Healthcare: What British expats should consider

  • healthcare
Published on 2022-01-11 at 11:30 by Magdalena Grdanoska
British citizens live in a country where the organ that allows universal social healthcare gives priority to people in need rather than to the prices of their treatment. This system established as a consequence of the aftermath of the WW2 has been regularized through the National Health System in England, Scotland and Wales. 

British citizens rely on the NHS as long as they live in their home place. Those who choose to be expats, naturally, have to rely on the healthcare system in the country they move in. As health is the most important element in everybody's life, choosing where to go next will largely depend on the opportunities that that country and its medical management offer.

The Brexit aftermath

As the Brexit transition is happening, many things are in a state of movement and change both for UK expats abroad, as for Europeans living in the UK. While the regulations seem to be still unclear, there are some ground ideas of how the healthcare system works in this period. For example, the British had a European Health Insurance Card, and those who still do can use it until its expiration when it is substituted with a Global Health Insurance Card, which Brits can use when travelling to the EU. This is not the case with UK expats who are already residents in the EU who will adapt to the local healthcare requirements of the country they live in. This usually means receiving the healthcare as any resident in the country you live in. For specific cases like the temporary stay in a country, you may be entitled to getting an S1 form, which will provide you healthcare covered by the UK.

Moving means adapting, and moving smart means finding a place where adapting is easy. For the Brits who like to travel, the opportunities are numerous. It is, therefore, crucial to get an overview of the health benefits and procedures around the world before choosing your next destination.

Where to move for better healthcare

Around one in 10 of the UK population live abroad. That accounts for 5.5 million Brits that may have to even lower their standards for the public hospitals worldwide. Not every country offers good or even similar public healthcare. Therefore, it is important to check which are the best places to go to in order to know your health is in good hands.

Italy has one of the best quality and most affordable healthcare in the world. The main healthcare organ I called Servizio Sanitario Nazionale, which similarly to the NHS, is covered by taxes. As a consequence, almost all of the interventions done by public healthcare are either free or at a low additional cost. Once you have become a resident in Italy, you are entitled to healthcare treatment by SSN. However, while UK citizens still have the European Health Insurance Card, things might change, and you should nonetheless apply for an Italian Healthcare Card or Tessera Sanitaria. To get this, you will need the residence in Italy, fiscal code (Codice Fiscale), health insurance and a bank statement.

Germany and the Netherlands have different but equally good healthcare systems, and in both, it is mandatory. The so-called Gesundheitssystem in Germany involves statutory and private health insurance. Germany has one of the largest number of hospital beds per population, as well as a large number of clinics in every region and neighbourhood. If you live in the Netherlands, you will have to sign up for the basic Public Insurance or Zorgverzekeringswet. The contribution to the insurance is income-related and has a basic one but also a premium. Basic care covers many health risks like medical, dental, pharmaceutical care, nursing, maternity etc.

Switzerland is one of the leading countries in the world for healthcare. It is regulated by the Swiss Federal Law on Health Insurance and relies on compulsory private health insurance. The health insurance pays for a part of the costs for the insurer. However, he will need too to cover some of the costs. Switzerland offers clean and well-equipped hospitals and clinics, short waiting times and a range of specialists. While the basic insurance packages and the co-payment with the insurer provide very high-quality service and are very regularized, but are also quite expensive.

The UAE has top-notch, sophisticated health facilities, as well as a wide range of medical experts from all over the world. While healthcare is low-cost or almost free for citizens, residents will have to either be covered by their working company or take care of it themselves. Residents who earn less than AED 4,000 are eligible for the Essential Benefits Plan, which is the minimal level of health insurance required by law.

The French health care system is universal healthcare which covers hospital care facilities, social and residential facilities as well as residencies for elderly or disabled customers. It includes both hospital-based as well as non-hospital based care, diagnostic tests and pharmaceuticals. The costs of treatment are relatively low, and are 70 to 100% of them are covered by the state. Healthcare is affordable, and there are clinics reachable everywhere. An overall issue in France is that the doctors are underpaid and, therefore, sometimes are less friendly. However, it is an individual situation, and overall, healthcare is much more efficient compared to other places around the world.

Canada has a great system of public health insurance which covers most of the regular treatments. Similar to the NHS, it is paid by tax, which is regulated through an insurance card. Separate provinces have different medical coverage, and while some don't accept the coverage from other provinces, in case of emergency, it will always be of help. Canadian public health insurance offers good services. However, it may include longer waits compared to the private options.