The five countries offering the ‘best’ healthcare to expats – where does Spain rank?

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An estimated 5.5 million Britons permanently live overseas according to the latest statistics, making the decision to relocate for a number of reasons. But the lifestyle and quality of life people experience are likely to differ depending on the destination they choose to settle down in.

One element of life which can vary greatly from county to country is the healthcare options available, both to its citizens and to expats who choose to move there.

With this in mind, Property Guides have analysed the healthcare systems in some of the most popular countries for UK expats and found the top five “most affordable and comprehensive”.

Among them are UK favourites including Spain, the UAE and Italy.

Chris Nye, a senior content editor at Property Guides, said: “While the cost of living and quality of life are certainly major reasons to move abroad, healthcare should also be a vital deciding factor.

“Health can be very unpredictable, and you just never know when you might need help or emergency care. And you certainly don’t want the added stress of footing a hefty bill when you’re already sick.

“Healthcare can differ greatly from country to country, so it’s wise to do your research before you decide to make the move.”

So, which nations came out on top for their expat healthcare offering?

1 Italy

Italy took the top spot as offering one of the most accessible healthcare systems for expats.

The nation has a universal health service, called Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN), which is a little bit like the NHS and is funded by public taxes.

Citizens can expect to contribute around 4.6 percent of their income to the public health system and can get free or subsidised healthcare.

For the most part, GP and ER visits are free, and prescription costs are subsidised under state health cover, meaning you’ll only pay a small fee.

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2 Germany and the Netherlands

Germany and the Netherlands ranked in joint second, according to Property Guides’ research.

Despite this, the health care systems are actually rather different.

Germany has a national healthcare system similar to the UK and other European countries – funded by tax.

According to the research, around 7.5 percent of residents’ salaries go towards health care.

State healthcare is an opt-in system but having some form of health cover is mandatory.

Some German citizens may choose to take out private health insurance to supplement or replace public health cover.

According to the Commonwealth Fund, as well as being one of the most affordable and comprehensive, Germany has one of the highest rates of equity, which means fewer people reported income-related disparities with their healthcare.

Germany also has the highest number of hospital beds per 10,000 population, as well as one of the largest university hospitals in Europe.

The Netherlands, on the other hand, has a healthcare system which is rather different to the one we are used to in the UK.

Residents tend to contribute around 9.65 percent of their salary to state healthcare, however, health insurance is also mandatory.

The good news is, Dutch health insurance premiums are relatively low compared to the rest of Europe, the USA, and the UAE.

As a result, residents have access to free prescriptions, GP visits, and vaccines.

3 Spain and the UAE

Spain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) came in joint third place for their healthcare offering.

Once again, though, the nations differ in the services provided to residents.

Spain offers universal healthcare, which guarantees free healthcare access for all Spanish nationals.

However, each region is responsible for the delivery and standard of care, which means healthcare may differ depending on where you live.

The good news is, those who are living and working in Spain can access their state healthcare system, but you will need to check the terms and conditions for your region.

While GP visits are usually free with state health insurance, you will have to pay a proportion of your prescription fees, as well as pay for any ER visits, vaccinations, or any specialist treatment.

This is why, in some cases, citizens pay for additional health insurance.

In the UAE, a state health service is funded by the government and as the UAE doesn’t have an income tax, healthcare isn’t funded by statutory contributions.

Instead, it is paid for with a corporate tax on large businesses.

But, expats are only able to access public hospitals and clinics if they have a UAE health card.

These can be obtained from the Dubai Health Authority or the Health Authority Abu Dhabi.

Emergency care is usually free in state-funded hospitals with a health card, although you may have to pay for a consultation with a private family doctor

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