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The best health care systems in the world

Coming off the deadly pandemic, health care has taken center stage as a global issue. While the U.S. is facing health care struggles that include increased maternal mortality and lower life expectancy compared to some developed nations, other countries have systems that foster better medical outcomes.

More accessible and affordable medical care can improve people's quality of life and decrease inequality across social classes. These are four of the world's best health care systems.


Belgium's health care system is affordable and accessible. The country's health coverage covers almost the entire population with its wide scope of services and is a system publicly funded through social security and taxes. "Emphasizing preventative care, the system focuses on early detection and cost-effective measures," said Insider Monkey. The country also "boasts a strong network of health care providers and renowned medical research institutions like the University of Antwerp, Hasselt University and KU Leuven, among others." 

Belgium spends a significant amount on health care. The country is "among the top ten spenders on health across EU countries, reaching 10.7% of GDP in 2019. With relatively high public spending on health, households' out-of-pocket payments amounted to 18.2%, spent mainly on non-reimbursed services, official co-payments and extra billings," said a report by the European Health Observatory. Life expectancy is 84 for women and 80 for men. 


Japan has "maintained a health insurance system that all permanent residents of Japan for more than three months are required to join, allowing people living in Japan to access appropriate health care services at a cost they can afford," said the World Economic Forum. In addition, patients are allowed to "choose any health care provider, from small clinics to large hospitals with the latest medical facilities, and all medical services are provided at a uniform price anywhere in Japan." The system is mostly publicly funded through taxpayer dollars, with some aspects of the system requiring self-pay or coinsurance.

The health care system "covers 98.3% of the population, while the separate Public Social Assistance Program, for impoverished people, covers the remaining," said Columbia University. The country has some of the best medical outcomes in the world, with the life expectancy at 88 for women and 82 for men. Infant and maternal mortality is also some of the lowest globally. The biggest risk to the system is the country's increasing medical costs caused by the "rapid aging of the population and sluggish income growth caused by slow economic growth," said the World Economic Forum.


Sweden's health care system is decentralized, or "nationally regulated and locally administered," where the "Ministry of Health and Social Affairs sets overall health policy," and the country's "regions finance and deliver health care services and the municipalities are responsible for the elderly and disabled," said the Commonwealth Fund. All legal residents automatically have health care. "There are both public and private providers of health care, and the same regulations apply to both," said Sweden's website.

"The Swedish health care system has high public funding, universal coverage, an ambitious uptake of modern technologies and efforts to prevent unhealthy lifestyles," said the European Health Observatory. The life expectancy is approximately 85 for women and 82 for men, and maternal and infant mortality rates are low. "These attributes contribute to low levels of unmet needs, favorable health outcomes and good health status in the population compared with other countries."


Taiwan has a universal health care system. "The single-payer system is funded primarily through payroll-based premiums, although the government provides generous premium subsidies for low-income households, civil servants and others," said the Commonwealth Fund. "Health care services are provided mostly by contracted private providers." Every citizen and resident who has lived in the country for more than six months is required to be enrolled in the health care system.

The country's single-payer system has been quite successful following decades of unsuccessful health care systems. "The benefits are quite comprehensive: hospital care, primary care, prescription drugs, traditional Chinese medicine," said Vox. "Patients must make copays when they visit the doctor or fill a prescription or go to the ER, but they are generally low." Life expectancy is 84 for women and 78 for men, and infant and maternal mortality rates are low. But hospitals are understaffed and overfilled because "Taiwan's national health insurance has given patients such a good deal on medical care that they are overwhelming the system."

Devika Rao