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The Real Standards of Health Services in OECD Countries

Putting Healthcare on the Map

  • New research from medical travel insurance experts Get Going Insurance reveals the highest (and lowest) healthcare standards throughout 35 countries.
  • Norway has the most developed local healthcare service in the OECD, with approximately 1 doctor to every 45 residents.
  • The USA is the only country in the OECD not to offer free, universal healthcare, with over $2 trillion spent on health insurance premiums every year.

If you’re from one of the 35 countries that form the OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), it’s likely that you expect a certain level of expertise when it comes to your medical care.

After all, some of the countries that have made the greatest strides in medical science over the last 20 years count themselves members. But have you ever actually compared the standards of your country’s healthcare service to others in the organisation?

International medical travel insurance experts Get Going Insurance have studied all 35 countries in the OECD to provide a definitive ranking of each country’s healthcare. From the amount of healthcare professionals per residents, to the average spent on private insurance in each country, the data exclusively reveals which OECD location offers the best healthcare – and which countries could be providing better care.

High Standards in Healthcare

An important factor in providing gold standard healthcare is to ensure there’s enough skilled healthcare professionals to treat the population. While many members of the OECD have world-class training for their doctors and nurses, there’s a shorter waiting list for treating sickness in:

  • Norway – Often considered a world leader in overall standards of living, Norway also has arguably the best healthcare system of the OECD countries. With one doctor to every forty five residents, there’s an almost uncontested density of healthcare experts in the population, while a larger percentage of these also choose to work in the public system, providing free services to all Norwegians. This has undoubtedly contributed to Norway’s second claim to fame: the eleventh lowest spend on private healthcare, with only $20.2 billion spent by residents overall on private insurance premiums per year.
  • Switzerland – As well as housing some of the world’s leading CTUs, Switzerland has the highest density of doctors in its population for any OECD country. On average, there’s one doctor for every forty five residents, meaning that no one waits long to access high standard medical care. Despite the presence of free, universal healthcare, however, many Swiss still pay for private insurance premiums, with an average of $67.4 billion spent on premiums every year.
  • Denmark – With just three more residents to every doctor than its neighbour, Denmark is another leading Nordic light in easily accessible, public healthcare. With one healthcare professional to every forty eight residents, Danes have some of the shortest waiting lists in Europe for their sicknesses. As you’d expect from these facts, Denmark has one of the lowest spends on private healthcare, with only $33.4 billion paid out per year – half that of Switzerland.
  • Iceland – Arguably the least reliant on private services of all the countries with a high proportion of doctors, Iceland’s entire annual spend on private healthcare premiums comes to just $487 million – 0.01% of the USA’s annual spend on the same service. There’s also an average of one doctor to every forty nine residents, giving it one of the best public healthcare services in the OECD.
  • Finland – Rounding off the top five OECD countries with the highest healthcare standards is another Nordic location. Finland has markedly less density of doctors than its neighbours, with one doctor to around fifty seven residents, but it also invests circa 3% more in its public healthcare services than the average for OECD countries. While many doctors choose to work in the private system, this allows Finland to keep policy costs low, with the entire country spending just $10 billion on private premiums per year.

In Need of a Check-Up

While 34 of the 35 OECD countries offer a free, universal healthcare system, with the option of additional private insurance, the USA is currently the only member in which residents must have private insurance to access treatment. Combined with that, USA healthcare insurance premiums are the highest in the organisation, costing an average $9,892.30 per person – twice as much as those offered in Japan and the UK, where average healthcare spend per person ranges from $4,192.50 to $4519.30 per resident. While this leads to an average annual spend of $2.7 trillion  by Americans on healthcare, just paying a premium to see a doctor doesn’t mean you’ll be seen earlier, with only one doctor to every 118 residents.

While the USA may have the most expensive healthcare system in the OECD, it’s Chile that has the least developed. With comparatively fewer training programmes and many Chilean professionals first training then working abroad, there is an average of only one doctor to every 833 residents, meaning that accessing healthcare can often involve a long and fraught wait.

Healthcare Standards in the OECD