Answers to the question of which countries offer universal health care depend on how one defines UHC. At its core, any country providing all its citizens with free services would qualify as offering UHC; but many nations go far beyond this criterion: some have insurance mandates requiring all citizens to purchase private or public health insurance plans, and regulations which ensure all citizens receive at least minimum level healthcare and avoid underwriting and for-profit insurers; in addition, most have tax systems which either cover all or nearly all healthcare costs through mandatory coverage through compulsory insurance plans, or pay for them through general tax revenues; many also feature systems which either fully cover healthcare costs through compulsory insurance or out of general tax revenues allowing citizens to opt out;
No matter how they define UHC, all nations recognize that providing affordable healthcare to all their citizens is key for supporting individual health and community wellbeing, as well as economic growth and development. Affordable healthcare provision is also part of SDG 3.8’s goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030.
Attaining UHC requires governments to invest wisely in health and create comprehensive, people-centric health systems. UHC requires strengthening multisectoral coordination so as to address social determinants of health while improving access at point of service. UHC could transform how healthcare is funded and delivered by making it more equitable, accessible, efficient while decreasing unmet need.
UHC helps nations maximize the value of their most prized asset – human capital. UHC ensures children get access to quality education that prepares them for a bright future, and adults stay healthy and productive in order to provide for themselves and their families. In addition, it decreases poverty rates worldwide through medical costs which currently trap 17% of low- and middle-income people in poverty.
Even in spite of challenges, global efforts toward universal health coverage are progressing steadily. Over 100 countries have made strides toward expanding and improving the reach and quality of their health systems; those which have successfully attained UHC have developed strong institutional structures with national ownership commitment to a shared vision.
The four leading countries that have made the greatest efforts toward universal health coverage all share an ethos of solidarity, community and equity. Each understands that accessing healthcare should not simply be seen as an economic issue – rather, as a moral and ethical one as well. They have all embraced health as a cornerstone of community life and an engine of economic development; their constitutions and laws enshrine principles like equity and access for health services into law enshrining this ideal in health provision for their populations; making hard choices and navigating difficult political and policy paths to make their vision come to fruition; their achievements show what’s possible when we all join forces and work towards one common goal in working together!