Moving to Ukraine? Вітаю (congratulations)! Ukraine is easily one of Eastern Europe’s most dynamic countries, filled with fascinating culture and a criminally underrated natural landscape.

Before you pack your bags and prepare to gorge yourself on borscht, it’s essential to get an understanding of the healthcare situation in Ukraine. Oddly enough, Ukraine's healthcare system is still transitioning from the country’s Soviet days, which can make the public healthcare somewhat tricky to navigate. To help you understand the system a little better, this guide will give you everything you need to know about healthcare in Ukraine.

Ukrainian healthcare: key statistics

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    Average life expectancy
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    % GDP spent on healthcare
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    % of healthcare budget spent on private insurance

How does Ukraine’s healthcare system work?

Ukraine’s current healthcare system is a hangover from the country’s time in the USSR. When the healthcare system was operated by the Soviets, it was based primarily on capacity and not quality.

This was because there was more incentive for Soviet officials to produce large numbers of doctors and hospitals than to create a healthcare system that actually worked. Sure, there were a lot of doctors and plenty of hospitals, but such little focus was placed on quality that Ukrainian citizens saw only marginal improvements to their healthcare options.

Today, Ukraine’s healthcare system is run by the Ministry of Health, with all Ukrainian citizens contributing to the cost. Unfortunately, there still isn’t enough funding to create a healthcare system capable of truly covering people’s medical needs.

People in Ukraine are generally apathetic about the state of the country’s healthcare, too. Since gaining independence in 1991, the country has had 21 different healthcare ministers, which has done little to promote trust in the position.

Ukraine's Monument of Independence in Kyiv

The Monument of Independence in Kyiv

Is healthcare free in Ukraine?

In theory (and in law), yes – but in practice, free services are limited to only the most basic provisions of non-essential care. This free but limited healthcare is available to expats, though it’s no secret that the majority choose to opt for private healthcare.

For those who do use the free healthcare in Ukraine, it will quickly become apparent that it’s only free in the way that the soap in a hotel is free. You’ll almost certainly find yourself paying out of pocket for anything beyond the simplest ailments – anything slightly complicated, and the question of getting private health insurance will become when, not if.

Ukrainian citizens frequently complain about the cost of healthcare, which stems from the entire healthcare system being underfunded to the point of absurdity. It’s not unheard of for doctors, who in most Western countries are more than comfortable financially, to ask for handouts just to make ends meet.

It’s clear that Ukraine has some way to go if it’s to validate the law that healthcare must be free. Because the reality is that it simply isn’t.

Breakdown of user charges for publicly financed health services

Below is a table showing what are, on paper, publicly financed health services that Ukrainian citizens often have to pay out of pocket for:

Service area

Type and level of user chargeExemptionsCap on user charges paid
Outpatient visits
None in public facilitiesNoNo
Dental carePublic facilities are allowed to charge patients if their
owner (the local council) permits it
NoNo
Outpatient
prescription
medicines
No formal user charges, but in practice people pay the
full cost of most medicines.
Since 2017, due to the international nonproprietary name section of the Affordable Medicines Programme, people pay the difference between the defined reference price and the retail price of the generic medicine if the cheapest option is not chosen or dispensed
Medicines for HIV, tuberculosis, cancer, transplants, diabetes, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and rare diseases. Since 2017, for international nonproprietary names included in the Affordable Medicines Programme (for treatment of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and bronchial asthma), at least one generic version
should be available free of charge
No
Diagnostic testsNo formal user charges for people with a referral,
but some tests are available only in private facilities,
meaning people pay the full cost
NoNo
Medical productsPeople pay the full cost of dental prosthesesNoNo
Inpatient careNone in public facilities, but patients pay if they
choose wards with superior accommodation
NoNo
Inpatient prescription
medicines
No formal user charges, but in practice many people pay
the full cost
NoNo

Source: World Health Organization ‘Can people afford to pay healthcare? New evidence on financial protection in Ukraine’ (2018)

Quality of healthcare in Ukraine

Most of the best-trained doctors and nurses work within the private healthcare sector, because pay within the public sector is remarkably low for the profession. For example, depending on the specialization, a doctor in the public sector can expect to make between $140 and $280 a month.

This is below Ukraine’s average monthly salary of $390, something that might shock those used to seeing doctors in the upper salary brackets. Even highly trained physicians struggle to break beyond $30,000 annually!

As a result, this has contributed to a monumental drain of healthcare professionals into the private sector, further worsening the quality of Ukraine’s public healthcare. Basically, don’t expect to find the same level of public healthcare in Ukraine as you would in most Western countries. This is made all the more clear by the The Lancet’s Healthcare Quality and Access Index, which places Ukraine in 59th place.

Another key factor is Ukraine’s ongoing war with Russia, which has certainly had an impact on the country’s healthcare system. Healthcare infrastructure has been damaged considerably in the conflict, with multiple hospitals targeted by tank fire. Naturally, this has led to a degradation of the quality of healthcare in Ukraine.

The system has improved somewhat in the post-Soviet period, but there are still remaining issues that have contributed to Ukraine’s low average life expectancy (compared to the majority of Europe). Men, on average, die 10 years earlier than women, which is substantially worse than many other countries in Europe.

Private healthcare quality

Despite the flaws in the public sphere, Ukraine’s private healthcare system is actually pretty decent. There are a good number of high-quality medical centers, including the American Medical Center in Kyiv, Medikom, and the Oxford Medical Clinic.

Such is the quality of private healthcare in Ukraine, that medical tourism has increased in recent years. A good share of this is cosmetic, with costs for various surgeries being far cheaper than the equivalent in a Western country (with little to no difference in quality).

Other, non-cosmetic procedures for expats are regularly carried out in the private sphere too, generally with a level of quality matching most Western countries.

The iconic Tunnel of Love near Kyiv. It is an abandoned train track overgrown with greenery.

Ukraine's famous ‘Tunnel of Love', a popular spot for tourists

Healthcare in Ukraine for foreigners

Since Ukraine’s “free” healthcare is available to foreigners, it’s possible to get very basic treatment for common ailments without paying for it. That being said, anything above this in terms of complexity will start to cost you a lot.

If, for example, you suffer a serious injury and find yourself hospitalized, you’d better get out your checkbook, because treatment certainly won’t come cheap. Citizens and expats alike often find themselves having to pay significant amounts of money for a hospital bed, let alone the money needed for the care itself.

What we will always recommend for expats is to get health insurance, so you can move to Ukraine without the worry of finding yourself and/or your family unable to pay for medical care.

Do I need health insurance in Ukraine?

Considering the above, private healthcare is the best option for foreigners living in Ukraine. The quality is high, and because many skilled doctors make the move to private (due to poor pay), you usually get similar treatment to what you’d expect in Western countries.

Benefits of private medical cover in Ukraine

Getting private medical cover in Ukraine means avoiding paying huge sums of money for most medical procedures. Because public healthcare in Ukraine is pretty much free in name only, it means you could end up spending a lot of money if you don’t have health insurance.

It also means that you get access to the country’s top doctors, as many have moved into the private sector as a result of poor pay. Many of the best-trained doctors in Ukraine recognise that the market for expat healthcare is big, so private healthcare is often the go-to choice for top medical care.

How much does health insurance cost in Ukraine?

When you move to a new country, one of the biggest concerns is always the cost of healthcare. Costs can also differ substantially depending on whether you’re paying for an individual or family.

Whether this means paying out of pocket or paying for health insurance, understanding the costs is important. For an individual looking to move to Ukraine, expect to pay between $95-$200 per month for health insurance, depending on the level of coverage required and how much you’re willing to pay as deductible.

For families moving to Ukraine, the average price of health insurance ranges from $170-$400, again depending on the required coverage and deductibles. What you should always keep in mind is that without insurance, your healthcare could end up costing many thousands of dollars, so we would always advise to arrange health insurance before your move.

Advice for expats moving to Ukraine

Before you make your move to Ukraine, we advise getting your medical cover sorted as soon as you can. This way, you can concentrate on all the other aspects of the move, safe in the knowledge that when you get there, you’re already covered for any medical emergencies that might happen.