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How Health Services Differ Across the EU



If you’re planning a new life abroad, it can seem like there are a million and one things to consider, and one of the most important is undoubtedly health care.

Back home in the UK, we’re used to relatively low price prescriptions, and a reasonably straightforward service should anything go wrong, but standards of care abroad may not always be what you expect. Regardless of your reasons for moving abroad, you may find that you’re entitled to cheaper medical care. In some cases, it may even be free.

How do health care and its services differ across the EU?

According to a 2011 report on The Guardian website, as far as similarities to the NHS system go, Belgium, France, Germany, and Sweden come out on top.

The truth is there are marked differences between neatly all organizational structures when it comes to health in the EU. While it’s true that citizens of Europe can access other countries’ public healthcare as part of the European health insurance card scheme, plans to join systems – including patient records – together are very much in their infancy.

Belgium’s Health Care System

Rated highly by a UK expatriates website, Belgium’s healthcare system is one of the best in Europe. Citizens of Belgium pay and swipe a heath card during medical care, much like the system in France. They are later reimbursed up to 75% of their costs. Some GPs and hospitals even have arrangements to reduce payments during care.

As far as access to healthcare goes, Belgium residents are relatively lucky. They can walk in off the street, visiting any healthcare institution they wish. Those with long term illnesses can even get money back for treatments such as acupuncture and osteopathy.

The Two Speed Healthcare of France

With a two-tier healthcare system, France offers a state-run version of the NHS, and most health care is carried out with the use of a smart card. Cards like this contain details of the card holder’s (and their family’s) rights to medical treatment. Once the card is swiped during treatment, the money will then be reimbursed by the state.

You’ll also find that some French citizens are also privately insured, too, much like in the UK. But when living in France, you’ll discover that very few people are confidentially treated.

Germany’s Long-Standing Health System

Live in Germany, whose healthcare system is the oldest in Europe (dating back to the 1880s), and you’ll pay into one of 300 statutory state sickness funds via your bank or work payroll. Around 13% of gross earnings, payments are hardly noticeable, and residents can even head online to compare rates.

Local Health Care in Sweden

In Sweden, you’ll find the healthcare system is dramatically different from the rest of the EU. Fully government-funded and decentralized, it’s mostly funded by local taxes (70%), and the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs set guidelines for care. Live in Sweden, and you’ll pay a nominal fee at the point of medical care. GP-centric, like the UK, drug treatments are nominally charged. What’s more, visit your GP, and you’ll be charged around £12 each time.

If you’re considering a move abroad, do look into health care and insurance ahead of your visit; it may just make your stay in a foreign country a more pleasant, relaxed one.

About Premier Choice

The Premier Choice Group is one of the leading independent insurance brokers for ex-pat Brits. Offering a top quaility service to individual and corporate clients, Premier Choice has access to over 60 insurers to ensure a wide choice of options for all your health care needs.