There are a large number of world countries with free healthcare for everyone, regardless of economic or employment status, rage, gender, or medical history.
However, the “free” is a little misleading, since the citizens and residents of that country pay taxes to the government to finance the national healthcare fund. In turn, the government pays for medical treatment costs.
So, while you receive free health care if you do get sick, you pay for it through your taxes.
What Countries Have Universal Healthcare?
Here’s a full list of countries with universal healthcare:
|Bulgaria||Hong Kong||New Zealand||Thailand|
|Burkina Faso||Iceland||Norway||The Bahamas|
|Canada||India||Pakistan||Trinidad and Tobago|
Types of Healthcare Systems
There are two main types of health insurance schemes: free (single-payer) healthcare and universal healthcare. They are not exactly the same thing.
Free Healthcare (Single-Payer)
In countries where there is a single-payer health system, it is the government who covers the cost of medical treatment for all residents. The system is usually funded through taxes. Under this system, everyone, regardless of income, will receive the same type of healthcare.
The British NHS is an example of single-payer healthcare schemes.
Under a universal healthcare scheme, everyone has access to healthcare, but there is usually a range of insurers you can choose from. Typically, you would be paying monthly contributions to an insurance company, either yourself or through an employer, and the company covers your medical expenses. Those who cannot afford to purchase a policy will receive government assistance or reduced premiums.
Germany and Switzerland are examples of universal healthcare.
Countries With the Best Healthcare for Expats
Here are some of the countries with the best healthcare system for foreigners:
- The United Kingdom
Everyone in Mexico, expats included, has universal healthcare. There are two sectors of Mexican public health insurance: the Instituto de Salud para el Bienestar (INSABI) and the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (IMSS).
The IMSS scheme covers everyone who works in Mexico legally, regardless of their nationality. The INSABI scheme was introduced in January 2020 and offers healthcare coverage for unemployed Mexicans and anyone who cannot afford to enroll voluntarily. INSABI replaced the Seguro Popular scheme, which was effective until December 2019.
If you are enrolled under public healthcare in Mexico, you will have coverage for:
- Accidents and medical emergencies.
- Surgeries and other health conditions.
- Prescription medication.
You will also receive part of your salary for 52 weeks, if you cannot work due to a medical condition.
The German health system is ranked as one of the best in the world. It is mandatory that everyone who lives in Germany – citizen, foreign worker, or international student – has to get some sort of health insurance coverage.
The health insurance system in Germany is divided into public (statutory) and private. Under German law, everyone who makes under €5,063 per month has to enroll under the public insurance scheme. The way public insurance works is that you pay 7.3% of your income every month to the health insurance scheme, while your employer matches the other 7.3% for a total of 14.6%.
Those who make more than €5,063 per month, can choose between public and private insurance. However, most people are enrolled under the public health insurance scheme while only a small percentage who are eligible opt for private insurance.
The Universal Coverage Scheme (UCS) allows working expats in Thailand to benefit from the Thai public health insurance scheme. To access the USC, you have to contribute 5% of your salary into the Thai social security scheme.
Expats will receive a Social Security Number and will be assigned to a hospital after enrolling under the national insurance network, where they can receive free healthcare. Seeking medical treatment in another hospital (or privately), means there is no coverage.
The benefits of public health insurance in Thailand include:
- Free health care if you deek treatment in your assigned hospital.
- Thai hospitals are well equipped and the doctors are good.
- There are no extra charges as everything is covered by the social security contributions.
In Canada, you can benefit from the national healthcare scheme if you are a citizen or a permanent resident. As in most free healthcare countries, a part of your taxes goes to the national health fund and then the government pays for your medical costs.
The Canadian healthcare system covers most medical procedures and treatments, but many expats choose to get supplemental private insurance to cover things that public insurance does not cover, such as:
- Prescription medications
- Dental care
- Ambulance services
- Prescription glasses
The United Kingdom
The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) works on a residency basis, offering free healthcare to anyone who is a legal resident, regardless of nationality. The NHS is funded by taxpayers. Expats have to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) which is about £624 per year per person when they apply for a visa.
In turn, the NHS covers all medical treatment and offers discounted pricing on all prescription medicine. You can expect to pay a maximum of $12 for any drug prescribed by the NHS. Additionally, the NHS also covers treatment related to mental health, including counselling, therapy, support groups, and health screenings.
Spanish citizens and residents pay taxes and social security contributions which helps finance the national healthcare fund. Once you are registered under national health insurance, you will receive a TSI health card, which will allow you to receive free healthcare from Spanish hospitals and reduced fees for prescription medication.
To get the national health card, you have to register your address at the local town hall, and you will get a certificate of registration (Empadronamiento). With the Empadronamiento, you can get a healthcare card.
Further reading Spanish health insurance guide for American expats
Japan has two healthcare schemes, based on your employment status:
- The Japanese Health Insurance, which is available to full-time workers and offered by .the employer
- The Japanese National Health Insurance, which is available to students, unemployed people and employees who work less than 30 hours a week.
Either of these plans will cover at least 70% of all healthcare costs.
Countries With Free Healthcare for Visitors
Even though there are cases where hospitals do not charge tourists for minor treatment, there’s really no country that offers free healthcare for short-term visitors. As a tourist in a foreign country, you should have travel health insurance to cover any unexpected medical expenses or you may have to pay out of pocket.
That’s because there is no “free” healthcare anywhere; every health system is funded either by taxes or other contributions by the residents of that country. If you do not contribute to a country’s national health fund, then you are not eligible to reap the benefits – so, you need travel insurance.
Pros and Cons of Free Healthcare Countries
Free healthcare for everyone may seem like it’s a perfect system, but many do not agree. Here are some of the pros and cons of having universal single-payer healthcare:
|Everyone has the same amount of health insurance coverage, regardless of their economic situation.||There are longer waiting times.|
|People are less likely to become ill and die due to not having access to adequate health care.||There are higher taxes.|
|The cost of treatment is lower.||Doctors are paid less.|
|Doctors and hospitals can be overwhelmed by the number of patients.|