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Girl distracts sister while doctor performs checkup; image used for HSBC International Services life abroad article Healthcare systems around the world.

Healthcare systems around the world

Moving house is already difficult. Moving abroad ramps things up tenfold. Some things you can organise ahead of time, like searching for an apartment or opening an overseas bank account before you move. In all the excitement, you may have overlooked a few other important things. Hopefully your medical insurance wasn't one of them!

Depending on the details of your stay abroad, you may still be covered by your country's plan. If you're going to be settling in for longer, make sure you and your family have adequate coverage in your new home. In some cases, the public system will take you a long way. In others, you'll need your own private coverage right from the start.

Here's a comparison of health systems in Canada, Australia, Singapore, the UK and the US so you can see just how differently things work around the world.

Australia: hybrid of public and private sector healthcare

All workers pay a percentage of their wages to Medicare, and these contributions depend on age and earnings.1 This gives Australians access to doctors, specialists, hospital benefits and outpatient treatments in the public system, without having to pay co-payments or deductibles.

The government also encourages Australians to supplement their healthcare with private health insurance policies. This then covers co-payments for large medical bills, major medical emergencies and treatments that aren't covered under the Medicare policy.

If you're moving to Australia, the healthcare system might not be the only thing that's different.

Canada: universal, publicly funded health system

In a national poll, 94% of Canadians considered Medicare – their universal, publicly funded healthcare system – a source of national pride and a pillar of society.2 Regardless of their income, socioeconomic status or insurance (or lack of), all citizens have access to quality healthcare.

This single-payer plan was adopted in the 1960s and implemented at the federal level in 1984. It's a system based on needs, and not wealth, and one central body decides the prices and deals with the billing of services.

On the flip side, there are often long waiting lists for non-essential surgeries and treatments. Medication can also be very expensive: Canada is the only country with universal healthcare but no ''pharmacare''. While Canadians can go to the doctor, they may have trouble filling that prescription.

Singapore: universal health insurance for all

Singapore is ranked among the top countries for providing excellent healthcare standards. Like the UK's National Health Service (NHS), Singapore's publicly funded National Healthcare Plan (NHP) aims to be "universally" available to everyone. Thanks to mandatory contributions from eligible employees' salaries into the Central Provident Fund (CPF), those same residents have access to affordable healthcare services.

However, this is only available for Singapore citizens and permanent residents. If you're an expat, since you don't have to contribute to the CPF, you can't access the NHP. Expats must pay for their healthcare services in cash.

You may have health insurance and benefits with your job, but this largely depends on your employer and immigration status. If you can afford it, private insurance will often give you access to top-notch hospitals and medical care.

United Kingdom: state-funded healthcare system

The National Health Service system (NHS) has provided universal coverage for everyone in the UK for over 70 years. Patients have access to doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists at any public healthcare facility.

''[The NHS] will provide you with all medical, dental, and nursing care. Everyone – rich or poor, man, woman or child – can use it or any part of it ...You are all paying for it, mainly as taxpayers, and it will relieve your money worries in time of illness.''

New National Health Service, Ministry of Health, 19483

UK citizens and expats may buy private insurance, either as a stand-alone or as a supplement to the NHS services. Like in Singapore, paying for private insurance can give you access to better services and help you skip the queues of the public system.

Even international students can access the public healthcare system in the UK after paying a healthcare surcharge as part of their visa application.

United States: no universal healthcare

The government provides health insurance plans to individuals such as the underprivileged, veterans, the elderly and the disabled. Many employers (or third-party insurers) cover expats. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) (commonly known as ''Obamacare'') was created to provide healthcare to every uninsured American. Those who choose to not have any medical insurance plan risk facing an annual fine based on their income.

How we can help you

Healthcare can vary greatly depending on where you live so it's important to make sure you're covered before you move. At HSBC, we offer tailored services to help you with your relocation journey, from finding a home and the best coverage for your family to seamless global banking.

Good luck, and stay well.

Learn more about our international services

1Health is wealth when it comes to your future

2Canada’s health-care system is a point of national pride. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/02/23/canadas-health-care-system-is-a-point-of-national-pride-but-a-study-shows-it-might-be-stalled/

3What is the NHS?