A big issue for anyone moving abroad to retire is the quality and cost of the healthcare. Indeed, this may be just about the most important point for you to consider when planning a move to Spain.
There are a number of factors to take into account in this case, regardless of whether you are currently in perfect health or not.
You will be delighted to find out that the public healthcare system here is among the very best anywhere on the planet, with excellent hospitals and clinics as well as highly professional doctors and nurses.
The state runs more than 750 hospitals and employs around 450,000 doctors. This is offered as a free service to foreigners who are registered with the Spanish social security office and work here, but not for retirees who have never worked in the country. EU citizens will generally get access for free under reciprocal agreements, while those from non EU countries don't get this benefit automatically.
If you are planning to retire to Spain then you can choose to opt in to the public health system paying a monthly fee. Currently this is around $66 for those under 65 and $174 if you are over this age. You should be aware that under this scheme you would need to pay the full cost of your prescriptions, as they wouldn't be subsidized.
Private healthcare is of a very good standard in Spain and is also highly affordable. Current reports give the monthly figure for average health insurance in Spain at between $100 to $200 for most people in their 50s or 60s. Of course, you will want to shop around and get some quotes from a few of the big name health insurance firms before you sign up. 18% of the Spanish population is reported to have private health insurance and the sector is showing strong growth levels.
As with anywhere else, private health cover will most likely give you shorter waiting times and a better standard of treatment, although the gap isn't perhaps as wide here at it is in many other countries.
With so many expats now living here it is no surprise to see that there are insurance policies aimed specifically at their health care in Spain. The big advantage here is probably simply that everything is in English. However, you should always be sure to go with a firm that is widely recognized in Spain, to avoid problems when getting treatment. Try to get quotes from Spanish policies as well as expat ones, as the cover is likely to be very similar.
So, what if you need to visit a doctor and you aren't covered by public or private healthcare? In this case, it is worth bearing in mind that many clinics offer both private and public services, so be sure to explain your situation.
In terms of the cost, you can expect to pay from around $40 to visit a general practitioner in Madrid and $190 to visit a specialist, although this will vary from one region to another. One further good point here is that Spanish doctors have an excellent reputation for recommending the best medicines that suit you, rather than always going for the most expensive option.
All of the main expat regions in Spain have private hospitals in or near them. A good example is the well-established Hospital Clinica Benidorm, which is well used to dealing with patients from all round the globe. 350 employees here give more than 40 types of integrate medical services using the latest technology and modern facilities. The relatively new Hospital de Levante in Benidorm also comes recommended, thanks to its modern facilities and highly respected doctors.
As you would expect, the capital city of Madrid has an extensive choice of private hospitals for you to choose from. Sanitas La Moraleja is one of Madrid's most modern hospitals and is also known as the city's first green hospital.
In Barcelona, there are also some top class hospitals. The massive Hospital Sant Joan de Déu Barcelona is one that stands out. It is a teaching hospital owned by a religious order and with a reputation for innovation and research. It is a private hospital but is also used as part of the public healthcare system. Over 350 beds, 23 operating rooms and 1,200 members of staff are among the most important statistics here.
For those expats living in the Malaga region, the impressive Hospital Parque San Antonio is one of the top choices. It is close to the sea and has one of the best cardiology departments in Spain. Due to the high concentration of foreign residents here it also employs full time German and English translators.
Spain is becoming increasingly popular in medical tourism terms. This is due to a number of factors, such as the excellent standard of the health care in Spain, the relatively low cost and the good weather that can help recovery times. The recent financial problems in Spain mean that many clinics and hospitals are now viewing medical tourism from abroad as an excellent source of income.