5 countries with the best health care

Published Nov 12, 2021


The coronavirus pandemic has made us realise how important it is to have a strong healthcare system. Medical care can vary widely between countries, so which countries are graced with the best systems in the world? According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a well-functioning healthcare system requires a steady financing mechanism, a properly-trained and adequately-paid workforce, well-maintained facilities, and access to reliable information on which to base decisions. The WHO’s last global report (2000) ranked these five countries in the top-10 countries with best health care in the world. (Sadly, South Africa rated among the worst countries for health care, at 175th out of 191.)


France has the best healthcare system in the world, according to the WHO study. Statutory health insurance was expanded to cover every citizen in 2000. Out-of-pocket payments are common for doctor’s appointments, but the government refunds most fees. France also scores well for health outcomes. Having some of the highest quality medical care in the world helps to keep deaths from cardiovascular disease low.


Italy's National Health Service was created in 1978. Healthcare is provided to all citizens and residents by a mixed public-private system. The public part is the national health service, Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN), which is organised under the Ministry of Health and is administered on a regional basis. Family doctors are entirely paid by the SSN, must offer visiting time at least five days a week, and have a limit of 1 500 patients.


The WHO study gave Singapore the highest rank outside of Europe – it’s one of many countries in Asia with great healthcare. Singapore’s healthcare is prized for its efficiency and financed through a mixed system. MediShield Life is a form of statutory public health insurance designed to cover large bills. Out-of-pocket payments are common, but other systems help Singaporeans to pay for these.


Omani citizens have free access to the country's public health care. Generally, the standard of care in the public sector is high for a middle-income country. Oman now has a very low rate of disease of once common communicable diseases, such as measles and typhoid. The hospitals in Oman generally provide a high quality of health care. Most of the largest and most advanced hospitals and health centres are located in Muscat.


Coming in 10th place in the WHO study, Japan enjoys a high standard of healthcare that helps the country to achieve enviable life expectancy. The statutory health insurance system covers more than 98% of Japan’s population, while a separate system for those in poverty picks up the rest. The health insurance covers the vast majority of treatments, including mental health care, hospice care and most dental care.

This article appears in the November 2021 edition of IOL MONEY, our free monthly digital magazine, available here. The theme of the November edition is: Health care and medical cover.


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