I am afraid going to be limited. None the less, Bellwood Prestbury do have access to a selection of plans which would provide a solution.

Turning to your pre-existing medical conditions, both will normally be automatically excluded from cover (as would any associated conditions, particular for Brian) so this will need to be borne in mind should any future treatment be required and/or regular checks-ups.

As to post-Brexit and in particular future use of the European Health Insurance Card (please bear in mind that the card is only a short-term fix), this is up in the air and at this stage, there is no information as to what will happen. There will be changes as a result of the UK departure from the EU that will affect UK nationals living overseas (within the EU). We would of course hope that some ‘special arrangement’ will be put in place, but this is as yet uncertain.