If you or one of your family members has a serious health condition, the answer to the healthcare question can outweigh all of the other criteria that you need to consider when making the decision to move or to stay where you are.
Sometimes people consider health care as an after thought when they are thinking about taking a position in a new city. They assume that if they currently reside in a country that provides good health care services that this quality of health care will be available in their new city. Often, they also assume that the costs will be similar to their home country.
These assumptions are not always true. Some countries offer universal health care and some do not. Some allow non-citizens to participate in the universal system. Some do not.
Also, in some countries, the standard of health care is not as high as it is in other countries. This deficiency in the standard of care could apply in general, or it could apply to localized areas of the population. For example, in some countries there is a large discrepancy between good and bad hospitals. If you have the money, often care is of a very high standard. The opposite is also true, unfortunately.
If you are considering a move and you or a family member has a serious health condition, you will need as much information as possible about the health care system in the country you are considering moving to. To help you with your research, we have compiled data based on the World Health Organization’s World Health Rankings (2000) and other sources of information and have provided an overview of 21 expat destinations around the world.
|Expat Destination||WHO Ranking||Coverage for Citizens||Public Health Services Available to Expats?||Insurance Coverage||Comments|
|Argentina||75||Universal||Yes||$300-$900 pesos per month according to the level and type of insurance||Although private health insurance is not necessary, it is advisable.|
|Australia||32||All Australians over the age of 30 are encouraged to have private health insurance.||Limited public health care is available to overseas visitors/expats from some countries. Expats who become citizens or permanent residents may be entitled to Medicare.||From $12 AUD for basic coverage.||The healthcare facilities that are available in Australia are world class.|
|Belgium||21||Mandatory socialized healthcare system.||Yes. People working in Belgium pay mandatory contributions in the form of taxes.||Private insurance is not needed but many expats do take additional coverage out.||Private insurance is not necessary for individuals who pay healthcare contributions through their taxes.|
|Canada||30||Universal||No. Medical insurance is required.||From $50 to $70 per month for individual coverage, and up to $200 per month to cover up to two dependents.||There are no private medical facilities in Canada.|
|China||144||Largely privatized (Currently undergoing reform)||No. Although it is possible to pay for medical services as and well you use them, full healthcare insurance is advisable.||Private insurance can cost as much as $1000 USD per month.||All hospitals will accept private insurance.|
|France||1||Universal||Yes. The majority of individuals who are legally residing in France are covered by the government health scheme, providing that they contribute to the system through tax payments.||Supplemental private insurance is advised to cover the gap between what you pay, and what the government reimburses you for (approximately 70% of the cost), especially in regards to prescriptions, dental and eye care.||Hospitals in France, public or private, treat all patients.|
|Germany||25||Health insurance required for all citizens||EU and European Economic Area member states have transferable social security agreements between countries, and this includes health insurance. Public health insurance is available to anyone earning under €48,000 per annum.||Private health insurance is available from around €150 a month.||USA, Canada, and Australia have social security agreements with Germany allowing their citizens to make claims for benefits from their home country while working in Germany.|
|India||112||Universal||State-run facilities that charge nominal fees are available; however, private coverage is highly advisable.||Comprehensive local insurance plans cost about Rs 4,000 - 12,000 per person||Consultations generally cost between Rs 200 - 800 for top specialists in world-class facilities|
|Japan||10||Health insurance required for all citizens||Expats will need to subscribe to the Japan National Health Insurance (NHI), which is available to all residents, or private insurance (Japanese or an international plan), or both.||You can expect to pay around $150 USD per month for private insurance.||Expats who take the NHI will be required to pay 30% of any medical expenses they incur.|
|Netherlands||17||Health insurance required for all citizens||Private coverage required||Insurance policies average €110 per month||No private insurance contributions are required for children under the age of 18|
|New Zealand||41||Universal||Yes||Supplemental private insurance is available for less than $200 a month for a family||In addition to private medical insurance, there is the tax-payer funded ACC system, which is New Zealand's accident compensation scheme and it covers everyone, including visitors, for the cost of any treatment that is required as a result of an accident.|
|Russia||130||Public/private combination system||All foreign citizens holding residency permits (vid na zhitelstvo) have the same right to free public healthcare as Russian citizens. Foreigners who are considered to be temporary residents, such as those with work permits or on business visas, may or may not have access to public health care depending on reciprocity agreements between Russia and the home country.||Private insurance can cost anywhere between $700 USD per year for a basic policy that allows expats access to public clinics, to $2000 per year for access to private hospitals.||Theoretically, 90 percent of Russian citizens have health insurance through the government, but the system is under funded.|
|Singapore||6||Public health insurance required for all citizens and permanent residents.||Private coverage required. Permanent residents are entitled to access to the Medisave system.||Private health insurance coverage varies from between $S3k and $S20k annually depending upon the level of coverage you require.||The difference between private and government healthcare costs is quite small so the majority of expatriates choose private healthcare.|
|South Africa||175||Public/private combination system||No||Local health insurance or private health insurance is required.||With many companies, you’ll need to be already signed on by age sixty to have any coverage into your old age.|
|South Korea||58||Universal||National health service is available to all Koreans and foreign workers.||Private insurance is not necessary but most expats do use it as it decreases the costs associated with a major health problem.||For the majority of foreign workers, your employer will sponsor you for the National Health Insurance. Typically, you contribute 50% and the company meets you with the other 50%.|
|Spain||7||Universal||All expats with a social security number are entitled to access to healthcare services.||You do not need to buy health insurance if you are legally employed in Spain. Your employer is obligated to pay approximately thirty per cent of your salary into a health fund that covers you and all of your dependents. Private insurance is available from around 30 Euro per month.||Universal healthcare does not cover dental.|
|Thailand||47||Basic care is provided to Thai nationals.||No||Private healthcare coverage is required.||Outpatient care is generally regarded as being very affordable and therefore many expats do not take out additional insurance to cover these costs.|
|UAE||27||Expatriates with a residence visa must have a minimum amount of insurance coverage. If you don't have medical insurance, you must apply for a health card. The health card will only entitle you to low-cost medical care at government hospitals and clinics.||Private healthcare coverage is required.|
|United Kingdom||18||Universal||Once you are resident, the taxes you pay entail that you are entitled to public healthcare. As an expat with permission to live and work in the UK you will have access to free NHS if you are originally from the EU, Australia and New Zealand; all other non-British residents will have to pay for their health treatments for 12 months from the first registration with a local doctor (GP)||Private health insurance is not needed if you qualify for the National Health Service, although some expats may wish to secure this if they require a higher level of care.||You must register with a GP/Surgery within the catchment area of your residence in order to qualify for NHS care.|
|USA||37||Health insurance required.||No||Health Insurance plans are very expensive and have monthly premiums that cost $2000 upwards for a family. Insurance for dental and vision care are sold separately from medical insurance plans.||If you are able to keep your insurance from your home country, that may be the best choice for the beginning as many expats have successfully done so and found it very convenient and cheaper than changing to a U.S. provider.|
|Vietnam||160||Universal||No||Private healthcare coverage is required.||Expats should ensure that the health insurance that they purchase covers them for treatment outside Vietnam, because many expats, as well as the wealthier Vietnamese people, prefer to travel to Bangkok or Singapore for specialist treatment and medical emergencies.|
When you are considering relocating to another city, there are many things to think about. If you or another family member has health care problems, you may have thought that relocating was out of the question. This conclusion does not have to be the case. However, detailed research into what health care services are available and their costs is necessary before you leave your home country.
For a comprehensive overview of the healthcare system on offer in your target expat destinations, check out our expat country guides. They contain everything you need to know together with top tips for making sure that your wellbeing is safeguarded at all times.
Do you have a comment about this article, a further question or even a correction? If so please do let us know. We may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all comments will be published, please be nice!
Our Expat's Manual is updated regularly so comments about the article may have already been addressed.