It is a well-known fact that the healthcare system in the US is among the most expensive in the world. Data shows that Americans spend more per capita on their medical care than people living in most other countries. However, this does not mean they get the best quality or outcomes from their costly wellness programs.
There are a couple of indicators that can help you determine if a country’s healthcare schemes will give you good value for your money.To measure the effectiveness of medical care in a nation, experts look at factors such as its quality, access, efficiency, equity, patient rights and information disclosure, waiting times, range of services, illness prevention, and cost.
While no system is absolutely perfect, some are a lot more beneficial for citizens compared to others. Read on to find out about the highest-rated healthcare systems around the world.
According to a number of recent international studies, the UK ranks number one in healthcare compared to all other nations. The country’s National Health System (NHS) was launched in 1948 and has evolved to a great extent over a period of time; today, it is one of the largest and most effective programs in the world.
Funded by taxation, the NHS provides low-cost (and in some cases free) public medical care to all the citizens of the UK. People who are covered by this scheme are entitled to free checkups by NHS General Practitioners. People only have to pay for dental treatments, eye tests, spectacles, and medical prescriptions. These charges do not apply to children, pregnant women, and those who qualify for various state benefits.
Residents of the EU are entitled to free emergency medical treatment at any NHS Hospital, but have to pay for inpatient treatments and all other medical services. Non-British residents have to pay for their treatments unless they have medical insurance. Foreigners from countries that have a reciprocal healthcare agreement with the UK are generally exempt from healthcare payments. Visitors and expats are often advised to get private insurance when they arrive in the country.
Of course, like in any other nation, the UK’s public healthcare services aren’t always at par with private services. There are regular complaints about NHS facilities being understaffed and overworked.
To download a guide with detailed information on the functioning of the NHS, click here.
Healthcare services and standards in Switzerland are very high. The country has a wide network of doctors and hospitals, which are a part of its public, subsidized private, and fully private healthcare systems.
Both public and private medical facilities in Switzerland meet international standards. The main difference between the two is that patients may be asked to visit a private hospital for more specialized treatments. When opting for any kind of treatment, the residents of Switzerland are free to choose their doctor. Without prior consultation with their family doctor or GP, they are less likely to have direct access to a specialist. An outpatient can see a private doctor or can visit any walk-in clinic at a private or public hospital.
Swiss doctors usually have access to the best-equipped medical facilities, and because there are a good number of them, patients are not subjected to long waiting lists. However, all this comes at a price. There is no free state health service in this country, and like all countries, private medical care is more expensive than public.
Switzerland’s healthcare system is neither funded by tax nor financed in part by employer contribution. Every individual (with a few exceptions) living and working in this country is obligated to sign up with a public or private insurance provider within three months of arrival. On average, the residents of Switzerland pay around 10% of their paychecks towards health insurance premiums.
A public health insurance provider does not have the authority to turn down any applicant, even with factors like chronic illness and preexisting medical conditions. For a list of all registered insurance providers, visit the Federal Health Agency’s website.
Some treatments aren’t covered by insurance, and in such cases doctors are required to point this out to patients. Generally, people with basic cover are required to pay CHF 20 (US$ 20.6) each day towards a hospital stay, as well as 10% of the price of prescription drugs.
The Swedish healthcare system, regarded as among the best in the world, is funded by the public and is largely decentralized. At the same time, private healthcare also exists.
Proportionally, Sweden has one of the largest elderly populations in Europe, as 20% of the country’s people are over the age of 65. Life expectancy in Sweden is 80.1 years for men and 83.7 years for women, which is higher than the global average. This has been attributed to the fall in mortality rates from strokes and heart attacks.
The authorities have taken several steps to make sure that all residents get access to subsidized medical care. Each year, around 9% of the country’s GDP is spent on healthcare. Providing medical services of good quality is the joint responsibility of the central government, county councils, and municipalities. The entire country has been divided into four healthcare regions: Gotland, Halland, Skåne, and Western Götaland.
The responsibility of providing healthcare to all citizens has been devolved to local councils and municipalities, and all the local councils and municipalities have a lot of freedom under the Health and Medical Service Act. County councils also ensure that all local residents receive dental care up until the age of 20. Care for the elderly is the responsibility of the municipalities.
In the past, long waiting times for specialists’ services was a common cause of dissatisfaction among the locals. In 2005, the government introduced a healthcare guarantee, which meant that all patients should have to wait no more than 90 days for any kind of treatment. If the waiting time is likely to be exceeded, patients are accommodated elsewhere and the county council pays for their traveling costs.
Patients pay around SEK 80 (US$ 9.35) per day for hospital stay, anywhere between SEK 100 (US$ 11.68) and SEK 200 (US$ 23.36) for primary care, and more than SEK 300 (US$ 35.05) for specialists’ services. There is also a limit on the individual costs.
For more information on Swedish healthcare, click here.
The healthcare system in Australia is known to be top notch but quite complex. It operates as a mixture of private and public services. The locals often describe it as a web of recipients, providers, and organizational structures.
The National Health Act is at the core of the Australian medical system. It was passed in 1953 in order to regulate medical services, dental care, sickness and hospital benefits, and provisions of pharmaceuticals. This Act covers registration of health funds, the Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme, and nursing homes.
Since 1984, Medicare has been the universal health insurance scheme for the Commonwealth Government. It provides Australian patients with free treatment at public hospitals as well as free or subsidized dental care, optometrist services, and psychological services. Patients can also claim a rebate for certain forms of treatment by dieticians, speech pathologists, and physiotherapists.
A major part of Medicare is funded by the income tax surcharge. Any taxpayer who earns more than a specific amount has to pay a levy. People who are covered enjoy certain cost benefits like doctors’ fees, medical examinations, eye tests, and most surgeries. Those who are suffering from chronic illnesses and require special care also get a rebate from Medicare on visits to allied healthcare providers. For a rebate, it is essential that a GP refer a patient to an allied professional that is registered with Medicare.
However, there is a wide range of services that aren’t covered by Medicare. The Australian government therefore also encourages residents to get private health insurance. However, this isn’t compulsory, as patients can go to any public hospital for subsidized treatment. Private insurance gives them the freedom to choose doctors and specialists at any public or private hospital.
There are several other aspects of Australian healthcare that are seen as positive for people in different ways. For more information, click here.
Medical services in Germany are among the best, not just in Europe, but also the world. The country’s multi-payer healthcare system has two main types of health insurance: statutory or public health Insurance (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung) and private health insurance (Private Krankenversicherung).
All salaried professionals drawing less than € 4,575 (US$ 5,000) per month are publically insured. Both employee and employer contributions are on the higher side. Coverage is universal for all residents, as it is obligatory for anyone living, studying, or working in Germany to be insured. In fact, being covered by some sort of medical insurance is a requirement when applying for a job.
Private healthcare is understandably more expensive, and anyone earning more than € 4,575 (US$ 5,000) per month can opt for it.
Public insurance is easy to apply for; in most cases, representatives collect the documents from the applicants and complete the process. However, getting private healthcare is a lot more complex, and applicants have to go through a series of screening procedures on their own.
There is little difference between public and private medical facilities in Germany. However, the main benefit of private insurance lies in the speed of care. A few doctors only cater to patients that have private insurance.
Medication in Germany can be quite costly, depending on a person’s insurance coverage. Even those who are enrolled under public health schemes don’t have to pay the full price of prescription medicines; they normally pay only around 10% of the total cost.
For more on healthcare in Germany, click here.
Dutch healthcare is regarded as one of the major plus points of living in this country. The Netherlands spends around 11.9% of its GDP on medical services. Even expats and visitors have easy access to great healthcare here.
The Netherlands has four statutory forms of health insurance, and these include:
– Basic insurance, which covers common medical care (Zorgverzekeringswet or ZW)
– Long-term nursing and care (Wet Langdurige Zorg, WLZ)
– Support services by the municipality (Wet Maatschappelijke Ondersteuning, WMO)
– Short or long term medical care for young people (Jeugdwet)
Every individual living and working in the Netherlands is legally obligated to get standard health insurance to cover the costs of GP services, hospital treatments, and prescription medicines. While residents are automatically insured for long-term nursing, everyone is supposed to get their own basic healthcare insurance (basisverzekering). People can also choose to get additional private insurance to cover costs that aren’t included in the regular packages.
Students below the age of 18 don’t have to take out separate insurance policies for themselves as they can be covered under their parents’ policies. However, this isn’t an automatic procedure, and the insurance company needs to be informed about it.
Standard Dutch insurance covers GP consultations, specialist treatments, hospital care, medication, dental care up to the age of 18, maternity care, dieticians’ services, and certain kinds of therapy. Extra coverage is required for extensive dental treatment and physiotherapy.
In the Netherlands, GPs are responsible for gathering all the medical records of a patient. They are the first point of contact in case of a health problem, and generally deal with routine issues. In case of complications, GPs refer their patients to specialists. All residents first need to register with a GP, as they can’t go to any specialist directly. Hospitals too require a letter from the GP for admitting a patient, unless it is an emergency.
For more on healthcare in the Netherlands, click here.