Living in a country with a health system funded by taxes and taken for granted by many as a free resource, we Britons often have a steep learning curve when we move abroad.  We may have to buy health insurance, and even get to grips with how a private healthcare system works.

If you’re thinking of relocating overseas, then researching the healthcare system and how it’s funded in your new nation will be a key point to cover in your pre-move research.  HSBC has just produced a good resource for would-be expats to refer to; it covers affordability and standards of healthcare in many favourite expat hotspots worldwide.

Interestingly Britain is almost slap bang in the middle of the chart in terms of affordability and standards, and there are plenty of countries in the world where standards are far higher and where care is far cheaper.  If you want to know more about your chosen nation’s health system, HSBC’s infographic will be a good place to start.

Topping the chart in terms of both affordability and standards of healthcare is Taiwan.  According to HSBC’s research almost 70% of Taiwan’s expats say they spend much less on healthcare since their relocation, and nearly 66% say they enjoy a much higher standard of care too.

And if you look at comments from expats in Taiwan commenting on this story in the Expat Telegraph, you will see almost universal praise for a well-functioning and affordable system.

In terms of the worst place for healthcare?  Well, avoid Ireland where it’s expensive and low quality according to expat feedback.

Countries like Germany, France, Belgium and Switzerland all rank well in terms of quality…but each has a system that’s well-known as expensive!

Having lived in Germany for 7 years I can personally confirm that the German healthcare system is brilliant!  It functions well – once you understand how it works – and in terms of its expense, I’d say it’s relative.  I.e., you get what you pay for.

Unsurprisingly Switzerland’s healthcare system ranks as the most expensive in the world for expats – show me something that’s not expensive in Switzerland!

Whilst America is hot on Switzerland’s heels in terms of expensive, it doesn’t rank well in terms of quality of care available.

Any expat thinking of moving abroad needs to understand how the health system in their new nation is funded.  So, are you moving to a country where universal access to basic services is offered for free – funded by taxation – or will you need a private health insurance policy to qualify for any form of health care?

In some countries basic medical care is offered for free, (tax funded), but you are well-advised to have a top up medical insurance policy to enable you to have access to private facilities and/or more specialist care.

In other nations you pay as you go – and in some countries like Germany you have a range of options for buying insurance.  Your employer may contribute to a scheme for example, or you may choose to buy private insurance with tariffs variable depending on the level of cover you want, your age and general health for example.

The bottom line in terms of advice on this subject matter is this: know before you go!

I.e., know how much you might have to pay for insurance or to have access to medical care, and know all you can about the level of care available.

Remember that if you’re moving to a nation with an emerging economy where health services are rudimentary perhaps, will you also have to factor in a repatriation insurance in the event that you get very ill and need to be evacuated for medical reasons to a country where there are better facilities?

Additionally, anyone retiring abroad should plan for their overseas healthcare options well in advance:   look into any reciprocal agreements for free access to healthcare that may be in place for pensioners from the UK.  Also, know that the older we all get, the more health insurers charge for any health insurance policy.

Finally, once you’re non-resident in the UK you can’t just pop back and take full advantage of the NHS – it’s not allowed!  So, make sure you think about how you will afford and get access to medical care should you need it – and plan well in advance so that in the event of an emergency you’re not left wondering what to do, where to go and how you will afford a doctor at a time when you are hugely desperate or vulnerable.