Last updated on 01-Dec-2022
We often see questions and comments about the cost of living in Portugal (if interested, we have another post sharing our basic monthly expenses here), and one of the questions asked most often is about the cost of private health insurance. This seems to be a subject of particular interest to those coming from the USA, where health insurance can be quite expensive.
So, did you know that if you live in Portugal you can access a free private health plan? Yes, FREE!
Now, before we dive into this free private plan, we need to mention an important point: legal residents of Portugal qualify for the public national healthcare system, the “Serviço Nacional de Saúde” or SNS (which is not entirely free, but heavily subsidized – perhaps this is a separate post for another day), and having private health coverage is optional (as an example, we haven’t purchased private health insurance here so far). Portugal has both a public healthcare network as well as a private network of hospitals and other health services.
We are not trying to discourage anyone from having private health insurance… just want to share something we learned here and others may not know about, especially if they are new to the country. We understand that many people exercise the choice to pay for health insurance to access private hospitals and service providers if that better suits their situation, preferences and budget, and there are a number of health insurance companies in Portugal, but we want to tell you about one health plan that costs you NADA – yes, nada, zero, zip! – and still gives you the option to access services from the private network at a discounted rate.
So, does that mean you can get a full-service, premium private health insurance coverage plan and pay nothing when you use it, nor monthly costs? Well, not quite. Keep on reading…
What is “covered” or “included” in private health plans depends on the premiums and different levels of coverage. Some of the most “complete” health insurance options (read “higher” premiums) include a certain number of services at no (additional) cost and others for a base fee. If you use up your limit, or for services not included, clients would pay a “co-participation” fee (co-pay), which is usually still lower than the regular price charged without insurance at private providers. Other “basic” health plans have a lower premium and may provide you with the co-participation option only, so clients can access services, consultations, exams, and procedures at a lower cost.
And then there’s the star of this post: the FREE option that Continente (yes – the supermarket chain!) offers to its clients: the “Plano Keep Zero Wells” (Wells Keep Zero Plan) in partnership with AdvanceCare. By simply applying to the FREE Continente loyalty/points card (in-store or by downloading the App Cartão Continente), you can start enjoying the benefits of the Wells Keep Zero plan. There are no costs, no monthly premiums, no contracts, and no obligations with Continente either. Plus, each card can cover up to 12 people in the same family/household.
Wells is the healthcare arm (pharmacy, optical, medical, diagnostic, dental, and aesthetic services) of the Continente parent company, Sonae Group. They also have several Dr Wells Clinics offering a variety of services in locations across the country. The brand Keep Wells currently offers four coverage levels: one free health plan (Keep Zero) as well as three other health insurance options with low monthly fees. Further details on the options and the difference in costs/inclusions can be found here.
In essence, if you have the Continente card and want to book a consultation, exam or procedure using the free plan, you can look up the participating private providers on the KeepWells website for a location near you and contact them to book an appointment. Then make sure to present your card or show the app when registering with the service provider. The costs are listed, so you know in advance how much you will be paying, and there are no additional deductibles, monthly fees or other costs.
Important: This free plan is not a reimbursement or claim model plan. Continente and KeepWells DO NOT reimburse or pay themselves for any portion of the costs. Instead, you qualify for discounted rates for the services you use.
The Keep Zero Wells plan is an “a la carte” option, where you only pay (a discounted rate) for the services you need when you need them. And there’s a BIG BONUS: you collect 10% “cash back” on the amounts you pay for the services, which accumulate as a credit – in actual € Euros, NOT points – on your Continente card. Then, you can use the credits to pay for groceries and other purchases at Continente and Wells (+ other partners), online or at the stores!
For example, let’s say I need to get a dental cleaning done. I can check the website to find participating providers in my area. Compare prices, locations, call and book an appointment with the provider I select. Then go for my cleaning, pay the discounted rate I saw on the website and that’s it!
- No cost to join
- No membership costs
- No monthly fee or annual fee
- No contract
- No age limit
- No exclusion of pre-existing conditions
- No usage or spending limit
- For the whole family (up to 12 people per card/household)
Another advantage of using the Wells plan is having access to a centralized online catalogue and a selected network with thousands of Clinics, Hospitals and various types of health and wellness services, with costs already disclosed on the website, full contact information, etc.
Depending on where you are coming from, this may all sound “too good to be true”, so you may be wondering what’s the catch… Well, so far we honestly have not found any. We know it’s not the same as having a comprehensive private health insurance coverage, but at the very least you will get *some* discount and pre-negotiated prices, without surprises. And the cash back doesn’t hurt either!
So, what do you think about this free plan option? If this is news to you, would you use the Keep Zero Wells plan? And if you have used it, how was the experience? Let us know in the comments below!