Drugs and medicines (medicinas/medicamentos) prescribed by a doctor are obtained from a pharmacy (farmacia) denoted by the sign of a green cross. Most pharmacies are open from 09:30 until 13:30 and from 16:30 until 20:00 from Monday to Saturday. Outside normal opening hours, a notice is posted giving the address of the nearest duty pharmacy (farmacia de guardia) open after 20:00 (a weekly roster may be displayed). There are 24-hour duty pharmacies in all towns (usually indicated by a red light). When visiting a duty pharmacy outside normal hours, you must usually ring a bell, speak to the pharmacist behind a bulletproof glass door and be served through a small hatch.
If you have a prescription you must pay 40 per cent of the cost of medicines and drugs or nothing at all if you're a pensioner or handicapped. Many private health insurance schemes also reimburse members for drugs and medicines. Note that there's no refund for some prescribed medicines or for medicines purchased without a doctor's prescription.
Pharmacies have a monopoly on non-prescription drugs in Spain, which are expensive compared with many other countries. Public health benefits include general and specialist medical care, hospitalisation, laboratory services, discounted drugs and medicines, basic dental care, maternity care, appliances and transportation. Note, however, that social security covers only around 75 per cent of the cost of treatment and the other 25 per cent must be paid by the patient or a supplementary insurance scheme. Completely free treatment is available in certain hospitals only, where waiting lists can be very long.
With so much to deal with before leaving your home country, (taxes, moving house, paperwork etc.) the careful planning of your expatriation to Madrid is an essential step. As far as healthcare is concerned, your local social security scheme won’t be accompanying you to your host country and, once abroad, you might be surprised by the care system you find in Spain. So, before leaving, make sure you have appropriate cover!
EasyExpat.com works in partnership with APRIL International to provide specific insurance solutions for travelling or staying outside your country of nationality.
Designed for either short or long stays, APRIL International’s insurance policies offer protection against any problems that might arise before departure or during your time in Spain: cancelling your trip, medical expenses following an illness or accident, needing to be repatriated, causing damage to a third party or losing your luggage.
For more information on expat health insurance in Spain, visit our partner APRIL International