Most Successful National Healthcare Plans in the World

In 2000, the World Health Organization conducted an analysis of the world's national health systems and found that the four major countries with the most successful healthcare plans were France, Italy, Spain, and Oman. Factors considered by the WHO include the overall health of the population, health inequality, responsiveness to people's healthcare expectations and the fairness of the financing of the healthcare system.


According to NPR, France's health care system is a hybrid of public and private insurance. A majority of people get their health insurance through their employer, as in the United States. However, in France, nobody goes uninsured. The national health insurance program will pick up at least 70 percent of the cost of a hospital visit, with the remaining 30 percent normally being picked up by affordable private insurance. For patients with serious, expensive illnesses, government insurance pays the entire cost of their care. Despite these generous benefits, the French health care system costs about half as much as that of the United States.


The Italian National Health Service, established in 1978, is the primary provider of health insurance to all Italians. It is a decentralized model, with many functions being administered at the regional level. Private insurance is sometimes offered by employers, but only 35 percent of Italians use any form of private health care. The government picks up the cost of all primary care and inpatient treatment, while drugs and advanced tests require co-payments of up to 30 percent. Vulnerable population groups, such as children and the elderly, are not subject to these payments.


Like Italy, Spain has a national public health care plan that covers every citizen and is decentralized to fit regional-level needs. "Areas de salud," or local health areas, are the basis of health care management at ground level. For those who can afford it, private health insurance is an option, and is used mainly as a means of bypassing the waiting periods associated with public health care. The quality of government care, however, is not seen as inferior to that of the private plans.


The WHO reports that health care in the Sultanate of Oman, having been relatively primitive until the 1970s, has become highly successful in a short time frame, thanks largely to investment derived from oil revenues. Government-sponsored community health centers form the backbone of the primary care system, covering Omani citizens and foreign residents alike. As a result, the under-5 mortality rate in Oman has decreased by 94 percent over the past 30 years. This has been achieved despite per capita expenditure on health being only $390 a year.