The National Health Service was the brainchild of William Beveridge's 1942 report, recommending a comprehensive nationalized health service for the UK. Implemented in 1948 and paid for through general taxation and National Insurance, today health services are devolves between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Offering free at the point of delivery health care, the NHS came top in a 2014 report by the Commonwealth Fund comparing the health services of the most developed Western nations.
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Universal health care coverage began in Thailand in 2002, the culmination of a social welfare scheme first instigated in 1975. All citizens must be covered by health insurance, irrespective of their ability to pay, and prescription drugs, hospitalizations and services like chemotherapy, surgery and emergency care are all free to patients.
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Oil revenue provided the cash injection to start Kuwait's free comprehensive health care system in the 1950s. The result was decline in mortality and infant deaths, but the nation now faces new health threats in the form of a diabetes epidemic and other obesity-related complications. Praised for its comprehensive health coverage, the system is so extensive it even includes veterinary care according to a local WHO report.
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A law was passed in 1977 mandating health insurance for industrial workers, the first step towards a national health insurance scheme spurred on by rapid economic growth. The government went on to merge more than 300 individual insurers and by 1989 universal coverage was in place.
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A recognized right for Brazil's citizens, free health care coverage was implemented when the public and private health care systems were overhauled in 1988. Life expectancy has increased by 10.6 years in the three decades since. Primary health care is provided by a nationalized program, whilst more specialized treatments and procedures are dealt with by public and contracted hospitals. Praised for providing universal access to HIV/AIDS drugs since the 1990s, there has been criticism of the disparity in care available between regions.
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A national health insurance scheme has been in place since 1995. The system, altered in 2002 to a central fund from a fee-for-service policy, provides complete and equal access to health care for all, including medical procedures, prescriptions and dental care.
All health services in Cuba are government-run and provide free, universal health care, as enshrined in the country's constitution.The World Health Organization describes Cuba's national health service as having "reached high levels of equity in the distribution of health with full coverage, accessibility and high quality resources," and has been praised for its preventative care and successful campaigns against contagious diseases through mass vaccinations.
A national health plan established in 1999 covered 91% of the population by 2012. Dubbed "Africa's Singapore" by The Economist for its transformation since the 1994 genocide, Rwanda commits approximately 20% of its annual spending on health, funded by taxation, insurance premiums and financial support through international donations.
Like the UK, Canada began implementing universal health care in the 1940s, but there are vast differences between the systems in place. Most hospitals and medical practices are privately run, and invoice the government for services delivered, whilst power is devolved to each of Canada's provinces.
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Japan's citizens pay for 30% of their health care costs through a universal health insurance scheme. Prices for services are set by a government committee, with the 70% of health costs paid by the government accounting for 10.3% of GDP in 2013 according to the WHO. Hospitals must run as non-profit by law, and clinics must be managed by physicians.
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Germany's dual health care system has both compulsory insurance, taken out of income, and private insurance, the cost of which is dependent on age and health. Compulsory insurance (approximately 8.2% of income) covers all services and includes family members, and is designed to cater for citizens with incomes below €52,200.
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With the world's 11th highest life expectancy, Italy's health care system is currently feeling the strain of its aging population. That hasn't stopped it from ranking among the top countries in the world for its universal health care. The Servizio Sanitario Nazionale, funded by taxes, was first established in 1978.
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Ranked by the WHO as the best health care system in the world in 2000, France spends 11.7% of GDP on health. Relying on compulsory health insurance, the cost per head averages $4,334 -- substantially more than a comparable system in the United Kingdom ($3,311).