The world’s happiest countries and their health care systems

Sep 13th, 2013

We all know that America’s health care system needs some work, and getting that work done is not easy judging from how difficult it’s been to get the Affordable Care Act this far. But what role might our health care dysfunction play in the country’s overall state of happiness?

This week the United Nations released their 2013 World Happiness Report, and all countries in the top five have at least some form of socialized medicine, with Denmark snapping up the number one spot. Do you know where the United States came in? Number 17.

It might not be fair to say that having a socialized health care system automatically makes for a happier country. The U.K. for example came in behind us at number 22. So what gives? The report makes mention that the more people who seek treatment for their mental illnesses the happier a country will be overall.

Regardless though, access to affordable quality health care plays certainly does play a role in a person’s happiness, especially when the alternatives are being sick, or going bankrupt because of medical debt.

So without further adieu let’s meet the world’s happiest countries and their health systems.

 The top five european health care systems

health care systems

Credit: aka Jens Rost via Flickr under creative commons

1. Denmark

Denmark has an extremely high quality, universal health care system financed primarily through income taxes. Danish citizens and European Union citizens are eligible to receive free medical treatment in Denmark.

Officials in Denmark have gone through great effort to reduce bureaucracy in their system so that the majority of medical administration is done at the local level. The system is also broken up into two sectors. The primary sector is for those with general health issues, and the hospital sector is for those requiring more specialized care.

 

Credit: fotoroto, via Flickr under creative commons

Credit: fotoroto, via Flickr under creative commons

2. Norway

Norway has a mix of public and private health insurance, but the public system is much bigger and a lot more popular. Like many of the of the countries on this list, citizens are entitled to free health care through a system financed through taxes.

All hospitals and health facilities in Norway are owned by the central government, and managed on a regional level. As radical of an idea as that may seem to those reading this in the United States, these facilities actually have a great deal of autonomy, so long as they operate within the budgetary restraints imposed on them by the government.

 

Credit: thisisbossi, via Flickr under creative commons

Credit: thisisbossi, via Flickr under creative commons

3. Switzerland

The Swiss have a health care system that is more similar to the American system than the other countries on this list. There health care in Switzerland is not free. Instead all resident are required by law to purchase a health insurance policy within three months of arriving in Switzerland.

Insurers in Switzerland sell a standardized form of basic insurance that covers a range of medical services. Companies aren’t allowed to make a profit on selling these plans, but instead make money selling complimentary insurance that covers more medical services. Swiss health insurance plans also require consumers to pay for at least part of their health costs in the form of a deductible or other fees.

 

Credit: Bert Kaufmann, via Flickr under creative commons

Credit: Bert Kaufmann, via Flickr under creative commons

4.  The Netherlands

The Dutch have a form of insurance based universal health care in their country. Insurers are required by law to offer a basic government defined health insurance plan to all those who would apply for it.

Typically the plan costs about 100 euros per month, with the insurance company optionally tacking on some extra administrative fees. Those buying Dutch health insurance have the option for extra supplemental insurance to cover more than the basic plan. For this extra insurance, you are required to apply and insurers can deny you for it.

 

Credit:  Eoghan OLionnain, via Flickr under creative commons

Credit: Eoghan OLionnain, via Flickr under creative commons

5. Sweden

Closing out the top five is Sweden (that’s three Scandinavian countries in the top five). Swedes enjoy a high quality universal health care system. Their system has a yearly deductible of about $170 for doctors visits and $340 for prescription drugs. Private health insurance does exist in Sweden however it’s not very common.

Health care accounts for 9 percent of Sweden’s GDP, with the state paying for about 97 percent of the cost of health care, with the rest covered through deductibles. Primarily the health care system is financed by the taxpayers.

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