Healthcare is provided in different ways, to different standards, all over the world – but it’s equally crucial wherever you are.

That’s why we’ve brought together all the data and statistics you’ll need to make informed decisions about your healthcare, wherever in the world you end up.

From the best healthcare systems to the countries with the most expensive – and cheapest – private policies, we’ve got you covered.

couple looking out at the Kirkufell mountain, in Iceland

A couple trekking in Iceland, which has the best healthcare system on Earth

Which country has the best healthcare system?

Iceland tops the charts, according to a 2018 study published in The Lancet and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Norway getting second place continues this Scandinavian trend, which also sees Finland’s healthcare system (add link once Finland page is up) come sixth.

Australia is the only non-European nation to feature, which points to historical geopolitical forces that we won’t go into here.

The countries with the top seven highest GDPs (gross domestic products) in the world, including the UK and US, don’t feature in the list.


Which countries have the most expensive private healthcare?

If you’re moving to a new country, you may well decide that going private is a better option than sticking with the public healthcare system.

But of course, private healthcare costs more money. Here are the countries where you’ll pay the most in average premiums, according to Pacific Prime’s 2020/21 report.

Which countries have the cheapest private healthcare?

The five cheapest countries are scattered across four different continents, with Thailand topping the table.

Brazil and Thailand are particularly popular destinations for anyone who’s willing and able to travel internationally to access cheap healthcare.

PositionCountryAverage premium (£)

Which countries spend the most on healthcare?

Some countries’ governments prioritise their citizens’ health more than others.

There are two main ways of measuring the importance that a nation places on public health: how much of its GDP it dedicates to healthcare, and how much it spends per person.

This measure shows how much of a nation’s resources it puts towards healthcare.

Poorer countries and global superpowers sit side-by-side in the data, which is sourced from the World Bank.

Four of the most highly ranked countries – Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Kiribati – are poor nations under immediate existential threat from climate change.

On the other hand, the US, Germany, and France all have GDPs that put them in the top seven worldwide, according to the International Monetary Fund.

While Switzerland has the seventh-best healthcare in the world – to match the fact that it spends the seventh-highest percentage of its GDP on healthcare – and Germany and France are at least in the top 20, the US falls incredibly short in 29th.

This shows how spending more doesn’t guarantee globally ranked success. That’s not a goal for the poorer nations, but it should be within reach for the wealthier countries.

The biggest spenders per person

The US’s shortcomings are even more remarkable when you look at this data set.

How, as a nation, do you spend more than $10,000 (£7,700) per person, per year, and fail to deliver a better healthcare system than Greece? Or Slovenia? Or Malta?

The US is one of very few highly developed nations to not have a universal healthcare system – and it doesn’t seem to be working.

Countries like Iceland and Norway, however, which rank highly in the overall table for best healthcare systems, get results for their high levels of spending.

Which countries have universal healthcare?

Dozens and dozens of nations now offer universal health coverage.

However, there are still plenty of countries in Asia, Africa, and (to a lesser extent) South America where universal healthcare is still a pipe dream.

This includes heavily populated countries like China, Pakistan, Iran, and Nigeria – as well as the US.

Here’s a full run-down, courtesy of the Global Residence Index.

Where are you most often hit with unexpected healthcare costs?

Armenia has the highest rate of unexpected healthcare costs, with 84.3% of healthcare expenditure coming from on-the-spot charges known as out-of-pocket spending.

Many poorer countries like Armenia base their healthcare system around out-of-pocket spending, meaning that if you have the money to pay for your treatment, you can access that care – and if you don’t, you can’t.

There is absolutely no safety net in many of these nations, which makes it urgently necessary for expats there to get private medical insurance policies.

PositionCountryOut-of-pocket spending (% of total)
8Equatorial Guinea75.3

Where are you hit with the fewest unexpected costs?

You’re least likely to have to suddenly stump up some cash for treatments in the Pacific nation of Kiribati, where just 0.1% of your average annual healthcare costs is out-of-pocket.

Kiribati devotes more than 12% of its GDP to keeping its citizens healthy, which ensures people aren’t asked to foot huge bills out of the blue. The rest of the top five is made up of other Pacific island nations that follow this pattern.

PositionNationOut-of-pocket spending (% of total)
4Solomon Islands2.2
5FS Micronesia2.4

Why do people travel for medical treatments?

The quality of the doctors was the most important factor in people’s decision to engage in medical tourism, according to the International Medical Travel Journal’s 2019 report.

This was followed in the rankings by the quality, reputation, and success rates of the medical facility – though of course cost also plays an important role.

Which is the best country for medical tourists?

Canada is the best place to go as a medical tourist, according to the 2020/21 Medical Tourism Index. Countries were judged on dozens of criteria, including the quality of care and services, and safety.

Here’s the top 10, in all its glory:

5United Kingdom
6United Arab Emirates
7Costa Rica

Which cities are the best for medical tourism?

Sometimes though, an individual city will meet all your needs.

Here are the best cities for medical tourists, according to a study by Patients Beyond Borders and Medical Departures.

4EscazúCosta Rica
5Kuala LumpurMalaysia
7SeoulSouth Korea

What’s next?

If you’d like to take the next step, check out our guides to healthcare around the world.