October 10, 2022
Free healthcare vs. universal healthcare
What countries have free healthcare?
Which countries have the best free healthcare?
Is free healthcare really free?
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Flexible working hours, alternating between working from home and going into the office… Remote work has enabled workers all over the world to enjoy greater freedom and flexibility in the way they work. For many, being able to work remotely has even opened up opportunities to fulfill lifelong dreams and relocate to a different region - or even to a totally different country.
With the rise in remote work, employee relocation requests have literally gone through the roof. As the need to work from the office gradually disappears, more and more remote workers take the plunge and relocate to less expensive areas or exotic countries they’ve always been curious about - even if this means having to accept a pay cut.
It is estimated that around 5 million people in the US have relocated since the beginning of the pandemic. And according to a study conducted by Upwork, between 6.5% and 11.5% of Americans are planning to move in the future due to remote work.
For those planning to move to a different country, there are many aspects to consider before relocating while working remotely, especially when it comes to choosing the right country. Suitable destinations for remote work should fulfill several requirements, like a low cost of living, a favorable tax system and good connectivity.
Another nice-to-have bonus when moving to a new country is free healthcare. Here is a list of countries with free healthcare.
When searching for countries with free healthcare, you may come across a different term which is often used to qualify a country’s public healthcare system. The terms “universal healthcare” and “free healthcare” are typically used interchangeably - although some organizations distinguish between the two categories (see next section).
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines universal health coverage as a system where “all people have access to the health services they need, when and where they need them, without financial hardship”. According to the definition, this includes “the full range of essential health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care”.
Socialized model, i.e. hospitals are owned and financed by the government Single-payer model, i.e. government-paid universal healthcare, but with hospitals and healthcare facilities being privately owned and run
Private-insurance model, i.e. system of private insurers regulated by the government with insurance coverage being mandatory for citizens
To sum it up, universal healthcare means that the citizens and residents of a country have access to the health services they need, regardless of whether they are able to pay for the service or not.
The RCG Global Health Index 2021 provides an interactive map of the world and rates each country’s health system based on its coverage and gratuity. According to the index, the following countries offer free and universal healthcare.
The RCG differentiates between free healthcare and universal healthcare. In the methodology of the index, free healthcare refers to a publicly funded healthcare system where all citizens have access to healthcare free of charge (or for a nominal fee).
Universal healthcare, on the other hand, is understood as a healthcare system where medical services and financial protection are available to more than 90% of the population. It should also be noted that the index doesn’t rate the quality or scope of the provided healthcare services.
Trinidad and Tobago
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United Arab Emirates
Having free access to healthcare is one thing, but for a country to be a good destination for relocation, the healthcare system doesn’t just need to be free, but it needs to offer high standards. So, which countries have free healthcare that is also high-quality?
According to the CEOWORLD magazine’s Health Care Index 2021, the best healthcare systems in the world are:
Although it’s called “free” healthcare, healthcare services are never absolutely free. Citizens of countries that offer free healthcare may not have to pay any fees - or just a small fee - when going to the doctor or to the hospital (i.e. in the moment they access the medical services), but they’re paying for it indirectly in other parts.
Public healthcare systems are funded by taxes which are, as we all know, paid by the citizens of each country. Remote workers looking to relocate should therefore not only check whether their new country of residence offers free healthcare, but also how much they will have to pay in taxes and social security contributions. It’s no secret that the countries that rank high in terms of healthcare quality and standards are usually the ones with high income and social taxes.
Take France, for example. The French Republic figures in most Top 10 rankings of countries with the best healthcare systems. But receiving high-quality healthcare also has its price, and employees in France pay around 23% of their salary in social security contributions, plus up to 45% income tax.
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