Medical Plans for Portuguese Expats Living Abroad
There are more than 2.3 million Portuguese living abroad, which accounts for approximately 20% of the country’s population. According to data gathered in the most recent report from the Emigration Observatory, Portugal has the second-highest emigrated population in the EU, behind Malta. Portuguese emigrate mostly within Europe, to France, Spain, and the UK. Portuguese citizens are accustomed to a good quality healthcare system at home and use private healthcare only to supplement certain areas, such as dental or vision care. Because of that, expats from Portugal living abroad can find it confusing when they move to another country where the healthcare system works differently. Understanding and using private expatriate healthcare for the first time abroad can also seem complicated to anyone.
Health Insurance for Portuguese Living Abroad – The European Union
Portuguese expatriates moving to another European Union country can use the EHIC card. The European Health Insurance Card is free, and Portuguese expats must apply for it in Portugal before leaving the country. It allows Portuguese expats to access public healthcare services at the same terms and costs as local citizens of the country they’re going to. However, there are downsides to using EHIC: first of all, public healthcare services differ from country to country. While Portuguese citizens back home can enjoy free or heavily subsidized access to healthcare services, some European countries’ national healthcare systems have different coverages. Also, EHIC is only available for emergency and medically necessary treatments, not for routine medical check-ups. While residing in another EU country, it is still essential to have medical coverage for any non-emergency medical care.
Will Your Portuguese Health Insurance Cover You Outside of the European Union
If you reside outside of Portugal for less than 183 days in a calendar year, you are considered no longer a permanent resident of Portugal, and you will stop being covered under Portugal’s social security system. As a result, you will not be entitled to free or subsidized healthcare services, medicine purchases, or any other services under the Portuguese healthcare system.
Moreover, other than the EHIC card coverage in the European Union, you will not be covered abroad for medical expenses, with the exception of a few reciprocal healthcare agreements Portugal has in place with several countries. Therefore, it is wise to purchase an international health insurance policy to cover costs of healthcare abroad, which may be extremely high.
Reciprocal Healthcare Arrangement With the UK
Since the UK’s exodus from the European Union, British citizens residing in Portugal and Portuguese citizens residing in the UK can use their respective country’s emergency medical services based on the EHIC and GHI (Global Health Insurance Card). The coverage includes chronic or existing illnesses and routine maternity care as well as emergencies.
Reciprocal Healthcare Arrangement With Non-EU Member Countries
There are bilateral agreements between Portugal and non-EU member countries, subject to reciprocity, that allow equal treatment of nationals in a situation of stay or residence in these countries, covering illness and medically necessary treatments. The countries with bilateral healthcare agreements with Portugal are as follows: Andorra, Brazil, Cape Verde, Quebec, Morocco, and Tunisia. These bilateral agreements cover workers, pensioners, and their families.
Buying Private Global Insurance While Living Abroad
However, neither EHIC nor the reciprocal healthcare agreements Portugal have are a substitution for travel health insurance or actual health insurance. These agreements only cover medically necessary treatments and do not allow for any routine care reimbursements. All expats from Portugal living abroad should have international health insurance to protect themselves from the high medical costs they can encounter abroad.
While the Portuguese healthcare system is comprehensive, of good quality, and mainly free to their citizens, it is not always the case with other countries’ healthcare systems. For example, in Finland, even if the healthcare system is considered universal, there are nominal fees for each doctor’s visit and medical procedure, while in Poland, even if the healthcare coverage is extensive and free, it may take you months before you will get a specialist appointment.
Things for Portuguese Citizens Living Abroad to Consider When Buying Health Insurance
Expats from Portugal, when buying private health insurance abroad for themselves, should get a plan that resembles the closest standards of receiving healthcare to what they are used to back at home. Usually, global health insurance plans cover all the things that you are used to having covered under your Portuguese health insurance. And, of course, having an international insurance plan means you can access healthcare in Portugal when you are back there for a visit or when you decide to go back.
Another tip for Portuguese expats abroad buying health insurance abroad is to ensure their new policy gives you access to English-speaking doctors. English-speaking medical and administrative staff can be usually found in private healthcare facilities worldwide, therefore, global health insurance is usually the favorable option for expatriates to choose from when residing abroad. There is nothing more daunting than not being able to explain your symptoms to a doctor or not fully understanding your treatment.
- The flexibility to tailor a plan to suit your individual needs
- Access to Cigna Global’s trusted network of hospitals and doctors
- The convenience and confidence of 24/7/365 customer service
- Private medical insurance for non-US expats
- Four distinct plans with the option to choose area of cover
- Ability to add optional plans
Best Health Insurance for Portuguese Citizens in the US
Expats from Portugal arriving in the US should be aware that the cost of healthcare in the US is one of the highest in the world. While in Portugal, you may have been used to free or heavily subsidized healthcare, there is no such thing in the US, not even for the US citizens. Even if for a short stay, everyone arriving in the US is highly encouraged to purchase US health insurance to protect themselves from high medical costs.
Expatriates living in the US do not qualify for any of the federal health insurance programs, Medicaid or Medicaid, therefore, the only route to covering your medical expenses is through a private health insurance plan. Learn more about typical US healthcare costs here.
When choosing the best health insurance for Portuguese citizens in the US, what’s extremely important is the medical provider’s network of the plan or insurance company you are covered with. Very often in the US, you are given a private health insurance card, which in certain places, allows you to receive medical treatment without having to pay for it upfront and then asking for reimbursement from the insurance company. This is called direct billing.
Wider network provider lists also mean that your benefit limits within this network of medical providers can be higher compared to medical facilities outside of the list. This, of course, depends on your plan’s terms and conditions, but it is something to be aware of when making a decision in choosing your US health insurance plan. Large US health insurance companies, such as Cigna or GeoBlue, are known to have a lavish network of healthcare providers in the US and worldwide.
- Premium Benefits, Coverage and Service
- Define your deductible and prescription benefits
- For Foreigners in the US or US Citizens Abroad
Government Recommendations for Portuguese Expats Abroad
Portugal’s government provides comprehensive online information about their embassies and consulates around the world. The Portuguese Communities Portal of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides a list with information regarding several countries. Among the information available, there is information about the entry and stay regime in each country (the necessary visas and documents), transport, accommodation, and healthcare when traveling there. It also offers advice on living abroad, working abroad, accessing information regarding taxation, driving license, study, rights of Portuguese citizens, and what to do in case of an emergency abroad. The majority of the pages in the portal are in Portuguese.
- Expatriate Health and Life Insurance
- Understanding the Healthcare System in Portugal
- Moving Abroad Checklist