Understanding Healthcare when Moving Abroad

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Our health, and our family’s health is one of the most important things to us and when moving abroad it’s an element you really don’t want to compromise on. Whilst in the UK we are lucky enough to have the NHS which provides us with free healthcare whenever we need it, the situation abroad does vary with a mixture of free and paid healthcare systems.

When relocating abroad you will no longer be covered by the NHS as care is only provided for residents who are in the UK at the time. If you’re relocating within the EU then your EHIC card which allows you access to free or reduced rate healthcare will no longer be valid, as it only covers you on a temporary stay.

Keeping this in mind it really is best you do your research as to how the healthcare systems will work in your new home country and any fees associated. The NHS has a country by country guide to how healthcare works in Europe, but we’ve rounded up some of the top 5 relocation hot spots with what you can expect when it comes to your health.


If you receive treatment in America at a hospital or clinic, then you are required to pay for the care and treatment you receive. Many take out medical insurance policies to help cover the cost of healthcare, but often employers offer insurances in job packages which also extend to immediate family. However, as healthcare costs rise employers sometimes ask for contributions from workers.

It really is strongly advised that you take out a good quality health insurance package, as whilst it can be costly, the cost sky rockets if you received treatment without insurance in place. Emergency care is provided without prior payment, but you may have to provide proof of a deposit or insurance in other cases. Receipts for payments must be kept so that you can use these when you claim back through your insurance provider.


Australian healthcare is made up of both private and state healthcare who work together to provide treatment and care to Australian citizens, and rates highly when compared to the rest of the world. Whilst under the Reciprocal Healthcare Agreement visitors from the UK to Australia receive subsidized treatment from Medicare, the government run healthcare system, if you are relocating you may need to pay for the whole amount of care.

Medicare provides free or low cost treatment to Australian citizens, and it can be used in conjunction with privatised treatment options too allowing you flexibility to how you receive care and pay for it. When it comes to what you pay for care this depends on which tax band you are in, as high rate tax payers are required to pay an extra levy on top of the national minimum and you will need to provide upfront payments for some types of treatment.


If you are relocating to Spain and plan on working, then providing you make your national insurance contributions then you will be entitled to healthcare provided by the state in the same way as Spanish nationals. If you are retiring, or relocating to Spain but won’t be making national insurance payments for whatever reason then you will need to purchase health insurance.

Convenio Especial is a pay in scheme, where you pay a monthly fee to have access to state healthcare for free. Children and pregnant women are entitled to free healthcare under Spanish law. Prescriptions aren’t covered under the scheme and you would be required to pay the full amount for any drugs you require.


Healthcare in Germany is of extremely high quality and ranked 7th in the Euro Health Consumer Index 2015 report. In Germany you are either a member of a gesetzliche Krankenkasse, a statutory health insurance fund or a private health insurer, Krankenversicherung.

Similar to Spain, if you make national insurance contributions when you work then you will receive access to state run healthcare, however you will still need to register for a health insurance fund to ensure all conditions required for insurance have been met.


Whether you work in France or not, you’ll need to register with a state health insurance provider where you will receive a carte vitale which you will be required to present at hospital and doctor visits. On top of this you will need to arrange and pay for health insurance, and for the cost of seeing a doctor.

When you visit a doctor in France you will be required to pay an upfront consultation fee, often Doctors and practices are signed up to the national health insurance schemes and are required by law to offer services at previously agreed rates.

If healthcare wasn’t at the top of your moving checklist previously, then it’s worth reconsidering its importance to you. As these few countries show, how healthcare is operated abroad varies greatly and you’ll want to do your research before you’re left with a medical bill to pay.

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