Healthcare Stories

Health care stories from abroad

Thank you to everyone who has sent in their universal health care story. As you can see from the very many stories in the pages below, many Americans living abroad feel strongly about this issue. We believe that our stories will make a difference by showing the many sides of universal healthcare - from an average check up, to a hospital stay, to stories about our lives being saved thanks to universal health care.

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If It Can Happen to Me, It Can Happen to Anyone #DAresists #Medicare4all

American society has made life easy for me because I am male, white, and straight, and I don't have any disabilities. So you would think that I would never have to go without my basic, Human needs being met by my society. Such as basic healthcare. But life is complicated, and in 2004, my basic needs DID go unmet by my society. I was between jobs, had to go to the emergency room for heat exhaustion, and ended up with a $2800 bill, which I didn't have the money for. I was scared. I wrote to the hospital and told them this, and they forgave almost all of the bill. But is that the way it's supposed to be in such a rich country? A citizen who supposedly is everything the society idealizes, no longer all that ideal when he suddenly needs healthcare? If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. And it does. Please give all Americans affordable health care. #DAresists #Medicare4all

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Health Insurance in Germany #DAresists #Medicare4all

I'm an American who has been living and working in Germany for 25 years! I've been an asthmatic since childhood. It was always a struggle for my parents to get help for me when I had an asthma attack and can barely breathe! As I got older I was able to get health insurance through my employer, but whenever I lost a job I would also lose my health insurance! When I went to Germany I was suprised how easy the whole health insurance system was. Rich or poor, employed or unemployed, young and old; everyone was insured and had a simple card to use whenever one needed to go to a doctor or to the hospital. Germany has probably the oldest functioning health insurance system in the world - it's origins go back to the age of Bismarck in the 1880s. Yes, taxes are higher to help pay for the system but nobody really complains about it. Is it perfect? No, nothing is. But in the end everybody is satisfied with it, regardless of what political party one favors. I only wish that the U.S. would learn some lessons from the German health insurance system.

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A superb national health service #DAresists #Medicare4all

I live in the UK, which has a national health service (the NHS). All care is free at the point of delivery, paid for out of taxes. My experience of the NHS is as both a patient and a manger within it. One day I awoke to find that the vision in my right eye had decreased; the world looked dimmer. I went to my GP, was seen as an emergency patient immediately, and was sent straight to the hospital to see an ophthalmologist. After an MRI I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and opted for treatment at the specialist London hospital. Years later I continue to be seen for neurological check-ups, am supported by a local MS therapy center, and recently retired after completing 30 years working in the NHS. I've never been charged for a visit to a doctor; when I arrive at a hospital the questions I'm asked are not about money or insurance, but to verify my address and contact details. A few years back while on a visit here from the States, my mother fell on the sidewalk while shopping in town. A passerby called the ambulance which took her to the local hospital. By the time I arrived from work, my mother was chatting with nurses who were bandaging her leg; she'd had an X-ray to confirm nothing was broken, and could not stop marvelling at the care she'd received. "I kept asking where I should pay or what cards they needed to see but all they wanted to hear about was where it hurt" she told me. I can't think of a more succinct example of what a healthcare system should be. I was billed £25 for her care after she left, as she was a visitor and not a resident. From a clinical and managerial perspective the overwhelming advantage of the UK over the US healthcare system is the removal of an entire layer of bureaucracy; without the cumbersome process of checking insurance status and billing (with its concomitant stress on the patient), the organisation is free to focus on clinical care. The standard of care here is excellent; I speak as someone who has worked in various US healthcare facilities, including Memorial Sloan Kettering. My work in the NHS is among the proudest achievements of my career. Worries about whether or not I would be able to afford health care (especially with a pre-existing condition) is one of the main reasons I haven't moved back to the States. I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of this issue.

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A new hip and a new beginning #DAresists #Medicare4all

I live in Germany. In early July, I finally had the operation. I say finally only because I had to schedule it around my work schedule (I'm a self-employed musician). But even the weeks and months leading up to the big day speak volumes to the type of care that most of the western world takes for granted. As an aside, I have to mention how I pay for health insurance (and retirement insurance/Social Security/Rentenversicherung, and long term care insurance/Pflegeversicherung). It is through KSK (Kunstlersozialkasse). It is an income-based fund for those that work in the arts or publishing. Joining the organization was the first thing I did on the way to my residency permits and without it those would have been difficult at best, but more like impossible, especially for someone self-employed. A couple of years ago, I had first spoken about a pain in my hip with my GP. X-rays showed that it was arthritis taking its toll. From that point, it was up to me to decide when to have the operation, based both on my level of discomfort/pain, and work schedule. The GP wrote a prescription for ibuprofen tablets (most prescriptions are cost free, I think this cost me €5 for a generous supply. Doctor visits have no co-pay. There is no deductible for most costs). Of course I was free to also choose where to have the operation. And also free to get second or fourth opinions. All covered without questions by insurance. After about 1 1/2 years of dealing with the worsening condition, I ended up visiting a doctor/surgeon recommended by a friend. He worked out of a hospital in a very nice tree-filled area of the city, away from the craziness. From then on things moved rather quickly; updated x-rays, a meeting with the anaesthesiologist, a meeting for blood work-up and screening (it turns out they found a routine infection that was eradicated via a megadose antibiotic). Another reason for comfort with this particular doctor/surgeon is because of the device that he championed. It is a combination titanium and ceramic device, requiring no cement. The latter is better because in my case, I’m a bit young for the operation and it may have to be done again in 25-or-so years, depending on normal wear and tear. But this device will last longer than a traditional metal only unit. I checked in to the hospital (more accurately referred to as a Klinik, I believe because it is a private facility, as opposed to a Krankenhaus, which is public, but that needs to be verified) the afternoon before the surgery. Heh, none of this showing up at 6:00 AM on the day of stuff… The plan was to stay at the Klinik for 11 days, then move directly to a rehab facility for 3 weeks (!). All of this paid for through health and retirement insurance, without a deductible, except for €10 per day while at the Klinik. The room at the Klinik was shared with 2 other men The room at the Rehab facility was private, with all of the panache of a 1.5-2 star hotel… In other words basic, but good enough. As for the level of care, it couldn’t have been better, although hospital food is simply universally disliked. And the focus on infection prevention was incredible, as well. From the aforementioned infection treatment, to the constant reminders to use disinfectant, etc. As for recovery, it was the 2nd or 3rd day after the operation when the physical therapist already had me standing. From then on, daily exercises, then to getting around on crutches shortly afterward, to extended walks around the campus and neighborhood, and all of this while still at the Klinik. The move to the Rehab facility was done via taxi (paid for by insurance, of course) on a Friday morning. Checked in there (another gorgeous area of the city, right next to a park) and basically had the weekend free until the further rehab work would begin. I didn’t know what to expect at Rehab, but what was given was far more than anything I thought would happen. Not just the planned exercises (both in a health-club environment and physical therapy settings), but the seminars over nutrition and pain management, the one-on-one care from the therapists, nurses and doctors, financial advice and aid for those of us self employed and losing income while not working, the relaxation sessions, the time spent socially with other patients, etc. Day by day, better and better. Walks in the park to using stairs more than the elevator, the guidance and support from the staff, down time to practice or work on music (I had brought my computer and such with me). Also, it’s now 2 1/2 months since the operation, and rehab continues twice a week at a health-club-like facility in the city (one is given €5 per appointment for transportation costs!), and continued physical therapy at a second place. Again, to sum it all up, the experience was and continues to be wonderful. And with no worries for payment, what I could or couldn’t afford, even to the point of receiving some compensation to help with the loss of income, it is what most of the western world takes for granted, but what in the US is sadly and maddeningly argued over with all of the idiotic, uninformed fear mongering that goes along with it.

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Raising a child with Marfan Syndrome #DAresists #Medicare4all

Although I only planned on moving to Ireland for a year, I ended up meeting my current husband and am now raising a family here. As incredibly health conscious individuals, we never relied on healthcare other than the occasional broken bone. This changed two years ago when my daughter failed her eye test in junior infants (the equivalent of kindergarten). They discovered she had a rare, spontaneous genetic condition that required almost immediate eye surgery and will mean ongoing cardiac, ophthalmology and orthopaedic treatment her entire life. My husband has worked in teaching for 25 years and has a stable but not high paying job; I worked in the non-profit sector (ironically with blind people). Without universal healthcare, we would have been destroyed emotionally, financially, and spiritually. While healthcare here is far from perfect, it allows our family to live stress free and remain active, healthy citizens who contribute to the well being of society. It is insane Congress would consider anything less than universal healthcare. #DAresists #Medicare4all

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The best system in the world #DAresists #Medicare4all

17 years in the UK and I've had kidney surgery and have suffered a heart attack. For the latter the treatment was immediate, of course, but also the followup care was terrific. For the kidney stone surgery I had to wait four months but I wasn't critical and it was very successful. Since I've turned 60 all of my medications are now free. Great system! #DAresists #Medicare4all

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Universal healthcare is key to LIFE #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have several non-life threatening pre-existing conditions. They are inconvenient, at times painful, and at times wholly disruptive. They come with risks down the road. When I was in the US for a few years I was silently suffering — even with the ACA, my deductible was significantly higher than the cost of regular specialist checkups and screenings. The cost of my meds was literally prohibitive. Back in France, I am free to get the care I need, even as a freelance writer. I pay into the system and the value I get for my payments transcends any desire to have a market-based "freedom of choice" because I have the quality care and peace of mind that allow the rest of my life to continue normally. That's Real freedom of choice — the choice to have a LIFE. There's a reason people say "If you don't have your health, you don't have anything." Health and the care required to maintain it are fundamental to our existence, and France among many other countries in our world gets it. Moral arguments aside (there's no shortage of those) the US could be so much more if it cared about its human capital as much as its capitalism.

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It isn't just for the times you are sick #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have lived in the UK for ten years and have been fortunate to be healthy the majority of the time. But the security I feel in knowing that I can see my doctor even for small things (before they become big things) is something that doesn't get mentioned often enough. As a young person that doesn't make a lot of money, I would be in a very different position in the States, and wouldn't be able to address issues with my health until it was an emergency. Nobody should have to be put in that position. I have had the freedom to leave jobs without worrying about losing my benefits and losing access to healthcare, and the impact this has had on my well-being and mental health cannot be overstated. Obviously, there are so many more reasons why universal healthcare is the only system that makes sense!

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I love the NHS #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have been living in England for over 17 years (after having grown up in the US for over 25 years, with a father who was a doctor in the States up until about 1989), and have had numerous small treatments through the NHS, for both myself, my husband, and our two children. I have had a couple of minor surgeries for removing suspect moles (including one from my then 10-year old daughter), and have had two wonderful experiences with giving birth in a local NHS hospital (and the amazing after-care/home visits I received from health visitors for up to 6 weeks after giving birth) and haven't had to pay a penny (or pence) for any of our family's treatments, except of course the 20% basic rate tax I pay on my salary. I get free birth-control pills and if there has ever been a charge for a particular prescription I may have needed it has been extremely low (about £9.80 on average), and free for my children, including free ibuprofen (for pain). What this means to us as a family is we don't have to worry about anything like many Americans living in the States seem to, such as "what if I loose my job and I don't have my employer help me with insurance payments" or "what about my pre-existing conditions" or anything like that. The way the healthcare system is set up in England means that all of my family is automatically covered no matter what, and we don't have to worry if one of us suddenly gets ill. I wouldn't say we have never had to wait for appointments or results or such, but the waiting time seems to compare favorably with what I remember from the US system - and of course they prioritize appointments for children or urgent cases here. Overall I have no complaints about the NHS and think it's marvellous! I only wish the US could adopt something similar.

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My experience with the French health care system #DAresists #Medicare4all

Last September I fell and couldn't get up. The spirit was willing but my femur wasn't, as evidenced by my right foot sticking out at a 90 degree angle from what I presumed to be my leg. Someone called the pompiers, who scooped me up and drove me (at no cost to me) to the nearest hospital. There I had to wait a day while they took more urgent cases (one woman was aborting), but the next they replaced my femur with a titanium rig guaranteed not to set off alarms at airports. I was placed in a private room and a therapist came daily for 10 days to walk me around the halls. Nurses fed me, helped me into and out of bed and spoke French at me, which forced me to speak my appalling French to them. After I was sent home, another therapist came twice a week to coach me in walking again and teach me exercises. Nurses came daily to message my leg and give me pills, probably anti-coagulants. (As a tough-guy American, I declined pain medicine.) The whole episode cost me 14,000 euros. (Had I been French, it would have been free.) In the U.S., it would have cost in excess of $100,000. Recovery was predictably slow. I am only now learning to run, very gingerly and slowly, on absolutely flat paving. I have nothing but praise for the French health car system. I have read that it is ranked the best in the world. Australia's is ranked second, with the American somewhere near the bottom in quality and highest in cost. Wright Salisbury

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Half my life in the UK now, medical services superb and free. #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have lived in the UK since 1985 (minus 1988-1990 in California). I have always had very good support from my local doctors and their offices. Usually you can call in the morning and get an appointment the same day from one of the staff doctors at the office. Waiting times vary from 10-45 minutes, usually 15-20 mins.

 

I have had the usual range of illnesses over that period, plus recently prostate cancer and cataract surgery. I have not paid a penny for any of my superb treatments: cataract lens replacement (brilliant), prostate cancer treatments, including DaVinci robotic prostatectomy, and thirty-three IMRT computer-controlled radiation treatments follow-up. I’ve had many addition surgeries and procedures on my urethra etc.

My bus/train travel was even rebated to me until I turned 63 and I now have a 100% free travelcard in the London area for buses and trains. I continue on a variety of medications, all 100% free and supplied at my local pharmacy. (There is a flat fee of about $12 per subscription before the age of 60, usually)

Without exception, every staffmember and doctor has treated me with skill and respect, and a genuine joy at being able to help me. I am blessed.

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Back Surgery in France : being treated like a human being. #DAresists #Medicare4all

In 2014 I had to have back surgery to remove a severely herniated disc. Leading up to the surgery I had an X-ray, two MRIs, two non-effective cortisone injections and ultimately a referral to the top spinal surgeon in Paris. I had to stop working because I could not stand, lay, walk or sit in comfort. I was given many medications over the period leading up to eventually necessary surgery. In France, this type of surgery requires multiple nights in the hospital. I checked in on Friday afternoon for my surgery later that day. I checked out Monday afternoon after the surgeon and the orthopedist had both performed further examinations and made sure I could walk properly. After 6 more weeks off of work, I went back to my job having continued to earn 70% full salary over the 3 months off of work. I can't even imagine having had my surgery in the US. I paid a total of €150 out of pocket for doctors visits, medications, treatment and diagnosis leading up to and including back surgery and a three night stay in the hospital. And that 150 was to pay for my mom to have a bed in my room and three meals a day with me. In the US I'd be bankrupt. It's a government's duty to protect its citizens. It should not be the party responsible for doing its citizens harm.

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100 % #DAresists #Medicare4all

I am very thankful to have universal health care in France because I was mugged one night in Paris in 1979. I was beaten, and had a double fracture of my right ankle. Someone called the police who transported me to the hospital where I was operated for a compound fracture. A pin was installed. Once discharged from the hospital, I was transported to a physical rehabilitation center where I had months of rehabiltation therapy. All this paid in full by my French universal health care insurance because I work in France. Can you imagine this same scenario in the USA ? Having universal health care helps you to solve all your other problems without having to worry about where you're going to get thousands of dollars to pay for major medical situations.

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A medical exile? #DAresists #Medicare4all

As a Type 1 diabetic, living in Italy has been good fortune. All my health care needs are met, and I pay very little for that care. Taxes are steep, but they are predictable, and I don't worry about a medical emergency bankrupting my family. Sadly, the prospect of returning to the US feels fraught with the "pre-existing conditions" provision, which has to be one of the most cynical and immoral policies in a civilized society. How odd that as someone born and raised in the US, and for 30 years a taxpayer there, I may be a medical exile from my homeland.

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Healthcare shouldn't be a worry for anyone #DAresists #Medicare4all

It breaks my heart every time I see a health-related GoFundMe campaign, particularly for CHILDREN. Having lived 14 years in Europe, I finally get it. Little by little, the heavy burden of healthcare was lifted from my body and mind as I adjusted to the reality that healthcare would always be there for me, no matter what. My colonoscopy was 100% free. And also for my daughter: when she was in the hospital, I worried about her, not about her bills. We never got a bill. From a distance, I now see health care in the US as an albatross, along with credit card debt and school loans, dragging anyone not wealthy down and chaining them to the US and to jobs they may hate or situations they cannot escape. I know it's hard to believe, Americans, but it IS possible. The money IS there. They find trillions for defense, and they can find the funds for this. Don't believe the hype that it's "not possible here" or "too expensive" or "poor quality". Those are all lies. I wouldn't have believed it myself until I left the USA for long enough to really experience healthcare in two other developed countries. It can be done - but you have to believe it or it will never become a reality!

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Great and inexpensive healthcare in France! #DAresists #Medicare4all

I pay 42.50 (Euros) a month for excellent healthcare. My wife pays about the same. This insurance provides an amazing array of benefits that are common to all. I have easy access to specialists, urgent care, hospitals. There is little or no waiting. My wife and I are having a baby, and the pre-natal care must be about the best in the world. We have had 9 preparatory appointments with a midwife, 5 ultrasounds and several appointments at the hospital, including with a nutritionist. All of this care is completely covered by the basic coverage. For dental, high-priced medicine, glasses and to have all remaining aspects and possibilities completely covered, we have complementary mutual insurance that makes up for the difference not covered by the national health care. This costs an additional 25 Euros a month, which really isn't much. Practically everyone I know in the United States has a nightmare story about medical debt. My brother and sister in law have an autistic child, and a test their doctor recommended ended up costing thousands out of pocket, for example. This would never happen in France, no chance. It is such a relief not to have this unnecessary economic pressure that is totally avoidable by having a national healthcare system, like all advanced economies.

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Life matters beyond conception #DAresists #Medicare4all

As an American woman who went through pregnancy and gave birth in Spain, I was impressed by the comprehensive, professional, and free healthcare that I was given every step along the way. The Spanish healthcare systems covers the following for all pregnant women: prenatal check-ups, sonograms, prenatal classes, birth, breastfeeding consultancy, and postnatal check-ups. In my second trimester, an ultrasound revealed that my daughter has renal pelvis dilation, a relatively common condition which usually resolves itself in time but requires periodic check-ups. All pediatric care, including her ultrasounds are covered through the Spanish healthcare system. During one of her recent ultrasounds, the technician discovered a cyst on her intestines which requires removal. We are sad that our small baby will need surgery when she turns one, but if it weren't for universal healthcare which would deem the surgery cost-free, our troubles would be further exacerbated by the stress of financial burden, not to mention that if it weren't for such thorough pediatric care, we wouldn't even have had found that cyst to begin with until it becomes a bigger problem. All children deserve the best possible care their society can provide, regardless of their parents' socioeconomic status. I cannot think of any reason that anyone who is pro-family or believes in traditional values would disagree with that.

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I Wish Americans Could Have Healthcare Like This #DAresists #Medicare4all

My Rheumatoid Arthritis was under control since 2008, but two years ago it got significantly worse. I couldn't even walk into the next room in the morning or go down the stairs. As an elementary school teacher, I was worried that I would have to retire very prematurely. I made an appointment right away with my rheumatologist who recommended adding a new medication. Thanks to our fantastic German healthcare (the state kind -- not private), I am easily able to get the medicine I need to keep working and enjoying my life and it only costs me 10 Euros a month. I don't pay any copays for my doctor visits at all. I choose my own doctors and I get appointments when I need them. I wish that all Americans had access to healthcare like this!

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A TALE of TWO SISTERS #DAresists #Medicare4all

I live in Canada and my sister lives in the USA. I moved to Canada in 1974 and whenever I go to the doctor or hospital all I do is show my "Health Card". In 43 years, I have had two surgeries, including removal of a benign lump and all costs were covered, including medical tests. Contrast this with my sister in the States. Her husband passed away at age 60 leaving her with a bill of $7 MILLION. She had to sell her good car and her home of 40 years (5 bedrooms, 3 bath) and moved into a one-bedroom at the end of a dirt road. Can you believe that 60% of bankruptcies in the US are from medical bills?? My ancestors came over on the Mayflower in 1620 and my family has lived in New England for FOUR HUNDRED years and I can't even afford to move back home to the US! It's crazy, isn't it??

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