Are you planning to change the trajectory of your life and move to Portugal? Are you searching for the best health insurance coverage in your new home? Continue reading below to learn all you need to know to guarantee you’re prepared for your move overseas!
There are a whole bunch of things you need to know about and prepare for before moving to a new country – getting a place to stay, finding work, learning the ropes of a new language, seeing what paperwork you need to take care of, buying flights…
But one detail that people sometimes leave to the wayside is health insurance.
Portugal is a country that has an excellent public health system (which they call the SNS, or the Sistema Nacional de Saúde). But as an expat who isn’t a European citizen or who doesn’t already have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), you are legally required to have private health coverage (which you’ll also probably have to show proof of to get your visa), at least until you qualify for the SNS.
But before I get to your options for international health insurance as an expat in Portugal, we’ll first chat a bit on how the Portuguese health system is structured, what the difference between travel insurance and expat insurance is, what type of coverage to look for, and much more.
(And don’t forget to read on until the end of the article to learn more about the different types of visas you can use to start your life living, studying, and working in Portugal!)
How does the Portuguese health system work?
No matter what country you’re moving to, you’ll want to be sure you understand how the health system works. Especially in a place like Portugal, where you may be able to be covered by the public health system one day.
Portugal’s healthcare system is technically available for everyone, whether you’re an expat, you’re there working, you’re a tourist, or you have dual citizenship. But you do have to pay.
A doctor’s appointment within the public system costs about 5 euros, and an x-ray would cost about 20 euros. But if you’re not able to afford these costs and can prove it, then you can request the fees to be waived.
The exact fees can vary a bit based on the exact treatment or exam you get. But in general, hospitals and clinics tend to have the same rates. Here is a complete table with prices from the SNS that you can take a look at. (Link is only in Portuguese. Sorry!)
One interesting thing to know is that pregnant women and individuals with severe or chronic diseases can receive care for free through the public system for tests, prenatal care, disease-specific treatments, and many other medical services.
At the end of the day, even if the country you’re moving to has a great public healthcare system, depending strictly on the public system may not cover all your medical needs and could get pricey.
Do I need health insurance to move to Portugal?
If you plan to stay in Portugal more than 90 days, you’ll need a visa. And to qualify for any kind of visa, you’ll need to show proof of health insurance. So the answer is yes, you do need health insurance as an expat in Portugal!
That’s why it’s quite important that you make sure you have proof of coverage like one of the options I mention on the list below 🙂
But beyond this, an international health insurance plan will also give you some serious peace of mind. Especially when you’re in a country different from your own with new laws, structures, language, or medical costs that you may be unfamiliar with.
That’s why being covered by an international health insurance plan will protect you from emergencies or any unexpected situations. Plus, there’s a bunch of extra benefits to having an international health insurance plan, as I’ll explain in the next question.
As an immigrant in Portugal, should I get an expat health insurance plan like those on the list below? Why can’t I just get a national Portuguese plan?
Ultimately, the choice is yours and depends on your specific medical needs, coverage required, the length of your stay in Portugal, and the options available for national plans.
I’ve never had to get extra insurance for Portugal since I’m a citizen, but based on my experience using them elsewhere, I can say that these international health plans should cover you for whatever you need while in Portugal. Just make sure to check with your local Portuguese embassy to make sure you get a plan with the minimum coverage they require.
With all this in mind, here are some of the reasons that you may want to choose an international health insurance plan in place of national coverage:
- The monthly cost of international health insurance plans can be quite low (perhaps lower than a national plan)
- International health insurance is much easier to use if you’ll just be in Portugal for a short period of time (beyond being a requirement for travelers who are going to stay in the country for a short time anyway)
- International health insurance is more flexible (since you can renew, extend, or cancel your policy at any time, this is a very important feature if you don’t yet know how long you’ll be in Portugal)
- International health insurance will cover you in other countries as well, not just in Portugal (hence the “international” in the name)
What nationalities can be covered by international health insurance plans?
The health insurance companies that I’ll list below are for the following citizens that live in Portugal as expats, immigrants, workers, or even students:
- Citizens of the European Union (Portuguese, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Polish, Belgian, Swedish, et.)
- British (English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish)
- New Zealanders/Kiwis
- And for citizens of almost any other country
Beyond expats/immigrants that reside in Portugal, these companies also work for residents who live in:
- The United States
- Europe (European Union or the United Kingdom)
- And for expats who live in any almost any other country in the world
In general, as these plans and companies are international, they can be used by practically any person in any place in the world since they have global coverage!
Why can’t I just use travel insurance for my move to Portugal? What’s the difference between travel insurance and expat insurance?
Travel insurance is truly an essential for any trip so you’ll be covered in case of emergencies or other unexpected situations…as well as any travel emergencies, like lost baggage or canceled lights.
However, it’s important to know that travel insurance is not made for immigrants. Although you can get a travel insurance plan for longer periods of time, it’s really just made for travelers with temporary stays in another county.
Travel insurance coverage is not valid for anyone with a long stay in a single country. So it’s important to choose an insurance plan that specifically covers expats. And that’s what I’ll help you with in the list below.
What are the 7 best (and cheapest!) health insurance companies for expats and immigrants in Portugal?
Finding the right health plan can be pretty stressful. To help you out, take a look at the table I put together below comparing the different insurance companies that I’ll recommend on the list below.
This way, you can quickly see the pros and cons of each and choose the most suitable plan for you!
After the table, you can find a more detailed description of each company, their plans, benefits, and much more.
That said, my recommendation is to get an online quote with each of the companies I suggest below. It may take a bit of time, but at the end of the day, it can help you save lots of money!
|Medical Maximum||Unlimited (for the Platinum plan)||$8,000,000||The site doesn’t specify||Unlimited||US$1,000,000 per year||The site doesn’t specify||$1,000,000|
|U.S. In-Network Coinsurance||You choose. From 70%(100% thereafter) to 100%||100%||No||60% for maximum coinsurance and then 100%||Yes, for higher fees||Only in emergencies||Yes|
|U.S. Out-of-Network Coinsurance||You choose. From 70%(100% thereafter) to 100%||90% to $5,000 (100% thereafter)||Yes, for higher fees||100%||100%||100%||100%|
|Mental Health Availability||No waiting period||12-month waiting period||Co-payment of $25 per visit, waived deductible||75% up to 40 visits / 60% after that||No||Waiting period of 10 months||Depends on the plan|
|Mental Health Benefit||Inpatient and Outpatient: $5,000 lifetime maximum to paid in full depending on the plan||Inpatient and Outpatient: $50,000 lifetime maximum||Co-payment of $250 after deductible||100% up to 60 days||International and ambulance: limit not specified|
|Inpatient Prescription Drugs||$500 to paid in full depending on the plan||Up to $8,000,000||Yes||Complete reimbursement||Yes||Yes|
|Outpatient Prescription Drugs||None, unless you buy the International Outpatient Option||Up to $8,000,000||Complete reimbursement||Yes||Yes|
|Evacuation and Repatriation of Remains||Paid in full||Up to $8,000,000||Yes||Up to $25,000||No||Up to 10,000 euros||Yes|
|Accidental Death & Dismemberment||Depends on the plan||Rider available, limit depends on age.||$50,000||Depends on the plan|
|Emergency Dental||Paid in full||Up to $8,000,000||Optional||1,000 per year, $ 200 per tooth||Yes, however you need to pay an extra fee on top of your plan||Depending on the plan, it’s unlimited||It has coverage in the Diplomat Long Term and Diplomat International plans|
|Treatment Necessary as Result of Terrorism||Up to the amount of the coverage||Rider available up to $50,000-lifetime maximum||Clause available up to maximum of $50,000 in lifetime payments|
|Amateur Sports||Unlimited||Rider available up to $10,000||No||Yes||No||No||No|
|Routine Nursery Care of a Newborn Child of a Covered Pregnancy||$25,000 to $156,000 depending on the plan||$1,000 additional deductible, $50,000 lifetime maximum, $200 wellness benefit for first 12 months||Yes||Depends on the plan||Can be unlimited depending on the plan||Can be unlimited depending on the plan|
|Children born as a result of fertility treatment (such as IVF or surrogacy)||Only after the baby is 90 days old||Excluded||Depends on the plan||Excluded||No|
|Neonatal Intensive Care Unit||Check website for updated information||$250,000 maximum for first 31 days||No||Up to $250,000 for the first 31 days||No|
|Pre-existing condition exclusion period||Conditions that are fully disclosed on the application and have not been excluded or restricted by a rider will be covered as any illness||Conditions that are fully disclosed on the application and have not been excluded or restricted by a rider will be covered as any illness||Conditions that are fully disclosed on the application and have not been excluded or restricted by a rider will be covered as any illness|
|Pre-existing condition look back period||Any time prior to effective date||Any time prior to effective date||Any time prior to effective date||Any time prior to effective date||Any time prior to the effective date||Any time prior to the effective date||Any time prior to the effective date|
|Pre-existing annual maximum once covered||Unlimited depending on the plan||Up to $8,000,000||Unlimited depending on the plan||Unlimited depending on the plan||Full reimbursement||Unlimited depending on the plan||Unlimited depending on the plan|
|Pre-existing lifetime maximum once covered||Unlimited depending on the plan||Up to $8,000,000||Unlimited depending on the plan||Unlimited depending on the plan||Full reimbursement||Unlimited depending on the plan||Unlimited depending on the plan|
Attention: This article and table are made for informational purposes as the information contained here is subject to changes and updates.
In my opinion, the best international health insurance companies for expats in Portugal are:
- Global Underwriters
- Foyer Global Health
Cigna is a company that was founded in the United States that has a large role in Europe. It is a great choice when it comes to international health insurance.
Having been in the market for over 60 years, Cigna is highly recognized for its insurance and has more than 170 million customers worldwide.
My partner, Nikki, had a Cigna health plan herself in order to qualify for her residence card in Sweden.
Cigna’s plan choices are very diverse, and they even have plans made just for expats going to work in another country.
Before your move to Portugal, you can find family and individual plans. One nice benefit of Cigna is that you have the option to add bonus coverage to your plan based on your exact medical needs.
You can pick from Cigna’s Silver, Platinum, or Gold plan, all of which will give you coverage in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide.
If you’re looking for a budget health insurance plan for Portugal, a great option is Cigna’s Close Care plan. This particular plan is the cheapest that Cigna has since it only offers coverage in your country of origin and the country where you plan to reside.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with Cigna:
- 24/7 customer service available
- Flexibility to customize plans based on exactly what you need to be covered
- Includes coverage for Covid-19 and PCR tests
- No sign-up required to get a quote
- They have a digital platform to help you find hospitals and clinics near your location
- Cigna will, for the most part, pay health providers directly (so you won’t need to request reimbursement, which can be a long and complicated process)
Cons of an international health insurance plan with Cigna:
- Some of their plans don’t cover maternity care
Another company recognized for its international insurance is IMG. It has about two and a half decades of experience and 3 subsidiaries around the world.
IMG also has several types of plans to choose from, whether for individuals or for entire families, expats or travelers. You will see that they have the possibility of plans with long stays of 1 year or more, but also short term travel plans.
Their website is extremely simple to navigate, very intuitive and with filters for dates, duration of the plan, destination and much more, which facilitate the search. In addition to these filters, you can add your personal details like age and specific needs for the best coverage.
Thus, IMG will provide you with a detailed quote that allows you to compare plan and coverage options so that you are free to choose what is best for you.
But when hiring your service, be aware of the details of each plan, as some do not have coverage for certain ages and not all of their plans cover the needs of Covid-19.
Advantages of an international health insurance plan with IMG:
- Customer service 24 hours a day, seven days a week
- Flexibility plans for different client profiles
- More than 17,000 physicians for support
Disadvantages of signing up for an international health insurance plan with IMG:
- Some plans do not cover COVID-19
- No coverage for people 75+ years old
As indicated by its name, Now Health International is dedicated to providing an efficient, cost-effective, and easily accessible service. The company places a strong focus on building and nurturing customer relationships. They prioritize delivering clear and concise plan information and promptly addressing any questions or concerns through their dedicated customer support team.
Now Health plans are specifically designed to meet the unique challenges faced by individuals living abroad. They aim to provide guidance and facilitate access to high-quality healthcare services worldwide.
Advantages of an international health insurance plan with Now Health:
- Customized plans according to your needs
- Clear information and excellent customer service team
- Provides coverage in 194 countries and territories
- Plans with high coverage routine maternity coverage
Disadvantages of an international health insurance plan with Now Health:
- You must wait a 12-month grace period to use maternity coverage.
- In some procedures, it is necessary to use the company’s reimbursement system, which means that you would have to pay for your care initially
4. Aetna (acquired by Allianz)
Aetna is an award-winning and benchmark in the international insurance industry. If you are looking for security and credibility at the time of your choice before your move to Nigeria, then this is a good company to consider.
Although they don’t have a wide variety of plans, their plans are flexible and allow you to add additional coverage (such as dental care). Plus, their policies can include coverage up to 5 million USD, depending on the one you choose.
You can choose from family or individual plans, and may include coverage for repatriation and medical evacuation.
As an expat, I highly recommend the Aetna Pioneer. The plan has basic coverage of up to $1.75 million. Simply fill out a short form on the website to see an accurate quote and get detailed information on available policies.
Advantages of an international health insurance plan with Aetna:
- They cover maternity
- Has an app that summarizes information and easy location of services and providers
- Short, medium and long term travel plans
- 24/7 care
- Pre-travel assistance to help with questions, such as vaccinations and regular use medications
Disadvantages of an international health insurance plan with Aetna
- Low plan diversity
- Higher prices than other companies on the list
Global Underwriters is another company that is very popular when it comes to international health insurance. They also have packages that cater to immigrants, students, digital nomads, and expats.
For someone moving to Nigeria, I recommend Diplomat Long Term or Diplomat International Plan. Both have complete coverage and generally include everything an expatriate will need in their new country.
Advantages of an international health insurance plan with Global Underwriters:
- Up to $1 million of medical coverage in the two plans mentioned above, and $1 million in coverage in case of accidental death or dismemberment
- All day, every day of the week client assistance
- The above plans have emergency dental coverage, medical evacuations, and repatriation of remains
Disadvantages of an international health insurance plan with Global Underwritres:
- Diplomat Long Term does not insure travelers in Iran, Afghanistan and Cuba
- Diplomat International does not cover COVID-19
- Global Underwriters does not cover residents of Australia, Iran, South Dakota, Maryland and New York
SafetyWing is a very popular company that enjoys great recognition in insurance for digital nomads, as it offers specific health insurance plans for remote workers and companies, expats and digital nomads.
One of the biggest advantages of SafetyWing is that their policies are a little more accessible and easier to understand than other companies. They cover, free of charge, children from 2 to 10 years old, if their guardians buy a plan.
Each plan has a specific cost that depends on the age of the person subscribing. The cheapest plan doesn’t cover pre-existing health conditions, but it does cover up to $250,000. But you are free to add pre-existing condition coverage separately if needed.
What I love most about SafetyWing is that the company gives you 30 days of free coverage in your home country for every 90 days you use their plans abroad, like in Nigeria.
Advantages of an international health insurance plan with SafetyWing:
- Modern website, easy access to information and intuitive
- Customer service every day of the week, 24 hours a day
- 30 days of free coverage in your home country for every 90 days of coverage used abroad
- Coverage for COVID-19 and treatment recommended by medical specialists
Disadvantages of an international health insurance plan with Safety Wing:
- The plans are not as comprehensive and tend to have less overall coverage than some of the other options on this list;
- Website prices do not include fees and taxes that you may have to pay
Foyer Global Health is a major player in international health insurance plans for travelers, expats, digital nomads and immigrants.
It has a wide variety of plans, probably the biggest you can find on the market, in addition to being a reliable company (it is part of the largest European Foyer Group).
Advantages of an international health insurance plan with Foyer Global Health:
- The plans provide coverage for consultations, dental treatments and even surgeries
- 24/7 online or by phone
- Pre-travel service for vaccinations and first aid kit preparation
- Coverage is available for evacuation and repatriation
Disadvantages of an international health insurance plan with Foyer Global Health:
- The coverage limits are not clear
Also for more than two decades in the insurance market, GeoBlue offers insurance plans with international health coverage.
But GeoBlue only insures US citizens and residents. So, if you are not a US citizen or resident moving to Nigeria, you can skip straight to the next option.
GeoBlue has health plans for different types of travelers, including immigrants. Xplorer Essential is the plan I highly recommend, as it’s made for long stays with unlimited coverage.
If you’re looking for a plan for a shorter stay, try the Voyager program. It’s very simple, you just need to fill out a form or get in touch with a broker to get a quote and receive more detailed information about the plans.
Advantages of a health insurance plan with GeoBlue:
- Feature application such as telemedicine
- 24-hour customer service, seven days a week
- Some plans have coverage for existing medical conditions
- All plans have unlimited coverage
Disadvantages of an international health insurance plan with GeoBlue:
- Only available to US residents or US citizens
- Low plan flexibility
- You need to submit a form or contact a broker for information or a quote for plans
What types of visas can you apply for to live, work, and study in Portugal?
If you’re planning to live in Portugal, one of your top priorities will be to research and then apply for your visa.
As an immigrant coming to the country to work, your company will likely offer help getting established in the country, including support with your visa application or even with finding a new place to live.
The most important thing is to pay attention to the different types of visas that you may qualify for, the docs you’ll need to apply, and the length of time it’ll take for your visa to be processed. If other family members will be living with you, you’ll also have to see what types of visas they need.
The Portuguese immigration system is similar to many other European Union countries. Citizens of the European Union have the right to freedom of movement, and Portugal is part of the Schengen Zone. Citizens from outside the European Union can move to Portugal if they meet certain criteria.
There are 61 non-EU countries that don’t need visas for short stays in Portugal, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, the UK, and the United States.
However, anyone who plans to stay in the country for more than three months will have to request a long-stay visa and then a Portuguese residence authorization after arriving in the country.
Possible visa options include: short-stay visas for stays up to 90 days, national visas for stays up to 1 year, national long-stay visas (also called residence visas) for stays of more than a year, and then the special Golden Visa program for foreigners who have the funds to invest in the country.
Below are the two types of visas most requested by new immigrants seeking residency in Portugal.
Portuguese work visas:
There are three types of Portuguese work visas. The seasonal work visa, the temporary work visa, and the work visa.
The seasonal work visa is specifically for individuals who plan to stay for a specific period, or the season of a specific year, for work. The specific industries that you can request this visa for include: agriculture (forestry, hunting, or fishing); hospitality; food, drink, and tobacco; retail; construction; and transportation.
A temporary work visa is for any job with a duration of 90 days to 1 year. This Portuguese work visa can be used for purposes that include long-term seasonal work, independent or freelance work, scientific or academic work, amateur sports, or any other skilled work.
The work visa is for any long-term or permanent stay for a period of a year or more.
The basic documentation for the three types of visas is below, though each has its own particular requirements beyond these:
- Valid passport or identification document
- Two passport-sized photos
- Proof of health insurance (told you it was important!)
- Criminal background check
- Proof of residency
- Proof that you can sustain yourself financially during your stay in Portugal
Portuguese student visas:
Portugal has two types of visas to study in the country, one for short stays and one for long stays.
The temporary student visa is for any program in Portugal that will last 90 days to 1 year. This includes secondary, post-graduate, or doctorate-level education. Beyond general paperwork, you’ll also need to provide confirmation that you were accepted to a program from a credentialed Portuguese educational institution, and that the course will not last more than a year.
The long-stay student visa is for studies of any kind that will last more than a year. To apply, you’ll need to show proof of acceptance (normally an official acceptance letter) to your credentialed course or school. For academic programs in higher education, you’ll also have to show proof that you meet all criteria for admission.
You’ll need the same basic documents mentioned above for the work visa.
Here are the 7 best (and cheapest!) companies for health insurance for expats and immigrants living in Portugal:
- Now Health
- Global Underwriters
- Foyer Global Health
Deciding to begin a new life overseas can be complicated…so I hope this article has helped make that process a little bit easier for you!
If you still have any questions about getting health insurance for your move to Portugal (or about moving overseas in general), let me know in the comments area below and I’ll get back to you!
Planning your next trip?