Discovering Countries with Free Healthcare

Many countries have some form of free or universal healthcare system in place, providing access to medical care to all citizens. Typically, this includes all foreigners living within their borders as legal residents.

Here’s a list of countries with free healthcare in 2023:

  1. Australia
  2. Austria
  3. Belgium
  4. Canada
  5. Chile
  6. Costa Rica
  7. Croatia
  8. Cuba
  9. Cyprus
  10. Czech Republic
  11. Denmark
  12. Estonia
  13. Finland
  14. France
  15. Germany
  16. Greece
  17. Hong Kong
  18. Hungary
  19. Iceland
  20. Ireland
  21. Israel
  22. Italy
  23. Japan
  24. Latvia
  25. Lithuania
  26. Luxembourg
  27. Malaysia
  28. Malta
  29. Netherlands
  30. New Zealand
  31. Norway
  32. Poland
  33. Portugal
  34. Romania
  35. Serbia
  36. Singapore
  37. Slovakia
  38. Slovenia
  39. South Korea
  40. Spain
  41. Sweden
  42. Taiwan
  43. Thailand
  44. Turkey
  45. United Arab Emirates
  46. United Kingdom
  47. Uruguay

Types of healthcare systems

It’s common for people to confuse the terms “single-payer” and “universal” healthcare. Here’s a quick explanation with some examples.

“Single-payer” means there’s one entity, the government, covering the costs of national health care. Taxes cover these costs.

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is an excellent example of a single-payer healthcare scheme. In the NHS, most treatments are free at the point of delivery. Some have a small fee, such as for prescription medication.

“Universal” simply means any system where healthcare is available to everyone. although you may need to pay contributions to an insurance company. However, those monthly contributions are typically more affordable than those in the US.

Those who can’t afford an insurance policy will receive government assistance or reduced premiums. Turkey, Germany and Switzerland are examples of countries that use universal healthcare.

European countries with free healthcare

Most European countries offer some form of free or universal healthcare, although there are several different systems in place depending on the country.

The three main types of healthcare systems found in Europe are nationalized healthcare systems, social insurance healthcare systems, and private healthcare systems.

Nationalized healthcare systems, such as the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom, are funded and administered by the government. The government manages the entire healthcare system, including funding for medical services, hospitals, and clinics.

Patients typically do not have to pay for medical care beyond small fees for prescriptions or dental care, and everyone is entitled to medical care regardless of income or social status.

Social insurance healthcare systems, such as those found in France and Germany, are funded by a combination of employee and employer contributions.

These systems typically provide a broad range of medical services. Patients may also have some out-of-pocket expenses, such as co-payments or deductibles. Residents of the country have a choice of healthcare providers and they can access medical care from both public and private providers.

Private healthcare systems, such as in Switzerland, are funded primarily through private insurance, rather than through taxes. Patients pay for their healthcare out of pocket or through private insurance, although the government may subsidize some services. Patients have a high degree of choice and flexibility in terms of healthcare providers and treatments.

Some countries in Europe also have hybrid healthcare systems that combine elements of two or more of these approaches. For example, the Netherlands has a combination of private and social insurance systems, while Italy has a nationalized system with some private insurance options.

Is “free” healthcare really free?

Universal healthcare has many benefits, but it’s not entirely free. In countries with universal healthcare, the cost of providing medical care to all citizens is funded through taxes.

Every taxpayer, whether rich or poor, contributes to the healthcare system, which provides access to medical care regardless of their ability to pay.

As well as taxes, some countries may require individuals to pay for certain out-of-pocket healthcare costs like co-payments or deductibles. Still, the ability to access quality medical care without worrying about the cost is a fundamental right that many people in countries without universal healthcare struggle to achieve.

Can foreigners access free or universal healthcare?

While some hospitals may not charge tourists for minor treatments in certain situations, no country provides entirely free healthcare to short-term visitors. As a tourist, it’s crucial to have travel health insurance to cover any unforeseen medical expenses.

It’s a different story if you become a legal resident of the country. Then you’ll become part of the system and can usually access healthcare in the same way as a citizen. For example, here’s how the health system works in Portugal.

Healthcare systems in every country are either funded through taxes or other contributions made by residents, so if you don’t contribute to a country’s national health fund, you won’t be eligible for its benefits.

That’s why having insurance is so essential when traveling abroad, even in countries with free healthcare.

Pros and cons of free healthcare systems

Here are some of the pros and cons of this type of healthcare system:

Pros:

  1. Accessibility: With free healthcare, everyone has access to medical care, regardless of their income or social status.
  2. Cost Savings: A universal healthcare system can potentially save costs in the long run, as preventative care is emphasized, reducing the need for expensive medical procedures later.
  3. Equity: In a free healthcare system, medical care is considered a basic human right and everyone has the same access to it.
  4. Better Public Health: With access to free medical care, people are more likely to receive early diagnosis and treatment for illnesses, leading to improved public health.

Cons:

  1. High Taxes: The cost of free healthcare is funded through taxes, which can be a burden on the economy and taxpayers.
  2. Long Wait Times: With a large number of people seeking medical care, wait times can be long for certain treatments and procedures.
  3. Limited Choice: In some cases, patients may not have a choice in the medical care they receive, as the government controls the system.
  4. Limited Access to Certain Treatments: The availability of some specialized treatments and procedures may be limited due to cost considerations.

Before you go…

It’s important to remember that as a tourist, you won’t have access to free or universal healthcare, despite many countries having it available for their citizens. But you can access the national system once you become a legal resident of that country.

That’s why it’s crucial to stay safe by having travel insurance to covers any unforeseen medical expenses, whether the country you’re visiting has free healthcare or not.

Although universal healthcare has many benefits, such as being accessible, cost-effective, promoting equity, and leading to better public health, it’s not entirely without cost. Citizens typically finance the cost of medical care through taxes or other forms of contributions.

Free healthcare does have some drawbacks, such as higher taxes, longer waiting times, more limited choice, and restricted access to specific treatments.

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