World Healthcare Rankings: A Guide For Prospective Expatriates

If you’re considering the big move to another country for work or retirement, there’s an awful lot to think about before you pack up your gear and fly off into the sunset. There’s bound to be a broad range of questions you will be asking yourself before you seriously consider a move to a foreign country:

  • How does the salary compare to home?
  • What are the levels of different types of crime where I’m going?
  • What is the education system like?
  • How much will accommodation cost?
  • Will there be language or cultural challenges that I need to consider?
  • And, of course, what is the healthcare system like in terms of its quality of provision and its cost?

This last question is especially important – because in order to have peace of mind we all need to feel secure in knowing that should the need arise, we’ll have access to a standard of treatment that we’re comfortable with.

The way healthcare systems are rated is based on the healthcare system as a whole, though, so it’s worth bearing this in mind when looking at places that may not make the top of any world healthcare lists. For instance, in some cases it can be that the bigger cities have good hospitals while rural areas are less well equipped. It pays to research the individual country in terms of healthcare provision to see what the pros and cons of the place may be.

So, which countries have the best healthcare systems? The World Health Organization (WHO) published an extensive rankings list in 2000 (France came top) but since then it hasn’t published rankings. The closest available today is this pdf from WHO which shows health statistics by country. A decade later, in 2010, The Commonwealth Fund undertook a study into seven countries, showing the Netherlands at the top, with the UK in second place. The study was based on a number of factors including quality and efficiency. In the 2014 update UK ranked first followed by Switzerland and then Sweden.

If you’re looking for more in depth guides to individual countries, there are two or three places to look online. A number of newspapers have an expatriate section with news, wellbeing and life experience stories from people who’ve taken the step of moving abroad. Some of these also provide individual country guides. Insurance companies also publish guides to various countries giving a general overview of healthcare systems. There are also a handful of very good websites that are entirely dedicated to expatriates, and on these you will find a mix of factual information and first-hand experience of life in overseas countries. The great thing here is that if you’re a prospective resident of any particular city or country, you can jump right in and start interacting with those in the know straight away.

Individual country guides will also give an idea of what to expect in each country. To take random example, Argentina came 74th on the WHO list of 2000, but its healthcare is seen as generally good, and in some places very good – although as with many places around the world, you’re strongly advised to take out the relevant comprehensive insurance prior to travelling.

When living abroad – even if it’s only for a few months – it’s important to have made arrangements so that you’ll be covered for the cost. That way you can have peace of mind and concentrate on the important task of getting on with the excitement and challenges of your new surroundings.


October 22, 2016

Q&A

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