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What Countries Have Free Healthcare?

Whether you’re moving abroad, travelling, or enjoying a holiday you will undoubtedly want to know how you can stay protected when overseas. Around the world there are a number of countries that offer free or universal healthcare. However, it is not always clear if this extends to visitors and, if it does, if it is truly free.

Below, Expatriate Group shines a light on the difference between free and universal healthcare. We also highlight the 43 countries which offer free or universal healthcare and how this applies to expats and temporary visitors.

What’s the difference between free healthcare and universal healthcare?

Free and universal are terms associated with healthcare that are often used interchangeably. However, they are different.

Free healthcare is available to all citizens for free, or at a very reduced cost compared to other countries.

Universal healthcare means that the country has a healthcare system in place which usually extends to around 90% of citizens as a minimum.

The UK has the NHS – the National Health Service. It is a single-payer healthcare system, with money from taxpayers being used to fund the service. Whatever your residence status, treatment through the NHS is free. There are instances where you’ll have to pay, but emergency treatment and GP surgery visits are free.

In contrast there are countries which have a universal healthcare system but individuals will be required to invest in mandatory insurance coverage, like the USA. The majority of remaining countries offer a very basic level of universal healthcare, with citizens purchasing medical insurance to ensure the have the access to the correct care should they need it.

Is free healthcare really free?

No healthcare is completely free. In countries where you don’t pay a bill when you visit the hospital or a doctor it is the taxpayers of the country who are footing the bill. The government take a percentage of working people’s wages to fund the system. Therefore, whilst healthcare may seem free on the surface, tax paying citizens are financially fuelling care.

In some other countries, those receiving healthcare may have to pay a small fee when they use medical services. This can be reimbursed by the government if this is the system the country has in place. Therefore, whilst you may see countries as having free healthcare, the money is certainly coming from somewhere.

32 countries offering free or universal healthcare

The list below contains all the countries where healthcare is most affordable. In some circumstances this may be completely free healthcare, in others there may be a system in place to make healthcare as affordable as possible so that a vast majority of the population have access.

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Bahrain
  • Belgium
  • Brunei
  • Canada
  • Cyprus
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hong Kong
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Kuwait
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • Singapore
  • Slovenia
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Kingdom

What countries don’t have free healthcare?

The USA is the largest developed county that does not have a universal healthcare system.

The United States primarily relies on employers providing employees with health insurance coverage which extends to their dependents. There are government programmes in place to help safeguard the elderly, the disabled, and those who are vulnerable. Some US citizens have both public and private health insurance cover to protect themselves, whilst some don’t have either. The USA has notoriously high healthcare costs and private insurance is expensive.

China is very close to having a universal healthcare model. As the world’s most populous country, public funded insurance plans cover 95% of citizens. However, some people cannot afford the premiums and some inpatient and outpatient care isn’t covered.

Other countries which do not have any form of universal healthcare system in place include Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Egypt, Iran, and South Africa.

Is free healthcare available for expatriates?

Healthcare is never entirely free in any country. There are systems in place where expats may be able to access services in an affordable way. However, investing in International Health Insurance is imperative if you’re living overseas so that you have peace of mind should you need medical care.

Is free healthcare available for travellers or holidaymakers?

Before heading overseas on a temporary basis you should do ample research on your destination/s. Whilst healthcare may be free for citizens, it does not mean it will extend to non-residents. Travel Insurance can be purchased easily online so that you’re protected when visiting another country.

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