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Health Insurance for Employees in Portugal: Quick Guide

By Bernardo Barbosa

Published on 31 January 2024

6mins read

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If you run a small business that employs staff, ensuring your employees' health and well-being is a top priority. In Portugal, private health insurance for businesses or employees is not mandatory, but it's a great perk nevertheless!

In a country where public health is a big deal and pretty much anyone can go to the local hospital or health center without paying a penny, should small businesses pay to protect their employees? In this quick guide, we will dive deep into these and other pressing matters.

What Types of Healthcare Services are Available in Portugal?

Healthcare in Portugal is divided into two sectors: public and private.

Public Health Insurance in Portugal

Portugal's public health insurance scheme provides residents with healthcare services such as universal coverage, primary care, emergency services, and pharmaceutical aid. The public healthcare system in Portugal is known as Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS) and is financed by general taxation.

The SNS provides registered residents with free or low-cost medical care, and your employees will automatically have access to this service when you (and they) pay their monthly Social Security. For the most part, however, the public healthcare system is virtually free.

Typically, the key factor for accessing public health insurance in Portugal is residency status. If you have a residence permit to live in Portugal, you are generally entitled to use the public healthcare system.

While most expats don't need a Social Security card or healthcare card to access Portugal health insurance, it's still advisable for them to get a Social Security number.

Private Insurance in Portugal

Considering most Portuguese citizens and legal residents have free access to the Portuguese healthcare system, does it make sense to pay private insurance for you and your employees?

That decision is really up to you, but here are some of the advantages of choosing private healthcare over public healthcare in Portugal:

1. Coverage: Private health insurance plans in Portugal often provide a broader range of healthcare services compared to the public system. This may include faster access to medical specialists, additional treatments, and more extensive services for certain procedures.

2. Private hospitals: Private health insurance plans typically allow policyholders to access a network of private hospitals, clinics, and healthcare providers. These facilities may offer more amenities and a higher standard of accommodation compared to public hospitals.

3. Wait times: One of the advantages of private health insurance is the potential to avoid waiting lists for certain medical services and procedures. This can be particularly appealing for individuals who prefer prompt access to healthcare, as the average Portuguese health center tends to be very busy.

4. Autonomy: Private health insurance often allows policyholders to choose their healthcare providers, including specific doctors and specialists, within the insurance network. In other words, it's up to you and you alone to decide on your health insurance options.

5. Complementary coverage: Private insurance plans also provide coverage for complementary services such as dental care, vision care, and wellness programs. In addition, they may offer advantageous health plans for employers, such as a group health plan.

Yes, private healthcare in Portugal is more expensive than public healthcare! However, it provides access to specialists, higher quality care, shorter waiting times, and unavailable treatments through the public system. In this article, we will focus on this type of health insurance.

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Does my Small Business in Portugal Need to Provide Private Health Insurance?

While not mandatory, offering private insurance can be an excellent way to attract and retain quality employees in Portugal. It becomes especially relevant if you aim to promote a healthy work environment and prioritize employee well-being.

Don't believe us? Well, let's look at some of the main pros of health insurance coverage for employees in Portugal:

Benefits of Private Employee Health Insurance in Portugal

These are the main advantages of purchasing a private health insurance plan for your employees in Portugal:

  • **Employee well-being:** It promotes a healthier workforce, which can lead to increased productivity and reduced sick days.
  • **Attracting talent:** Health plans can make your business more appealing to potential recruits.
  • **Tax advantages:** Businesses often enjoy tax deductions on the premiums they pay for employee health insurance.
  • **Business reputation:** Employees are different from self-employed people; they need to be taken care of, and they expect to be fully supported by their employers! Providing health insurance coverage to employees enhances your business's reputation, as well as your own reputation as a boss.

How to Obtain Private Employee Health Insurance in Portugal

In short, getting private healthcare for your employees in Portugal is not different from acquiring any other type of private insurance. Before committing to a specific plan, however, you should:

  • Gauge the health needs and preferences of your workforce.
  • Connect with insurance consultants or brokers who specialize in the healthcare system in Portugal.
  • Collect quotes from various providers to ensure optimal coverage at competitive rates.
  • Review your policy annually, considering any changes in your employee demographics or health trends.

International Health Insurance Companies

As we have seen, private healthcare for employees is a great complement to the Portuguese public healthcare system. However, foreign business owners and non-EU citizens can benefit greatly from accessing international health insurance plans.

When it comes to international health insurance, the following insurance companies are generally considered global industry leaders:

  • IMG Global: Specializing in international health and travel insurance.
  • AXA: Providing five international insurance policies ideally adapted to EU citizens and employers.
  • Cigna: Featuring an expat-ready annual healthcare plan.
  • Allianz: Promoting international healthcare alongside several digital tools and specific programs for expats.

Linking to Other Business Insurance Types

Last but not least, broaden your grasp of business insurance in Portugal by checking out our in-depth guide on business insurance in Portugal.

For more information and support on running a business in Portugal, consult Rauva's professional company-creation, accounting, and banking services:

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is providing health insurance mandatory for businesses in Portugal?

While the specifics can vary, private health insurance isn't compulsory for businesses to provide for their employees. In addition, the Portuguese Social Security system provides basic health coverage in the public system for employees.

How does health insurance coverage benefit the employer?

Beyond ensuring a healthy workforce, offering health insurance can boost employee morale, reduce turnover, and even offer tax advantages to the business.

Can I customize the health plan based on employee needs?

Yes, many insurance providers offer flexible pricing and plans that allow businesses to select the coverage types and levels that best suit their workforce. There are also international options for accessing English-speaking doctors abroad and receiving treatment outside of your home country.

What should I consider when selecting a health insurance plan?

Consider factors like the coverage extent, premium costs, co-payment requirements, and the network of healthcare providers affiliated with the insurance.

Are there any additional wellness programs or benefits that come with these policies?

Some health insurance plans come with added wellness programs or preventive care services. It's essential to consult with the insurance provider to understand the complete range of benefits.

Is Portugal's public local health insurance coverage good enough for businesses?

Even though you can receive treatment for pretty much any medical condition for free in Portugal, there are several advantages to going private, including extended autonomy and coverage options.

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Written by Bernardo Barbosa

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