Embarking on a new adventure in Spain as a Filipino expatriate is a thrilling experience filled with dreams of exploring a rich and vibrant culture. Amidst the excitement, it’s vital to address practical matters, and one of the most crucial is securing the right health insurance. Spain offers a renowned healthcare system, but for many Filipinos, understanding its complexities can be a daunting task.
In this guide, we aim to demystify health insurance in Spain for foreigners, equipping you with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions about your healthcare coverage. Whether you’re a student, a worker, a retiree, or an adventurer seeking new horizons, this guide will be your trusted companion, ensuring that your health and well-being are safeguarded while you create unforgettable memories in Spain.
Disclaimer: The information posted here is based on the personal experiences shared by the OFW in the video below. Please let this post serve as a guide only. If you have specific questions, you may ask the OFW by commenting on their video on their accounts.
Filipino Expats’ Guide to Navigating Spain’s Healthcare System
The information presented in this article comes from a YouTube video from the channel “Everything is Boffo.” If you want to watch the full video, then click on the link below:
In this article, we delve into the personal experiences of vloggers Paul and Baya as they share their firsthand encounters with medical insurance and hospitals in Valencia, Spain. Stay with us to uncover the intricacies of their healthcare journey, including the associated costs.
The Backstory: A Shift from the US
Paul and Baya’s decision to leave the United States was significantly influenced by their concerns about the healthcare system. In late 2019, they tragically lost a sister-in-law to cancer. Just four months later, the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. These events forced them to confront the harsh realities of mortality and the limitations of their health insurance coverage in the US, particularly in the event of an extended hospitalization.
Back in the US, when either of them felt unwell, their usual recourse was to contact a nurse or doctor, or turn to family and friends for advice regarding the urgency of their symptoms. Alternatively, they would resort to consulting the ever-available yet anxiety-inducing Dr. Google on WebMD. The fear of falling ill and the looming financial burden had plagued them for years. Even during sessions with their psychiatrist, their primary anxiety revolved around the impending healthcare costs. They were spending $75 per hour addressing their anxiety, primarily rooted in their apprehension about a mere $40 copay to see their doctor. Clearly, a change was imperative. Thus, they embarked on a journey to discover improved healthcare options in Valencia, Spain.
Personal Experience with Medical Insurance and Hospitals in Spain
Here are the lessons we can learn from Paul and Baya’s health care experiences in Spain:
- Comprehensive Insurance Coverage: Ensure full private medical insurance with no co-pays, waiting periods, or deductibles for financial security.
- Utilizing Preventive Care: Regular checkups and screenings are crucial for proactive healthcare maintenance.
- Emergency Preparedness: Access to private insurance ensures timely emergency medical care.
- Complex Medical Procedures: Understand insurance coverage for significant medical procedures and extended hospital stays.
- Diagnostic Tests: Be open to various diagnostic tests to aid accurate diagnosis and treatment.
- Public Healthcare Options: Explore options like “Convenio Especial” for those with pre-existing conditions or long-term illnesses.
- Financial Considerations: Recognize healthcare costs, including insurance premiums and participation fees.
- Flexibility in Healthcare Choices: Choose a healthcare plan that aligns with personal needs and preferences.
- Medical Records and Registration: Register with local healthcare authorities for smooth communication and prescription management.
- Personal Healthcare Experiences: Real-life experiences, like those of Paul and Baya, provide valuable insights for navigating healthcare abroad.
Paul and Baya, the vloggers who have now been residing in Valencia for a year and a half, have accumulated a wealth of experiences with medical insurance and the local healthcare system. During this time, they’ve utilized their insurance for a range of healthcare needs, including annual physical checkups, visits to the emergency room, and even more complex medical procedures.
Their medical adventures encompass a comprehensive list of services. Collectively, they’ve undergone blood tests, urine tests, women’s wellness exams, including pap smears and mammograms (which, surprisingly, weren’t too uncomfortable), as well as breast ultrasounds. For Paul, there were additional diagnostic procedures such as random ultrasounds and an MRI. On another occasion, he underwent an endoscopy and an EKG. Most notably, Paul had an extensive laparoscopic surgery to remove his gallbladder, which entailed an eight-day stay in the hospital.
It’s safe to say that their first year and a half in Spain has been an eventful healthcare journey. Fortunately, their visa requirements mandate comprehensive private medical insurance coverage, which means no co-pays, no waiting periods, and no deductibles during their stay. They also registered with the Centro De Salud, particularly crucial during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, as all related matters had to go through them. This included the electronic transmission of their COVID-19 prescriptions to the pharmacy.
Looking ahead to their second year in Spain, Paul and Baya became eligible to participate in the Spanish Healthcare System, known as “Convenio Especial.” This option, they’ve heard, is particularly advantageous for individuals with maintenance medications, pre-existing conditions, or long-term illnesses. The monthly cost is 60 Euros for those under 65 and 157 Euros for those 65 and over. However, as of now, they’ve chosen to rely on their private insurance, finding it to be sufficiently comprehensive for their healthcare needs.
What the Vloggers Love About Their Health Insurance
- No Referral Needed: They appreciate the freedom to choose specialists without requiring referrals from a GP or primary care physician.
- Effortless Specialist Visits: Their insurance allows them to easily locate and schedule appointments with specialists, such as dermatologists, even those who speak English.
- Streamlined Diagnostic Procedures: Doctors can order blood tests, ultrasounds, and scans without the hassle of insurance company approvals, except for non-emergency skin treatments.
- Minimal Paperwork: They enjoy the absence of paperwork related to payments and the dreaded “explanation of benefits” (EOB), with paperwork limited to their medical results.
- Global Coverage: Their insurance provides €12,000 in coverage for a minimum of 90 consecutive days worldwide, except for their country of origin, the Philippines.
Paul and Baya, in their exploration of healthcare and insurance in Valencia, have uncovered several aspects of their health insurance that have truly won them over. Here’s a breakdown of the elements they cherish most:
No Need for Referrals: One of the standout features they adore is the freedom from the referral maze. They don’t require a referral or endorsement from a General Practitioner (GP), primary care physician, or the insurance company itself to consult a specialist. Whether it’s a dermatologist or any other specialist, they can simply peruse the insurance company’s directory, choose a practitioner that suits their preferences or is conveniently located, and, if needed, even find one who speaks English. From there, it’s a matter of scheduling an appointment, and they’re good to go.
Effortless Medical Procedures: Another remarkable aspect is the ease with which they can initiate diagnostic procedures. Doctors under their insurance can readily order blood tests, ultrasounds, or scans without the need for insurance company approval. The only instances where they’ve needed insurance approval have been for non-emergency skin treatments.
Minimal Paperwork Hassles: One of their favorite perks is the absence of paperwork hassles regarding payments or the dreaded “explanation of benefits” (EOB). In their case, paperwork is exclusively tied to their medical results, streamlining the administrative side of healthcare.
Extensive Global Coverage: Their insurance offers them the peace of mind of €12,000 in coverage for a minimum of 90 consecutive days, globally, excluding their country of origin, which, for them, is the Philippines. This comprehensive coverage ensures that they are protected during their travels and stays abroad.
This particular revelation had them chuckling, as it clarified why they hadn’t pursued insurance in the Philippines, given that it’s considered their country of origin.
These aspects of their health insurance have not only simplified their healthcare journey but also enhanced their overall experience, offering convenience, flexibility, and global security.
Things the Vloggers Learned About Their Health Insurance
- Follow Doctor’s Orders: Always adhere to your doctor’s instructions and return with required documents or tests as directed.
- Avoid Overly Proactive Approaches: Seek insurance approval and paperwork only when instructed by your doctor, as premature efforts can lead to confusion.
- Learn Basic Medical Spanish: While many healthcare professionals speak English, learning some medical Spanish phrases can enhance communication and access to less crowded local hospitals.
- Download Healthcare Provider Apps: Consider choosing a healthcare provider with a mobile app for convenient appointment booking and test result checking.
- Prescriptions and Medications: You can fill prescriptions at any pharmacy in Spain, offering flexibility in choosing where to collect your medication.
- Check Your Coverage: Ensure your selected insurance plan provides coverage with a wide network of doctors and clarify what dental services are included.
- Explore Social Communities: Connect with other expats in social communities to seek recommendations for doctors and healthcare facilities.
- Save Emergency Numbers: Keep local emergency numbers in your phone, including police, fire, and medical services, for quick access during emergencies.
- Specify the Nature of Your Visit: When scheduling appointments, specify your exact medical needs to avoid confusion in the Spanish Healthcare System, where appointments for different services are often separate.
- August Vacation Period: Be aware that many non-emergency doctors and clinics go on vacation in August, so plan healthcare needs accordingly during this time.
Total Cost of Their Health Insurance
When it comes to their health insurance provider and the associated costs, let’s delve deeper into this aspect of their expat journey. Paul and Baya opted for Adeslas as their insurance provider, a decision that came after careful consideration. Here’s a breakdown of their choice and the expenses involved:
Why They Chose Adeslas:
They placed their selection of Adeslas towards the end of their decision-making process. This choice was influenced by their observations within the Valencia expat community and their research efforts. They noticed that many individuals in Valencia had chosen Adeslas as their insurance provider. This observation resonated with their findings when browsing through Facebook groups during their non-lucrative visa application process. Additionally, Adeslas stood out because their website offered information in English, making it accessible and user-friendly for expatriates. Furthermore, Adeslas had a specific insurance package tailored for non-lucrative visa applicants, simplifying their decision-making process.
- Adeslas Selection: Paul and Baya chose Adeslas as their health insurance provider, influenced by its popularity among Valencia’s expat community and its English-friendly website.
- Decision Factors: Their decision was also based on observations within expat groups during their non-lucrative visa application process and the availability of a tailored insurance package for visa applicants.
- Reasonable Increase: Despite annual cost increases, the difference is relatively small when considering the extensive coverage and peace of mind their insurance provides.
- Comprehensive Coverage: Their insurance includes comprehensive medical coverage and essential dental services, such as cleaning and X-rays, ensuring their peace of mind.
Their insurance costs have evolved over the years. This year, they observed a slight increase in their insurance expenses. Specifically, the cost has risen to 607.56 Euros for medical coverage and an additional 107 Euros for dental coverage. It’s worth noting that this increase reflects a relatively modest difference in expense.
It’s crucial to emphasize that their insurance package offers comprehensive coverage for medical expenses, ensuring peace of mind. For dental care, it encompasses essential services such as cleaning and X-rays. While they’ve noticed a slight yearly increase in costs, the difference, as highlighted, is minimal and well-justified considering the extensive coverage and peace of mind their insurance provides.
In summary, Paul and Baya’s choice of Adeslas as their insurance provider has been influenced by its popularity within the expat community, accessibility in English, and tailored offerings for non-lucrative visa applicants. Despite minor annual cost increases, the benefits of comprehensive coverage and peace of mind far outweigh the nominal difference in expenses.
Experiencing Peace of Mind with Full Insurance Coverage
- Their comprehensive insurance coverage brings profound relief, ensuring they won’t face medical debt and allowing them to sleep soundly at night.
- In the US, they lived cautiously, avoiding sports and activities that might lead to hospitalization due to financial concerns.
- They worried about potential hospitalization, such as for an appendix burst or a car accident, emphasizing the importance of financial security in healthcare.
- Paul’s gallbladder issues in Spain led to a positive experience with exceptional care despite language barriers.
- Spanish hospitals, while not always the most modern, are known for their cleanliness and functional facilities.
- They appreciated the hospital’s respect for cultural practices, allowing Baya to stay with Paul during his hospitalization.
- Despite language challenges, healthcare professionals went the extra mile to ensure effective communication, facilitating patient understanding.
- A noteworthy aspect of their Spanish healthcare experience was the absence of administrative hassles; they simply walked out of the hospital without paperwork or immediate payments.
- Months later, they have yet to receive a bill, highlighting the efficiency and transparency of the Spanish healthcare system.
- Their journey underscores the value of comprehensive insurance coverage, offering peace of mind and a healthcare system that prioritizes patients’ well-being.
For Paul and Baya, the sense of relief that comes with knowing they have comprehensive insurance coverage is immeasurable. The security of not being burdened with medical debt is a tremendous comfort. It allows them to rest easy, free from the constant worry that often plagues those without adequate coverage.
Their experience contrasts sharply with their time in the United States when they felt constrained in their activities, always cautious to avoid sports or activities that carried the potential risk of hospitalization. Whether it was refraining from engaging in Jiu-Jitsu, extreme sports, or even casual basketball games with friends, they were constantly aware of the financial consequences of a medical emergency.
Their concerns were valid, given the unpredictability of life. They understood that a simple appendicitis or a car accident could lead to astronomical medical bills. Fortunately, in Spain, when Paul’s gallbladder issues arose, they found themselves in a healthcare system that provided exceptional care.
The hospitals in Spain, while not always the most cutting-edge in terms of facilities, were impeccably clean. Paul had the privilege of a private room that, despite not being the most modern, was spacious and functional. The accommodations included a comfortable couch with its own linens and a familiar pillow. What pleasantly surprised them was the hospital’s willingness to accommodate their cultural practices. In the Philippines, it’s common for someone to be by the patient’s side, and the Spanish hospital staff respected this tradition. They allowed Baya to stay with Paul throughout his hospitalization.
Despite the language barrier, the medical professionals went to great lengths to communicate effectively. Whether through translators, broken Spanish, or assistance from friends, they were committed to ensuring that the patient and their caregiver fully understood the medical situation. It wasn’t a mere formality but a genuine desire to facilitate the healing process.
Perhaps one of the most remarkable aspects of their healthcare experience in Spain was the lack of administrative hassle. When it was time to leave the hospital, they simply walked out, bags in hand, without having to sign any paperwork or make payments on the spot. Even months later, they haven’t received a bill, which speaks volumes about the efficiency and transparency of the Spanish healthcare system.
Their journey highlights the value of comprehensive insurance coverage and the peace of mind it offers. In Spain, they found a healthcare system that not only delivers quality care but also prioritizes the well-being of patients, removing the financial stress that often accompanies medical treatment in other parts of the world.
Healthcare Challenges in Spain
- Language Barrier: Expatriates may encounter a language barrier when seeking healthcare, especially in local clinics or remote regions where English proficiency among healthcare professionals may be limited. Learning basic medical Spanish phrases or using translation apps is advisable.
- Waiting Times: While Spain’s healthcare system is generally accessible, expatriates may experience longer waiting times for non-emergency care compared to what they are accustomed to in their home countries.
- Regional Disparities: Healthcare services and quality can vary significantly from one region to another in Spain due to the decentralized healthcare system. Expatriates should research the specific healthcare facilities and services available in their region.
- Complex Bureaucracy: Navigating administrative processes related to healthcare in Spain can be challenging. Understanding paperwork, insurance claims, and documentation requirements may require assistance, particularly for newcomers.
- Pre-existing Conditions: Expatriates with pre-existing medical conditions may face challenges in obtaining health insurance coverage. Private insurers may exclude certain conditions or impose waiting periods.
- Dental Care: Dental care is often treated separately from general healthcare in Spain. While basic dental services like cleanings and exams may be covered by some health insurance plans, extensive dental procedures can be costly and may require additional dental insurance.
- Summer Vacations: Many healthcare professionals and clinics in Spain take extended summer vacations in August, leading to reduced availability of medical services during this period. Expatriates should plan accordingly.
- Cultural Differences: Understanding and adapting to cultural differences in healthcare practices and patient expectations can be challenging. For instance, the practice of having a family member or friend stay with a patient during hospitalization may be unfamiliar.
- Navigating the System: Expatriates may find it challenging to navigate the Spanish healthcare system, including understanding their rights and responsibilities, knowing which services are covered, and finding the right healthcare provider.
- Prescription Medications: While prescription medications are generally accessible in Spain, the availability of specific medications may differ from what expatriates are used to in their home countries. Awareness of medication substitutions or alternatives is important.
In the midst of their expat adventure in Spain, the vloggers have unveiled a tapestry of experiences, insights, and practical wisdom when it comes to navigating the Spanish Healthcare System. Their journey, from the initial selection of insurance providers to personal encounters with medical care in Spain, offers invaluable lessons for fellow expatriates and those considering a similar path.
Throughout the article, the vloggers have underscored the significance of comprehensive health insurance coverage. Their peace of mind, knowing they won’t be burdened by medical debt, has allowed them to embrace life in Spain without the financial constraints that often accompany healthcare expenses in other parts of the world.