Friday, August 13, 2010

Health cover in Spain. National Health System -v- Private Health Insurance

OK, this is just a general post to voice my opinions/experiences of the health service/s here in Spain.

Firstly, I shall mention The Spanish Health System, free to those who pay into the system.

The spanish health system works pretty much the same as UK.  I'm unable to comment as to whether this applies to other countries too.

Providing you pay into the system, i.e via your employment or voluntarily, you are eligible for free national health cover.  The payment via employment is not cheap (currently approx 250E per month) but, this does include paying towards your pension and unemployment benefits for those who have contributed previously.

There are several hospitals in all areas of Spain.  I have experience only of Hospital Comarcal in Torre del Mar, Velez Malaga, plus little knowledge of the  Carlos Haya Hospital in Malaga City .

Hospital Comarcal is a general hospital.  I'll share with you my few experiences of this hospital.  Crickey, this sounds like I'm a regular visitor (yikes) but I can happily say that's not the case.

Back in 2004, my mother in law became ill and was told by the village doctor that she had food poisining.  He prescribed a plethora of pills and advice, but nothing was helping.  In fact she was becoming increasingly worse by the day.  Anyway, to cut a long story short, we all decided it was time to take her to the hospital as she had become so week & extremely ill.  Upon arrival and after a very long wait, she was diagnosed with kidney failure due to the food poisining & taken into intensive care.  From memory, I think she was in IT for about 3-4 days before being transferred to a normal ward where she spent at least another 10 days to recover.

The service received.   In our opinion, my MIL was so ill that the speady care & diagnosis at Comarcal is the only reason she is still with us today.  We truly believe that if she was in the UK at the time, she may not have survived.  Just about says it all doesn't it?  Not that I'm knocking the health care system in the UK, far from it.  They do a fabulous job (another system I've experienced) but the health care in Spain is far better.  I've always had a saying since my MIL was there 'if I'm going to be ill, I'd prefer to be in Spain rather than the UK, despite the language barrier', little did I know that was going to be the case this year!.

I became very ill in December of last year (2009).  I'd known for while I had problems, but chose to ignore them (how stupid is that?).  Anyway after feeling like death, my husband finally said, enough of this I'm taking you to the hospital.  We arrived at approx 5.30pm and left there at 6am the following morning!  During this time I saw doctors, had scans, X-rays etc and was finally told 'there's nothing wrong with you, go home'.  So, go home we did.  There I stayed, sat on the sofa 24/7 feeling worse by the minute.  New Year's eve came & went.  Then on the 1st January our amazing friends Sue & Tony came around (they had been chatting with my husband on Skype so where very aware of the symptoms etc) and said we're taking you to another hospital for a second opinion.  Sadly, Sue's husband had colon cancer 5 years previous, but did not survive.  She new I had colon cancer, as my symptoms were too similar to that which her husband had & that's why she insisted on taking me for a second opinion.  Thanks Sue.  I felt so ill, there was no way I was going anywhere, but agreed I would go tomorrow.  So, next day I managed to get myself showered & dressed and Sue & Tony took us to a private clinic in Nerja called Clinica Rincon.  We decided to go there because we do actually have private health insurance which is covered through this particular clinic.  We should have gone there to start.

After seeing the doctor and him viewing the X-rays etc provided by the Hospital Comarcal.  He simply said, this needs looking into further.  He could clearly see a problem the national hospital could not!  They sent me directly to the Sanitas Private Hospital in Malaga City.

Upon arrival, we waited only 10 minutes to see a doctor.  After several questions, viewing the previous X-rays etc, and a bit of prodding & poking, I was immediately put on a drip and taken to my private room & told they would be doing tests tomorrow.  I told my husband & friends they should go home as there's no more they can do.

Not to go on too much, after more scans & X-rays and a couple of days later, now with tubes up my nose & down my throat to stop the vomiting I was told I need an endoscopy to view my bowels.  An hour or so later I was told I had a massive tumour blocking the bowels & intestine and I would be operated on immediately.

The outcome.  I was diagnosed with colon cancer after a 15cm tumour was removed which had completely blocked the bowels & intestine.  The blockage being the main reason for feeling so ill, but it had spread into some lymph nodes too so they also removed 6 of those.

Anyway, the service, care and after treatment has been second to none.  It's now August and I've just finished all my treatment for chemo & radiotherapy.  It's been a long, tough year and I've not been given the all clear yet, but we're heading in the right direction.

Now see if you can figure this one out.  After leaving hospital mid january after my surgery, my friend Jayne broke her foot and was rushed into Hospital Comarcal.  The next morning we went to visit her and on our way into the building bumped into a friend we've know for many years.  We new his partner had been unwell with an upset stomach and as he was alone figured he had brought her in.  He informed us that his partner's condition was not improving despite the many prescriptions given by the village doctor, so he decided to take her to the hospital.  After tests and within 5 hours, she had had her spleen & colon removed, they did not know at that stage exactly what the problem was, only that the organs were damaged beyond repair & she also had peritonitis.  Unfortunately, she was also put on life support.  What a shock for someone who walked into hospital with, apparently, just an upset stomach!

To cut a long story short.  It seems this all resulted from possible food poisining or colitis!

Thankfully, she is now well, despite missing a few organs.

I've often ask myself why I got such bad treatment when I was so clearly extremely ill and my friend walks in with an upset stomach and within hours they are actually doing something?

So now you have it.  The bear facts of the National Health System (good & bad) and the excellent service of private health insurance.

Therefore, I feel my insurance company deserve a good bit of promotion from me..........

Before I do so, I must also mention the cost.  Remember earlier I mentioned that you have to pay approx 250e per month for national health service (but this does include pension contributions etc too).  Well, how much do you think private insurance costs?  More?  ABSOLUTELY NOT.

Of course, monthly contributions to private insurance vary with age & previous medical history.  But, it's cheaper in most cases.

For full cover, my husband and I currently pay approx 97e per month (for both of us) as opposed to 250e per month, and per individual for national cover!

I rest my case.  But you must make up your own mind.

Note:  If you are of pensionable age, you are automatically covered in Spain with the national health cover for free, it's only the youngsters that pay.

So, who is the company that provided me with such great service & made sure I'm alive today to tell the story?  Click on the link her at Sanitas Health Insurance who are part of BUPA.


  1. Thanks for posting this. I'm a single (divorced), 63 yr old American in perfect health; I will be covered by the US Medicare system but only after I turn 65. So I want to wait that time out in Spain.

    Sanitas quoted me 89.40e/month, or 1.029.89e/year. Dental coverage is an extra 9.25e/month. Coverage is 100% with the exception that each visit has a charge of 12e, except hospitalization, which is 24e.

    The WHO ranks the US health system as 37th; UK, 18; and Spain, 7th.

  2. Following from blog frog link post. I really like this site.

  3. Hi Anon, thanks for stopping by & leaving your comment. You don't mention if you accepted the sanitas quote.

    Thanks for mentioning the additional extra fees for using the insurance cover. I had not mentioned this in my post, perhaps I should include this too, but of course this will be mentioned on the sanitas link too.

  4. Hi mica, many thanks for stopping by & commenting.

  5. I posted on August 14 as Anon. I have not accepted the Sanitas quote yet but plan to do so when I move to Málaga for a year starting in February 2011. BTW, I had a cavity filling drop out last month; it cost $315 (237€) here in the US -- it took less than half an hour to fix.

  6. Hi Ron,

    So, it sounds like you're all set up & ready for your move to Malaga, be great to have you here.

    With regards to Sanitas, I can't rate them highly enough. The treatment I have received (and still am) has been amazing. The office I sometimes have to visit is in Malaga too, which makes life easier!

    Sorry to hear about your filling. That's an awful lot of money you had to pay out. Shame it didn't stay in place until you get to Spain LOL.

  7. Hello again, Debs. Apparently I have to sign in before posting, else I come up as Anon or lose my comment altogether.

    I am in Málaga capital now, through the end of this September (2011). I did purchase the Sanitas Plan. I´m 64 and I´m paying around 120€ per month. I´ve also got dental ins with them, 8€ per month. I had a wisdom tooth extracted in the US right before I came over here. Cost $350 (220€). I hope I don´t have to use my plans, but if I do I´m glad to hear that your experiences turned out well. Thanks for posting, and best wishes for a quick recovery.


We love your comments so please leave us a message.

You are welcome to visit our other site too at Deb Cooks... (DKC)

Thanks for your time, it's good to meet you.

Related Posts with Thumbnails