Healthcare in Europe: How and where are costs rising?
The global cost of living crisis has had real consequences for healthcare systems in Europe. But by how much are healthcare costs rising, and which countries are most affected?
According to global risk analysts, healthcare costs are rising around the world, driven by a combination of rising inflation and increased usage following the Covid-19 pandemic.
While this may seem self-evident to most of us, what isn't so clear is exactly where this is happening and to what extent. Together with AXA - Global Healthcare, we identify where healthcare costs are rising in Europe and consider what this may mean for you.
The big picture
While unpacking healthcare spending across nations can be incredibly complex, one useful instrument is comparing healthcare spending as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over time. A higher percentage of GDP spent on healthcare can be a good indicator of inflation, when compared with spending in other areas that are more prone to sudden shifts.
For example, according to the European Union's statistical office, Eurostat, healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP in the European Union sits at 10.9 percent. This is almost exactly level with the global figure of 10.89 percent given by the World Bank, and is well below the United States’ 18.3 percent.
Over the last three years for which data is available, The Local reported that there are distinct differences in spending across nine European countries.
While there appears to be a roughly one percentage point increase in healthcare spending across Europe, there are some significant differences between nations.
Switzerland, Italy, Denmark and Sweden all managed to keep their increase to one percentage point or less. Bucking the trend are Norway and Spain, each seeing their healthcare spending as a proportion of GDP fall slightly rather than increase.
So, we know where healthcare spending is changing within Europe. Now, what does it mean for you?
Closer to home
Every European country has a health system which is paid for either directly through taxes, insurance contributions, or a combination of both. If you use state-funded healthcare, you don't pay completely out of pocket, unlike in some other countries elsewhere in the world.
However, that doesn’t mean that costs don’t find their way to you. Healthcare systems need to pay for the professionals, equipment and medications used, and their costs are inextricably linked to the economy. Increased spending impacts everyone, from monthly salary payments to access to treatments.
To understand where people are bearing the cost, let’s examine some more data – that is, the average cost to the state for a night in hospital, for the same countries examined earlier.
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It's clear there is a steep disparity in costs.
According to financial services comparison site, Finder.com, Norway is far ahead of the pack with a cost of €1,470, despite a decrease in their healthcare spending between 2019 and 2021. It's followed by Switzerland at €987, Denmark at €885 and Austria at €730.
Germany and France both have similar costs of €647 and €638 respectively. Spain (€475) and Italy (€545) have the lowest costs among these nine countries for a night in hospital.
While this range can be explained by differences in population and the relative strength of economies, it's evident that not every country is equal in terms of real healthcare costs.
When combined with the examination of healthcare spending over time, it's clear that where you are in Europe matters when it comes to how much you spend on your health – and those costs are rising.
Safeguard your health
With healthcare costs increasing, it makes sense to do everything you can to secure the best care available. Private health insurance means that wherever you are in the world, you'll be able to access the best possible treatment, from doctors you choose, when you need it.
Companies providing private health insurance plans, such as AXA - Global Healthcare offer the benefit of choice, from the hospitals you use to the doctors who treat you.
Furthermore, if you're unable to find a doctor that speaks your language, the Virtual Doctor Service and Mind Health Service means that someone to talk to or prescribe medication is within easy reach via your smartphone or computer.
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