Different Healthcare Models Around the World

A pyramid of different facets of healthcare. Image credit: REDPIXEL.PL/Shutterstock
A pyramid of different facets of healthcare. Image credit: REDPIXEL.PL/Shutterstock
  • Canada's healthcare system provides universal coverage for services provided on the basis of need.
  • Germany has a health care system that consists of public insurance and private insurance, paid by employers and employees.
  • In 2017, the United Kingdom was ranked the best healthcare system in the world overall.

Health care is an absolutely critical part of any functioning society. Inevitably people will get sick or injured and subsequently require medical attention and aid. Despite the seeming importance of these systems, many countries still differ on what the best system of care is, with the United States standing out for exorbitant fees that are often placed on its poorest and least insured citizens. Health care can cover a variety of treatments from prevention to diagnosis and ranges from fields like conventional medical aid to dentistry, optometry, and audiology. Access to care isn't always so clear cut but what is more clear is the differences in medical systems across the world. Here are some of them.


Canada is known for its national health insurance model, where the government acts as a single-payer for medical procedures while providers remain private. This universal coverage doesn't generate a profit and does not look to turn away claims, instead covering procedures regardless of income level. It also offers flexibility and independence for hospitals and doctors. The notable downside to this system is the tendency for there to be a long waiting list for treatment. In terms of more specifics of this country's system, the provincial governments are the ones responsible for delivering health and social services. Health care is then funded with revenue raised through taxation, with provinces having the choice of charging a health premium on their residents to help pay for services. For patients, their first line of contact is often primary health care services, which provide comprehensive services ranging from prevention and treatment to referrals and coordination with other levels of care. 


Germany uses a healthcare system called the Bismarck model, or the social health insurance model. It's a more spaced out method of providing health services and was first created at the end of the 19th century. Basically, employers and workers fund health insurance with those who are working given access to sickness funds created by taking a percentage off their pay. This exists alongside private insurance plans that can cover everyone regardless of any older conditions. The turnover of this private health sector reached about $368 billion in 2010. Since 2007, health insurance was expanded to be compulsory for the whole population with those below a certain pay threshold automatically enrolled in the aforementioned sickness funds. Contributions from employers and employees cover health treatment, with those who exceed a certain salary allowed to enroll in private health insurance. 

Doctors at work. Image credit: S_L/Shutterstock

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom uses the Beveridge Model, also called a single-payer national health service. This model is much more centralized than others with a focus on creating a national health service with the government as its single-payer. Health care is often funded through income taxes allowing for free aid because citizens have already paid through their tax contributions. Under this system, health staff are mainly made up of government workers. An important thing to note is that the United Kingdom's individual components, England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, each have their own system of publicly funded healthcare run by separate governments and parliaments, meaning there are some differences between their models. Despite these variations, the performance of the National Health Service can still be measured for making broader evaluations. A 2017 report by the Commonwealth Fund, a US-based foundation looking at how to improve the country's healthcare system, named the United Kingdom as the best healthcare system in the world overall.


China, like many other countries, runs on a mostly out-of-pocket model, where patients must pay for procedures from their own cash reserves. This leads to the poor being unable to afford appropriate healthcare, much like the US. Still, China is on track to provide a more comprehensive healthcare system with many public and private medical institutions and insurance programs. In 2011, about 95 percent of the population had basic health insurance coverage from the state, but this coverage only extended to about half of medical costs, with the percentage paid dropping even lower for serious or chronic diseases. China is making strides to cut down healthcare expenses and is focused on providing affordable healthcare to all residents in the near future. They had set a goal back in 2009 to achieve universal healthcare by 2020, but the goal has not been achieved yet.


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