Global Payroll and Benefits

What countries offer free health care?

Oyster Team

With the cost of health care rising in the United States, as well as in almost every other part of the world, many individuals are searching for ways to save. One of the best options is to live in a country that provides universal health care. 

The World Health Organization defines universal health care as follows:

Universal health coverage means that all people have access to the health services they need, when and where they need them, without financial hardship. It includes the full range of essential health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care.

Universal health care coverage varies from country to country among those that provide it. For example, the word “universal” isn’t the same as “free.” Canada’s universal health care system is among the best in the world. However, health care still costs roughly $7,000 per person per year.

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Countries with universal health care

Universal health care is not available in the United States, but that’s not the case in many other countries. In fact, some countries have had a universal health care system in place for more than 100 years. 

Here’s a current list of countries (with implementation dates) that provide universal health care:

  • Australia, 1975
  • Austria, 1967
  • Bahrain, 1957
  • Belgium, 1945
  • Brunei, 1958
  • Canada, 1966
  • Cyprus, 1980
  • Denmark, 1973
  • Finland, 1972
  • France, 1974
  • Germany, 1941
  • Greece, 1983
  • Hong Kong, 1993
  • Iceland, 1990
  • Ireland, 1977
  • Israel, 1995
  • Italy, 1978
  • Japan, 1938
  • Kuwait, 1950
  • Luxembourg, 1973
  • The Netherlands, 1966
  • New Zealand, 1938
  • Norway, 1912
  • Portugal, 1979
  • Singapore, 1993
  • Slovenia, 1972
  • South Korea, 1988
  • Spain, 1986
  • Sweden, 1955
  • Switzerland, 1994
  • The United Arab Emirates, 1971
  • The United Kingdom, 1948

As you can see, universal health care is not a new concept. Norway has been perfecting its system for 110 years and counting. 

Are visitors and foreigners covered?

Visitors and foreigners don’t typically have access to health care at the same cost as citizens. So, if any of your workers are traveling for business or temporarily residing in a foreign country, they must understand the health care system that applies to them. 

Some of the questions to answer include:

  • Does the country have universal health care and is it extended in any way to visitors or foreigners?
  • Is the health care you provide employees accepted in other countries?
  • How does the cost of health care in other countries compare to the United States?

It’s imperative to have a clear understanding of the countries in which your employees are located, as this allows you to provide comprehensive health insurance coverage. 


Every part of your employee benefits program is essential to the short- and long-term well-being of your workforce. But with that in mind, health care is usually near the top of the list. It’s an important benefit that will impact your workers both personally and financially.

With the help of the list above, you should have a better understanding of the countries that offer free health care. As you compare your options in an attempt to buy a policy that suits all your workers, consider Oyster’s international health benefits.

Oyster can provide health care coverage to employees in nearly 200 countries. While you gain access to competitive rates, your team gains access to extended healthcare options. This includes medical, dental, and vision coverage, as well as the ability to visit any hospital, anywhere in the world.

About Oyster

Oyster is a global employment platform designed to enable visionary HR leaders to find, hire, pay, manage, develop, and take care of a thriving distributed workforce. Oyster lets growing companies give valued international team members the experience they deserve, without the usual headaches and expense.

Oyster enables hiring anywhere in the world—with reliable, compliant payroll, and great local benefits and perks.

About the Author

Oyster is a global employment platform designed to enable visionary HR leaders to find, engage, pay, manage, develop, and take care of a thriving distributed workforce.

About the Author

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