Portugal: Health system review

Pedro Pita Barros, Sara Ribeirinho Machado, Jorge de Almeida Simões

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

133 Citations (Scopus)


The Portuguese population enjoys good health and increasing life expectancy, though at lower levels than other western European countries. All residents in Portugal have access to health care provided by the National Health Service (NHS), financed mainly through taxation. Co-payments have been increasing over time, and the level of cost-sharing is highest for pharmaceutical products. Approximately one-fifth to a quarter of the population enjoys a second (or more) layer of health insurance coverage through health subsystems and voluntary health insurance (VHI). Health care delivery is based on both public and private providers. Public provision is predominant in primary care and hospital care, with a gatekeeping system in place for the former. Pharmaceutical products, diagnostic technologies and private practice by physicians constitute the bulk of private health care provision. The Portuguese health system has not undergone any major changes on the financing side since the early 1990s, despite the steady growth of public health expenditure. On the other hand, many measures have been adopted to improve the performance of the health system, including public private partnerships (PPPs) for new hospitals, a change in NHS hospital management structures, pharmaceutical reforms, the reorganization of primary care and the creation of long-term care networks. Some of these measures have faced opposition from the (local) population, namely those related to the closure of health care facilities. There is an overall awareness, and concern, about the rise in health care expenditure in Portugal. Most of the reforms that have come into effect have done so too recently to measure any effects at present (January 2011).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-156
JournalHealth systems in transition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011


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