Free Healthcare services are imperative to the functioning of any country. The healthcare facilities provided by a nation determine its growth and development on economic, social, financial and other such aspects. Moreover, the quality and quantity of a country’s healthcare can drastically impact the quality of life of its inhabitants. Therefore, good public healthcare is important for every country—be it developed, developing or under-developed.
There is a huge difference between free healthcare and universal healthcare. Although both terms are used interchangeably, they vary from each other on some levels. In this blog, we have covered the top countries offering unique healthcare facilities, along with the difference between free healthcare and universal healthcare.
Before we proceed with the countries offering comprehensive healthcare, let us learn the difference between free and universal healthcare.
Free healthcare vs Universal Healthcare
Free healthcare is not actually offered for free. Although it is provided by government agencies, it is indirectly funded by citizens whose taxes support all government operations, such as healthcare expenditures. Free healthcare implies that all citizens receive healthcare at zero to a very minimal cost. In various countries, healthcare can be available to patients by paying a small fee or is deductible each time they visit the hospital or consult a doctor. Often patients have to pay in advance and then submit reimbursement forms with the government. Therefore, free healthcare often does require money.
Universal healthcare, on the other hand, means there is a health care system that provides coverage to at least 90% of citizens. Both of the above are subsidized programs typically paid for by the citizens of the country via taxes. An instance of universal healthcare is when the government pays for the healthcare needs of its residents (aka “free” healthcare). This is often called the single-payer system. However, this is not the only method.
A country may have universal healthcare, in a sense, through legislated, expensive mandatory insurance coverage. A country may also have a basic level of universal health care, however, in reality, the majority of citizens still purchase supplemental global medical insurance to ensure an appropriate standard of care.
Countries offering free healthcare services
According to the STC report, all but 43 countries in the world offer free or universal healthcare. However, the standards among these countries can vary widely. The list includes several countries including Norway, which is one of the healthiest countries in the world and is the first-ever country in the world to introduce free healthcare in 1912. It also includes Yemen where raging conflict has made healthcare from international relief agencies difficult to access.
Countries offering universal Free healthcare services
It is important to note that not all citizens or residents receive free healthcare in those countries where free healthcare services are provided by government agencies. In many cases, employers and individuals share in the cost of healthcare through contributions, cost-share arrangements, co-pays, and other related fees. However, the goal with these programs is to make healthcare as affordable and accessible as possible for the largest number of people—Universal Care.
List of countries providing universal healthcare services
The below-listed countries offer universal healthcare services”
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
Australia’s Universal Healthcare Services
Known as Medicare, Australia’s universal healthcare program was introduced in 1984. Under this, citizens have access to free public hospital care and substantial coverage for physician services and pharmaceuticals for Australian citizens, residents with permanent visas, and New Zealand citizens following their enrollment in the program and confirmation of identity.
Restricted access is provided to citizens of certain other countries through formal agreements. Other visitors to Australia, as well as undocumented immigrants, do not have access to Medicare and are treated as private-pay patients, including those needing emergency services.
China’s Universal Healthcare Services
China largely achieved universal insurance coverage in 2011 through the following three public insurance programs:
- Urban Employee Basic Medical Insurance, mandatory for urban residents with formal jobs, was launched in 1998.
- The voluntary Newly Cooperative Medical Scheme was offered to rural residents in 2003.
- The voluntary Urban Resident Basic Medical Insurance was launched in 2007 to cover urban residents without formal jobs, including children, the elderly, and the self-employed.
England’s Universal Healthcare Services
Health coverage in England has been universal since the creation of the National Health Service (NHS) in 1948. Currently, all those ordinarily residents in England are automatically entitled to NHS care, still largely free at the point of use, as are nonresidents with a European Health Insurance Card. However, for non-European visitors or undocumented immigrants, treatment in an emergency department and for certain infectious diseases is free.
France’s Universal Healthcare Services
In France, universal coverage was achieved over seven decades by extending statutory health insurance (SHI) to all employees (in 1945), retirees (in 1945), the self-employed (in 1966), and the unemployed (in 2000). In 2000, the Couverture maladie universelle (Universal Health Coverage), or CMU, was created for residents not eligible for SHI, although the program required yearly renewals and entitlement changes whenever a beneficiary’s professional or family situation changed. After the implementation of CMU, fewer than 1% of residents were left without baseline coverage.
Germany’s Universal Healthcare Services
In Germany, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck’s Health Insurance Act of 1883 established the first social health insurance system in the world. At the beginning, health insurance coverage was restricted to blue-collar workers. The final step toward universal health coverage occurred in 2007, when health insurance, either statutory or private, was mandated for all citizens and permanent residents. Today’s system provides coverage for the entire population, along with a generous benefits package.