Which Country to Live for Free Health Care

by Dee Mason

Do you feel you are spending way too much on health care? You are not alone. You may have even thought of migrating to a country where health care is free.

A high number of countries around the globe operate universal health care systems where the basic health care of patients with local doctors and hospitals is a free option. A quicker served paying option is available almost everywhere. The surprise is the lack of consistency between the various national health services (NHS) that exist.

Many people have been used to and expect free healthcare as part of their everyday lifestyles. Alternatively, some countries, with the US being the most obvious, have a system where you pay for what you get or hope the local free hospital can treat you. If you run a lorry you have lorry insurance so why don’t we all have compulsory health insurance?

doctor greeting patient

Where should you live?

So if you want a free NHS style system, where should you live? First, you will need to avoid the whole of Africa as only South Africa has a part system that is in early days of development.

Most of Western Europe operates a government led scheme, not including Switzerland where the system is entirely based on what you can afford. Most of Eastern Europe remains outside the free services with the exception of Russia. Neighboring China offers a free system as do a number of South American countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. A little further north, you’ll find success in Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama and Trinidad.

Even small nations like Barbados, with a population of around 275,000, offer free medical care at both local doctor and hospital levels.

Australia and neighbor New Zealand join an elite mix which includes Iraq and Afghanistan while under current assistance from the US & the UK. South Korea maintains a free system as does Saudi Arabia and Oman.

The Nordic countries all operate the universal guidelines, but taxation is high to meet the demands. Service may be as quick in these countries as it is in private hospitals around the world, but the public are paying for it in a different manner to those paying from savings or via insurance.

Paying for Everything

In the US, it’s a non-universal collection of both public and private spending with drugs and operations usually subsidized by insurance whereas the UK is a completely free set up with private care as a paid option. In the UK all drugs are paid for, but a prescription scheme operates so that all pay a standard fee whatever the drug, apart from those out of work and the very poor, who get them for free.

Canada operates in a similar manner to the UK, with each province deciding how much of their budget to spend on health care.

In Australia, baseline care is free to all with people having the option of paying for care whereas neighbors New Zealand prefer the totally free route. Politically, the New Zealanders will never replace their scheme as a vote against it would ensure political suicide for that party.

In Holland they have gone for compulsory private health insurance with costs equal for all and subsidies available to poorer people who cannot afford the insurance premiums. The citizens pay around 50% of the cost with employers paying the rest.

Germany operates on a mandatory insurance scheme paid for by employers. Private schemes are available for those who can pay for it and the government will pay for those who cannot.

Which system is best?

The differences in quality of care vary enormously. It can be argued that in some countries where the system appears to be free, the waiting times to see a doctor or receive an operation can be vast, often months, whereas in almost all systems where you pay directly to the doctor or hospital, or own health insurance, your delay time can be down to almost minutes.

Governments have been heavily stretched to provide universal ‘NHS’ schemes and often debts outweigh the required funds available.

Canada operates a system where you’ll wait a while for small operations that won’t hinder your lifestyle. But if you need an operation that is life saving, perhaps heart surgery or to remove dangerous cancers, you’ll be seen immediately and acted upon in a similar way to those countries where people pay for their healthcare.

One downside of state schemes is the availability of well paid doctors. For example, France does not have enough eye doctors and the waiting times could make you move abroad.

(Dee Mason is a regular reader of healthonabudget.com. She is interested in reading and researching about health insurance and health care systems.)

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One Response to “Which Country to Live for Free Health Care”

  1. Now I am thinking of retiring somewhere in Costa Rica or somewhere in South America. The weather is warm and health care is free. Canada is great too, but the weather is too cold for me.