While there are many differences between America and Europe, one of the biggest differences and the differences to come under the most scrutiny, is undoubtedly the healthcare systems. In America of course healthcare is private which means you need to have private health insurance in order to get medical attention – a very controversial topic among Americans with a number of notable strengths and weaknesses. In most of Europe however healthcare is provided by the state meaning that everyone gets treated regardless of whether they have taken out private insurance.
Do Europeans Wait Longer for Healthcare?
Of course this has one big benefit which is that no one gets turned away in an emergency and every has access to the potentially life-saving operations they need.
At the same time though, this does also mean that more people have operations and other treatments in national hospitals that are in some cases underfunded and over-subscribed. This has led to the perception of healthcare in Europe being that it takes much longer to see a doctor or to get treatment/a hospital bed when you need it. So is there any truth to this?
Well yes and no. On the one hand it can take a very long time to see a doctor for a routine appointment if you are living in a big city in Europe and this can be a great source of irritation for Europeans. That said though, most countries in Europe have a fast track for ’emergency appointments’ and practices will keep slots free for these when necessary. Usually if you can get to a doctor on your lunch break or during your holiday then you can see someone the next day or soon after.
At the same time more and more ‘drop in’ practices are opening around major cities in Europe. These allow you to see a doctor with no appointment and are very useful for business visitors from overseas or for getting a quick checkup on your lunch break.
If you need urgent medical attention meanwhile however it may take you a few hours to be seen by a specialist in a hospital or have surgery. Living in England I waited around 5-10 hours to have a broken wrist reset and my face stitched together, but of course this also depends on the area you’re living in and demand on that particular day.
There are other factors to consider too when comparing European healthcare. For instance you may still opt to take out private healthcare in Europe if you wish, but this is going to be more expensive than in the US and you will be paying it on top of your regular national insurance. That said more and more European residents are starting to turn to private health care; in Sweden for example around 40% of primary health care is expected to be private in the next five years. Of course the quality of this private health care varies between country to country too, with Germany being particularly renowned for having some of the best private hospitals in the World.