1.5 million more Spaniards have switched to private healthcare since the Covid-19 pandemic

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By Jaime Velazquez
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Noelia has gone to a private dermatology clinic in Madrid for a check-up. Through Spain's public health system, she would have waited an average of 70 days to get the same appointment.

"In the public health system, it is true that waiting times to get an appointment are much longer and when it comes to a health issue you can't wait or postpone an appointment with the doctor," Noelia says.

She is one of the 12 million people who already have private health insurance in Spain. Since the beginning of the pandemic, one and a half million more Spaniards have switched to the private sector.

Jesús Fernández Lobo, the CEO of Dermatoclinic, says the public system is struggling to cope with demand.

"The public health system has been subjected to unbearable pressure, and the private health system had to take on a burden of patients who could not be treated in the public health system," he explains.

Three years on, the health system is still trying to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. More than 700,000 people are still waiting for surgery and on average will wait 113 days for an operation.

The delay for a consultation in private centres was on average less than two weeks. But the deterioration of the public health system has also increased waiting times in some specialist and private health centres.

Spaniards spent a record high amount on health insurance last year – up by 7 per cent to a total of €10.5 billion.

"We don’t have to be afraid of the fact that the private health sector is growing, what we should be worried about is that people don’t want to go to the public sector," says Dr Juan Abarca, President of IDIS (Institute for Health Development and Integration). 

Abarca continues: "We in the private health sector are also interested in ensuring that the public health sector works as well as possible because the model we have is not designed to make private health an alternative, but rather a complement to the public health system."

It's a sentiment shared by nearly all Spaniards – to save a healthcare model that continues to be a fundamental pillar of the welfare state.