In Spain, the powers and management of the public health system are decentralized and transferred to the governments of the autonomous communities (regional governments).
To access medical care from the public health system or to get some pharmaceutical services, each person, regardless of age, must have their individual health card.
The public health card is an individual and non-transferable document that identifies and provides access to users of the public health system in all regions.
But how do you get a health card?
In Spain the whole process may seem complicated due to decentralization of the health system, which means that the procedures may vary depending on the place of residence.
However, it all starts at the same point, with the completion of a single procedure: by obtaining the document that recognizes the right to health care, which is issued by the Spanish Social Security institution (Instituto Nacional de la Seguridad Social, INSS).
According to the Spanish government, when applying for affiliation or a pension or any other regular Social Security benefit, insured people can formalize the document acknowledging their right to receive medical assistance for their beneficiaries in their respective Social Security offices.
The document acknowledging the right to receive medical assistance is used to apply for the health card in the healthcare centre.
Who has the right to healthcare?
Workers insured before the public social security system, pensioners, people receiving regular Social Security benefits and unemployed people who have used up their unemployment benefit or subsidy, as well as family members and others who are dependent on the above, have the right to health care in Spain.
Once the INSS has recognized the right to receive medical assistance, the applicant must go to the health center that corresponds to them according to their residence address (normally the one closest to their home), to request their health card.
In the health center, the professionals will indicate the necessary documentation in your specific case. Normally, a valid document that proves identity and another that proves the residence address (registration with the municipality) are essential.
As a general rule, the health center will be in charge of processing the issuance of the individual health card for the insured and for each beneficiary.
Depending on the place of residence, the card will be sent to the applicant's home address or to the health center for collection in person.
In the case of foreign citizens, the validity of the health card is associated with the validity of their residence permit.