Who pays a health emergency in Spain? Public vs Private healthcare


Did you know that using 112 in a health emergency in Spain may result in non-covered expenses at public hospitals, emphasizing the importance of calling the emergency number on your private health insurance card?


These are the answers of some Facebook group members:

”if you need emergency medical treatment in Spain they will do their best to save your life regardless of your health insurance background”

”Also if you are in beda (auxiliar de conversación), etc, and have rights to seguridad social make sure to apply ASAP and don’t put it off because you have private. There was an incident the year I got here where the girl was unconscious and they had to call the public one and she got a big bill after her hospital stay. And it could have been avoided”

”If you have private insurance, you’re supposed to call the number on the back of your card and if you don’t, and you’re taken to a public hospital, the cost of treatment might be on you. Obviously if you’re unconscious and somebody calls 112 there’s not much you can do about it. The important thing would be to get treatment and then sort it out later. I don’t know why Sandra is getting so much pushback. She’s just trying to help”

”I’ve only had private insurance for the past 4 years, and I’ve been the the emergency room three times in three different public hospitals. I only ever got a bill from one of them. I was told that my private insurance (Asisa) would reimburse the public hospital for whatever the cost was.

The one bill I got was for €120 for a 5-6 hour ER visit. Should I have gotten bills for those other times? Now I’m wondering if I have unpaid medical bills floating around from 3 years ago”

”this happened to me within 3 months of moving here. We called 112 and the hospital took me to the nearest public hospital. But, in my case, Sanitas reimbursed me after a simple explanation. I had the money from them within a few days.

Edited to add: I did ask the ambulance to take me to IMED but they deemed it urgent enough to go to the nearest emergency room. I’m definitely not saying this would always be the result and now that I know to call Sanitas I would make it easier on myself and go that route”

”Within our first 6 months in Spain, we encountered a similar situation where, despite our insurance not covering the bill for our child’s emergency treatment in what seemed like a private hospital, we discovered that minors and certain individuals residing in Spain are exempt from paying for public care.

Upon learning about this rule, we called the specified number, referenced the exemption, and successfully had the bill covered. Fortunately, someone informed us about this rule, as the hospital, though appearing private, was, in fact, public. Without this insight, we would have faced unexpected expenses for our 11-month-old son’s 10-day stay in the infectious care ward”

”Good reminder. I thought I had thought ahead and done well by identifying the specific private hospital I’d want to be taken to in the event of an emergency. Clearly there’s more to learn and be prepared for. The learning never ends”

”In order to obtain residency as a (non-EU) foreigner, I was required to purchase private health insurance”

”But if private insurance dont have enough emergency cars they tell you to call 112 and they cover expences. But yes, frstly call insurance”

”This is 100% correct. I’m on an NLV and thus private insurance. I am covered by the state though for my Type 1 Diabetic hospitalization and have been in Elda hospital numerous times with no bill. In February I was sick again. Very much so and since symptoms seemed similar to previous diabetes related problems I went to Elda

Spent 7 weeks in the hospital, turns out it wasn’t diabetes related and was a very rare blood disease. Needless to day numerous tests were run over the 7 week stay, not to mention the stay itself. I wrongly assumed it would be covered and left the hospital healed, but with a €7000 bill”

”Speaking from personal experience, if it happens that public health care is the route taken even though you aren’t in the system, you can petition your private health care to cover. I was taken by my host mom to a public hospital because we thought I had appendicitis. I had Mapfre at the time (but didn’t have a card yet because I had JUST arrived) and they paid for it once we submitted the bill to them.

A second instance, I had passed out and my boyfriend called 112 without thinking about public vs private, a public ambulance showed up and by this time I had regained consciousness. They made sure I was stable and then gave us the option to take me to a public hospital or wait with me until a private ambulance came. I wasn’t charged for the ambulance”

”Yup, I broke three blood vessels in my nose in 2022, blood pouring out, called the emergency number (112) and they asked me for my SIP (I had one due to vaccinations) and she said I wasn’t covered and I explained I had Adeslas and wanted an ambulance to take me to Vithas. She told me I have to call them ?‍

I do not understand the point of an emergency number that’s only available to self pay or ppl on the social system. Blood pouring out of me and zero sense of urgency from them and Adeslas required me to wait for a decision on the ambulance. I gave up and called cabify. Was in the hospital for three days. Lesson learned”


In conclusion, according to Spainguru Facebook group members, the discussion highlights the importance of being aware of the potential consequences of using the emergency number 112 for health issues in Spain.

While some members share experiences of successfully navigating public and private healthcare systems, there are instances of unexpected bills and the need for proactive communication with private insurance providers.

The conversation underscores the complexity of the Spanish healthcare system and the ongoing learning process for expatriates in ensuring proper coverage during emergencies.