European Health Care Guide For U.S. Expats

Information about European health care for US residents moving overseas

One of the biggest changes you will encounter when moving abroad is health care. European health care is very different than the United States’ health care system. Before deciding to move abroad, it’s important to review the health care system of your new country and be prepared to adjust your previous assumptions about health care services.

To begin, you must keep in mind that not all countries in Europe use the same health care system. Although European health care is usually talked about as a whole, every country has it’s own independent system.
You can begin by assuming that taxation will be very high on the other side of the pond and that there may be universal health care in countries you move to. Germany is a well known European country that has the world’s oldest national health care system.
The Netherlands is an example of a country that has a dual-level system. Long term care that includes taking care of the elderly and the mentally ill is covered socially while all primary care including doctors and hospital visits is covered privately. Overall, Europe’s health system is a large bonus when moving there. A lot of expats choose to move to Europe because of this exceptional quality and it’s important to have knowledge of this system before your move.

Publicly Funded Insurance

A lot of countries in Europe offer publicly funded health insurance. Taxation is the primary means to cover cost and everyone is offered health care no matter what their situation. Depending on the country, social health care can cover part of or all of prescription medication. In the Netherlands, you must take out a basic level of insurance as an expat within four months of moving to the country. Expatica.com explains that companies cannot refuse coverage no matter what your age or health status. These companies are federally funded.

Another country that covers your health care is France. France is considered one of the best countries in the world for health care and if you are employed or living there self employed you will receive all of your health care free. In France, typically 20% of an individual’s gross salary goes toward social security costs which include health care.

Switzerland is a great destination because health care is exceptional. Once you move to Switzerland, you must get health insurance within the first three months of living there. On average, 8% of your income will go towards your health care. Additionally, in Switzerland, each individual family member must be covered and you can’t use umbrella coverage. Depending on your country, you can change your insurance plans about once a year and can also supplement them with private insurance if needed.

Image of Europe Health Care Information by Schumacher Cargo

Health Care in Europe info for US citizens moving overseas

Private Insurance

Private insurance is taken out by those in European countries that need specialty care when it is not offered for free. In the Netherlands, you will need private insurance to cover doctors visits and specialty visits.

Differing is France which covers all medical occurrences such as dentistry. In France, some individuals choose to purchase private insurance to cover the percentage the government does not cover for prescriptions. Usually this percentage is pretty low such as 35-60%. A lot of people visit France from other countries and pay privately for some of the top hospitals in the world. In Switzerland, you can purchase private health insurance but it comes at a very high price. Once you move to your new home abroad, you can learn more in depth about your countries’ policies and determine if you would like to purchase private insurance for you and your family.

Health Care Specialists

Some countries will cover specialty health services such as dermatology appointments and psychiatrist visits while others only cover basic doctors office visits. Unfortunately, in the Netherlands specialists are extra and you can take out private insurance to cover them. France is considered top tier because all specialist appointments are free of charge including psychiatry and dentistry. It is really important when moving to a new country to ask what specialty services are included in your health care and which ones aren’t.

Overall Healthcare

Overall, health care in Europe is making huge advances compared to the United States. When moving, you should look into your countries health care system and determine what will be publicly funded, if you should supplement it with private insurance and which specialty health care services are offered. If you determine these three things, you’ll be on your way to embracing your new countries health care system in no time.