Which countries have universal health care?

In 2015, the United Nations Organization (UN), through the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, devised the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In this document, they proposed 17 goals to eradicate poverty in all its forms, fight against climate change, provide universal health care, and many others.

Although worldwide the general population has better living conditions than 10 years ago, it is known that we still have a long way to go to reach the goals set out in the UN 2030 agenda.

Regarding good health and well-being, the UN has set a goal that is not so difficult to achieve, but that does require a lot of commitment from all people and not only from governments. In this article, we explain what the universal health care goal (UHC) really is and which countries are working to provide it.

What does UHC mean?

In the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, goal number 3 seeks and encourages that all citizens of all ages could have healthy lives and well-being through any type of medical services; the aim is for countries to promote universality and create health care systems that we can all resort to without discrimination.

UN 2030 sustainable development goals, goal 3: universal health care

In other words, the UN wants to ensure that communities receive optimal health service regardless of their economic condition. This refers to the existence of a universal health care system (UHC) that includes:

  • Complete and quality medical care.
  • Promotion, education, and prevention of diseases, treatments, causes, etc.
  • Promotion and education about rehabilitation and palliative care.
  • Research and promotion about death rates and their causes.
  • Research and promotion about economic assistance programs.
  • Among others.

In consequence, the world would have at its disposal a health service good enough to improve the well-being of people in need without suffering such a serious economic impact. This is directly related to the possibility of eradicating poverty since, generally, unexpected illness forces family members to spend their savings or sell their assets to cover the treatment required to save the life of a loved one.

Although the UN evidently pursues the possibility of guaranteeing a minimum health services package, this sustainable objective refers to much more than health in the strict sense. It is proposed that by the year 2030, there will be more health campaigns provided by governments that positively impact the living conditions of communities and not only individuals; for example, providing resources and information about mosquito breeding control, adding fluoride to waters, etc.

List of countries with universal health care (UHC)

Several countries had offered UHC before the UN released it as a sustainable development goal, so here is a list of those in which it is available.


Algeria, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ghana, Mauritius, Morocco, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, and Tunisia.

North and Central America

Trinidad and Tobago, Canada, The Bahamas, Costa Rica, Cuba, United States, and Mexico.

South America

Peru, Chile, Brazil, Colombia, and Argentina.


United Kingdom, Albania, Turkey, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden, Croatia, Spain, Czech Republic, Serbia, Denmark, Russia, Finland, Romania, France, Portugal, Germany, Norway, Greece, Netherlands, Iceland, Luxemburg, Ireland, and Italy.


Bhutan, Thailand, China, Taiwan, Georgia, Sri Lanka, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Singapore, Israel, Philippines, Japan, Pakistan, Macau, and the Maldives.


Australia and New Zealand.

Universal health care VS. Free health care

We must not understand universal health care as free coverage or financing for all people around the world; considering this as a possibility could be a bit dreamy because no country can provide such a thing for free in a sustainable way.

Both terms are often used as synonyms, but there are key differences between these two systems provided by governments:

  • UCH translates into a system that grants health coverage to at least 90% of the population;
  • Meanwhile, free health care refers to the system that either provides health care to all citizens for no cost or a very low one. At the end of the day, both are generally paid by citizens through taxes.

Final considerations

Although many countries have already made progress and implemented public policies to strengthen their health systems, in order to achieve universal health care coverage it is necessary not only for governments to work on it.

The UN claims that the 2030 agenda is ‘an action plan for people, the planet and prosperity’ so that all of us, within our possibilities, contribute to achieving this and the rest of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.