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If we lived in the US prior to the ACA, we would either be bankrupt or my husband would be dead or in assisted living and in pain for the last fifteen years. He was diagnosed with an aggressive prostate cancer in 2000, herniated a disc in 2001, needed a hip replacement in 2007, and has had radiation for the cancer and multiple operations related to his knees, hips, back, and other problems. The bills would have been staggering in the US. He received all the care and treatment he needed and is still at home and as comfortable as possible at the age of 88 thanks to Alberta Home Care, who sends assistants twice a day to help with dressing and showering and an RN every two weeks to check up on him. I cannot tell you how important it is to know that his needs have been and will be looked after without the prospect of losing our life's earnings or selling our house. I also cannot believe that people in the US don't understand that they spend far more per capita even now on health care for much worse outcomes. Wait times can be long sometimes, yes, but they are determined by need, not the size of the wallet. I trust that I will get critical care immediately if necessary. And no, they don't do death panels here. That only happens in the US or third world countries when people can't afford to pay. Please, please, come to your senses, look abroad and see what has worked elsewhere. Canada's system is not perfect - I'm not sure any system can be perfect - but it is better than the US by a long shot. I sincerely hope, for the sake of most of your populace, that you are able to join the rest of the civilized world and provide basic health care to all. And it isn't just my husband. Here's my husband, a best friend who was diagnosed with brain cancer last year, and his wife with MS, all of whom have received good and compassionate care because of this health system.
In 1980 I was poor and in a catastrophic car crash. I have had, since then, 22 major operations, the latest one just last year, thirty-seven years later. I've had multiple CTT scans, MRI scans, and so many tests and doctors that I can't keep track. There was one extraordinary example.The accident happened in rural Ontario and I was taken to a local hospital where doctors saved my life. One night, as I was recovering there, I developed an extreme case of bleeding ulcers. The next morning a helicopter flew all the way from Toronto for no other reason than to bring medication to stop my bleeding. I cannot calculate the hundreds of thousands of dollars it has taken to keep me in good health, And it is ongoing. Do I worry about my health, yes. Do I worry about the cost, not one second. This is Canada's universal health care.
My name is MacKenzie, I'm 31 years old, and I currently live in Düsseldorf. Back in 2010 while I was still living in the US, I was diagnosed with MS. The disease process actually started in 2007, so as you can imagine, there was a lot of anxiety and emotional upheaval leading up to the diagnosis, as I tried to figure out what was wrong with me and what had changed in my body. When I finally did receive my diagnosis, I was given a presciption for Copaxone, a disease modifying drug. I was warned by my doctor that this drug was pricey (around $2500 a month without insurance), and insurance only covered 50% of the cost. Therefore, I was told that I needed to contact, Teva, the company that produces the drug, to procure additional financial support from their Shared Solutions program. At this time, I was just out of college, only partially employed, and living with my parents (I know, awesome time in my life). I called Teva and was asked to submit information regarding my monthly income and expenses so that they could determine whether or not I qualify for aid. I told the lady on the phone that I was making well below $25,000 a year and that I had a large student loan to service. She said that the aid program doesn't take student debt into account, and asked about my rent costs. I told her I lived with my parents at the moment, and she indirectly instructed me to lie and say that I am paying rent, and that if I didn't, I likely would not get suitable aid. I thank that lady, because the program did end up paying the leftover costs due to that small detail. Still, it was necessary for me to submit my income, expense, and insurance information, plus a form/questionnaire annually by a certain deadline in order to prove that I don't make enough money to pay over $1000 a month for a drug necessary to my well-being. This process was relatively involved, circuitous, and stressful for someone reeling from a recent life-changing diagnosis, and I feel very lucky that I had the support of my family at that time. I actually had to ask my mother to make some calls and pretend to be me on certain days, as I was too overwhelmed (and still recovering from the relapse that led to my diagnosis) to handle business myself. I also think it important to mention that my neurologist of choice was located in New York City (I am from New Jersey), and that my insurance would not cover the cost for these appointments, as he was 'out of network'. Therefore, I paid $350 per appointment to see him every 6 months. I also sunk thousands of dollars into bi-annual/annual MRIs, as my yearly $1500 deductible always needed to be met. Just for comparison, I am insured with TK, and I receive my current medication for 10 EUR a month. I do not need to submit any income/expense information for this, I just get my prescription from my doctor and bring it to the Apotheke. My last stay in the hospital (which lasted 3 days and included extensive testing-- MRIs, EEG, a visit from a physical therapist, and Cortisone treatment) yielded a 50 EUR bill. If I were still in the US, I would have needed to debate whether or not the attack was bad enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room and its associated costs. When Obama was president, my family used to ask why I don't come home. They have stopped asking, because do I even need to answer? It's a sad fact that America is a place where one literally cannot afford to be unlucky or unhealthy.
I live in the Czech Republic, which has universal healthcare. Last May, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and needed to be treated immediately. I received all my treatments—tests leading to a diagnosis, total thyroidectomy, hormone replacement therapy, radioactive iodine treatment, and follow-up care—from the Czech national healthcare system. The care I got was identical to what I would have received in the US (I know this because I, nervous patient that I am, sought second, third, and fourth opinions from US doctors), and in some cases it was superior. The Czech system keeps patients in the hospital longer than we do in the US, for example, so that complications can be treated immediately and wound care and drain management can be done by nurses rather than by the recovering patient herself. Moreover, after my thyroidectomy, the Czech nurses thought to check for potential complications that staff in US hospitals where friends have had the same procedure (including the Mayo Clinic!) have missed. This attention to detail and patient safety is possible because the Czech health system avoids a particularly dangerous pitfall of US hospitals: overburdened nurses. For both my surgery and my radioactive iodine treatment, the ratio of nurses to patients was 1:1, as compared with the typical US standard of 1:4. Did I have to give up anything to be treated here instead of in the US? Yes. The food in the hospital is horrible, the buildings are ugly, and the hospital gowns are scratchy. The Czech system refuses to waste money on aesthetics because it prefers to invest in excellent care for everyone. And when you need care, there is no waiting, no wrangling with insurance companies, and no fear that issues of cost are influencing the treatment you receive. The Czech Republic has a per capita GNP that's about half that of the US. If they can provide excellent healthcare to all their citizens, surely we Americans can do the same.
Last year in Iceland, we welcomed our first children, a beautiful baby boy. We arrived at the hospital with the birth plan of having a natural birth, but open to invention if we should need it. Everything was going well, but about 8 hours after we arrived, I had stopped dialating and labor has moved to a glacial pace. In order to try and get things going again, my water was broken and I was given an IV to help things moving. By this point, the pain was becoming very difficult and, with no near end in sight, I got an epidural. It was also during this time that I started becoming very cold and shivering, so I was given a second IV with antibiotics. Soon followed a catheter and constant surveillance by obstetricians, nurses, and midwives, as my baby's heartbeat was also taking unexplainable dips for no apparent reason. After the dilation had stopped completely, the obstetrician was monitoring his wellbeing and found that he was becoming distressed. I was then prepared for an emergency C-section and after 20 minutes, I finally had my beautiful baby boy in my arms. The day after his birth, while recovering from my C-section, the pediatric doctor took my baby to the NICU, as he was breathing way too fast and wasn't eating that well. It was discovered that he had water in his lungs, and while it would go away on his own most likely, he needed a feeding tube while it resolved itself and we had an extra 3 day stay in the hospital. Four days after we arrived at the hospital, my husband, my son and I were finally ready to go home, but we had to settle our bill first. I didn't know what to expect, but then we found out it was $35 - $35!! And that is only because my husband stayed at the hospital with me and was basically a bill for the meals that he ate while there with me. After all that - IV antibiotics, extra doctors, epidural, emergency C-section, and a 3 day stay at the NICU, plus countless procedures while he was there - that was our bill. I am so grateful for the Icelandic healthcare that helped me bring home a healthy baby and didn't leave my family with piles of bills to pay. Our first day's as new parents were spent falling absolutely in love with our new bundle of joy and not in a panic attack about how to pay for some ungodly bills.
1. For starters, I grew up colonial, in a place with socialized medicine. That is, the former Canal Zone. When people object to calling the Canal Zone socialistic on the grounds that it was racially segregated, I have to agree, up to a point. The townsites were segregated but the hospitals were not, at least not among Canal Zone residents or PanCanal or US military base employees. But Panamanians without such ties could not get treated at Canal Zone hospitals. It was a tiny and odd microcosm, but it's a lie to say that socialize medicine could never prosper under the American flag. 2. My brother, who was not born in Panama and thus was not a Panamanian citizen like me, died a little more than a year ago. It was liver disease, and since he was not a citizen and had no Panamanian Seguro Social benefits, he went to Santo Tomas Hospital, on the Ministry of Health side of the dual public health care system here, and had to pay. He was there for two weeks, with all sorts of tests. It cost the family a little over $3,000. When they referred him to the Instituto Oncologico for further tests to see if it was liver cancer, at that point he was not allowed further access to the Panamanian system and had to go back to the USA for treatment. As in going on SSI and having Uncle Sam pick up the tab, at great expense. He was pretty sure that he was dying when he left and they pretty much confirmed that with a well advanced Hep C diagnosis. He spent the last six months of his life in Colorado, when his preference would have been to die in Panama. And Uncle Sam would have saved an awful lot of money had there been an agreement to reimburse Panama, maybe plus a surcharge, of the cost of what things are here, and treat my brother here. 3. The private side of health care here? The Seguro Social / Ministerio de Salud system drives private costs down, but the private hospitals are rapacious. One example of that was the first of three criminal defamation charges I have fended off over the years here. During the Mireya Moscoso administration one of her key aides was one Álvaro Antadillas, who owned a chain of private kidney dialysis clinics. So the public system did not invest in dialysis and referred patients to his private clinics. And for the US-funded health care plan for the Panamanian PanCanal employees from before the Carter-Torrijos Treaties, Antadillas had a monopoly and jacked the prices WAY up. A prominent nephrologist came to me about it with a story under a pseudonym. I got confirmation from a private hospital owner who told me that none of the importers would sell anyone any dialysis equipment for fear of being put out of business by the government. So I made an exception and published that story under that pseudonym. I got a call from Antadillas, who demanded that I identify the author. I told him that betrayal might be a fun sport in his political circle but that ain't me. I got slapped with papers charging me with criminal defamation. I told Antadillas that he could buy all the judges and prosecutors and stomp me down whatever the facts, but that I would first do my best to make a public stink on the court record about what he was doing in hopes that other media would cover it, and that he could then get his conviction -- and SEE how long his contract with a US-funded health insurance plan lasted once I went to jail -- because I would not be buying my way out with a fine. He dropped the prosecution when he figured out that I meant it, that I did not intend to be ruined with lawyer bills by his nuisance charge but would fight him in a most unorthodox and harmful to him way. 4. My nephew, a banged-up´and lacerated knee from jumping in the wrong spot off of a waterfall: x-rays, tetanus shot, stitches, bandages, medications fo rh pain and swelling and all? $13. 5. When I had a serious case of gout, so x-rays, bloodwork and all that, then medication (allopurinol)? $23. 6. When I had dengue, with a bit of bleeding? All the tests and exams, then palliative medications? $18. 7. I had a check-up and the doctor told me that I should have a colonoscopy as part of it. It cost me $25 at Santo Tomas Hospital. Had I been part of the Seguro Social system, all of the services I described would have been free. Had I been indigent, they would have been free regardless of whatever ties or lack of ties with that part of the public health care system. Such is the socialized medicine that the small part of corporate America that profits from the current system fears....
Costa Rica has a government health care system, for which I pay only about $20 per month, which covers everything, doctor's visits, labs, meds, etc. ; and a private health care system that is a whole lot cheaper than in the USA. The gov. system or "Caja" is excellent for life-threatening situations, but for non-life-threatening situations there are long waits. For a hip replacement, for example, you'd probably have to wait 5 years. Many people use both gov. and private health care, for faster service such as doctor's visit or an X-ray, if they can afford it. The gov. system is under threat of privatization, unfortunately. I tell Ticos to protect the "Caja".
My daughter (then 7) broke her arm at 6pm on a Friday night. Our doctor met us at the local hospital 15 minutes later. The X-ray technician had gone home so he gave her a call and she came back in to do the X-rays. I repeat, she came back in to work at 6:30pm on a Friday! We were home with my daughter's arm in a cast and pain relief by 7:30pm. As if that wasn't enough generosity- they didn't even charge the $25 after hours fee. Total cost for the broken arm $0. My son needed stitches in his head so the doctor asked the doctor in the office next door to put them in because he had plastic surgery experience and would leave minimal scarring. We waited 20 minutes and he was right, there was no scarring. I was once so sick and vomiting uncontrollably that I couldn't drive to the doctors office - my doctor sent a health shuttle to pick me up. My mother visited and got a lung infection. She was seen, without insurance, right away and given antibiotics. The visit and meds cost $45 and the illness didn't ruin her trip. Universal coverage doesn't mean longer waits or compromised care- it means peace of mind, it means no hesitation to get a consultation, care, treatment and medication. After 13 years in NZ & Australia, I wish this peace of mind for all my fellow Americans!
I am writing this story not to place blame, but to share my story of how an inadequate health care system has had a negative impact on my life. I am only a single example of how a bad system can destroy a potentially strong link, and I would prefer that such things do not happen en masse due to the proposed health care bill. I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus at the age of 7, in 1977. At that time, it was almost a death sentence. People died from the disease, and my pediatrician did all he could to keep me alive. Facing potential kidney failure, he put me on a dosage of steroids (Prednisone) higher than even an adult should have taken. This daily dose was part of my medical regime for a year, and while it may indeed have saved my life, it has also - to some extent - ruined it, which is the purpose of telling you my story today. The high dosage of steroids marched through my body like a determined soldier, affecting my body in various ways. Stunted growth, delayed development, Cushing’s syndrome, mood swings, and the worst – softening of the bones. Unfortunately, there was little warning about these symptoms, and when I was well enough I still wanted to be a child – to run, play, climb trees, ride bikes, take dance classes, ice skating, roller skating – and by the time a new pediatrician did warn me of the dangers, it was too late. At age 11, several verterbrae in my upper spine collapsed, just from sitting at the piano. Then, it was discovered that my hip joints were already beginning to disintegrate – avascular necrosis of the hips at age 12. I was too young and too sick for a hip replacement at that time. After age 18, it was decided to monitor my condition, as hip replacements did not last very long, and the longer we could wait, the better it would be, so as not to have the risk of more surgeries than necessary in my lifetime. I persevered. I did well in college, then started a Master’s. I worked full-time. But I had to decline a scholarship to go to law school because the pain had made day to day life more difficult. By the time I was in my mid-20’s the pain was severe. I had to normalize the pain and keep going, as I was someone who refused to “lie down” in the face of my illness, but I went to the orthopedist to inquire if it was indeed time for my surgery. This doctor told me no, because insurance wouldn’t pay for it, as it would be considered “elective” surgery, since I could still walk. Stunned, I left his office in tears. My only choice was to keep going, and endure. At that time I was living in Tennessee. Slowly, my ability to function normally worsened. I couldn’t work as many hours. I couldn’t be active. Yet still, I could walk, so the surgery wasn’t available to me. Yet I got lucky. I got married and moved abroad. We settled in Germany, and within a couple of months of moving to Germany I could no longer walk without the support of crutches. The pain had gotten unbearable, and so I consulted an orthopedist here. The look of shock and pity on his face when he first saw my X-ray told me how bad it was, and I proceeded to see this look many times as I consulted surgeons and planned my surgery. The damage was so extensive to my left hip that the bone had not developed properly – it was smaller than the average implant, and a custom implant had to be made. My pelvis had tilted 6cm in an effort to protect the left hip, which had broken several times. When the doctor asked why I hadn’t had the surgery in the U.S., I told him it was because they said it was elective surgery. The look of disgust and anger on his face was palpable. I was told that damage so bad took decades to occur, and it was likely that surgery would have been necessary when I was 18. In fact, had I lived in Germany, it would have happened at 18, despite any risks, because it is considered a quality of life issue. Imagine that: a health care system where proper treatment is based on improving a patient’s quality of life. Unfortunately, the successful hip replacement surgery (both sides – I make quite the buzz at airport security) is not the happy ending to my woeful tale. It has been three years since the operation on my left hip, and I am still experiencing severe pain. My range of motion is improved, my stamina is better, and the pelvis is almost back to normal (1cm difference). Yet I can’t sit for more than an hour without feeling discomfort, I can’t stand in one position for more than a couple of minutes without a lot of pain, and often I can’t even rest comfortably in bed. I walk and exercise as much as I can, but obviously I must be careful. I see a physical therapist twice a week, which helps as well. I must take pain medication on a regular basis. All other possibilities have been ruled out, and my orthopedist has concluded that the pain is the result of so many years of degeneration and the terrible condition of my hip, and the pain is possibly chronic. In essence, by refusing to make a small investment in my health care, my potential was squandered: including years of work, academic achievement, and productive contribution to society. I am facing the reality that I may never know a life without pain. It is a small thing, compared to a lot of other people. Still, after 40 years of pain, the end result of my successful hip replacement surgeries was expected to be no more pain, or at the very least, very little pain – and knowing that I face more pain, with no confirmation that it will end, is daunting to me. I won’t give up. I have no reason to. I live in a country with a health care system that takes exceptionally good care of me. The U.S. should perhaps look into the German system, if Congress is having trouble trying to “fix” ACA. I know there are also a lot of good ideas out there, from some Democrats and Republicans. The citizens of the United States of America deserve a good health care plan. People are more productive and happy and spend more money when they don’t have to worry about what happens if they get sick, and these are all crucial requirements for a successful economy. Alas, I digress, my story is told, and you know what you have to do.
but fortunately, because I live in Germany and am covered by public health insurance, I did not have to worry about the costs. On March 16, 2016 I had a routine examination (Mammiogram paid fully by a public Health insurance, the Hanseatische Ersatz Krankenkasse). One week later I received a letter, stating there were some irregularities and I should come in to the office for further testing. Beginning March 30th I had further testing (ultrasound and punch biopsy) and immediately upon the same day the diagnosis of cancer was confirmed. At that point I very gratefully found myself being accompanied by a very competent network of medical professionals (Radiologische Allianz). As soon as the diagnosis was confirmed, I checked around with friends and professionals to find a top notch hospital specializing in breast cancer in Hamburg and was operated on (breast conserving surgery) at the hospital of my choice on April 14th. I remained in the hospital for three days. The Radiologische Allianz guided and accompanied me throughout the entire process (further pretesting - MRI - as well as the post radiological treatment and testing). The only costs, which I personally had to pay was € 10,00 a day during my hospital stay, because I asked to be put up in a single room. Taxi costs for the 30 days of local irradiation was partially reimbursed by the health insurance. The health insurance also paid full travel costs and most of the costs at the 3-week rehabilitation center on the island of Föhr (North Sea), where I had to pay only € 10,00 per day. The cancer medication, which I need to take for 5 years following radiation, costs me only € 5,00 per prescription. If I had lived and worked in the USA at that time, I am sure that I would have been bankrupt by now. During my working years my health insurance (which also covered my children) cost monthly ca. € 600,00, half of which was paid by my employer, leaving me with a monthly health insurance of € 300,00. I realize that this might sound high, but this covers all health issues from giving birth to dying. The health care and rehabilitation services I have received have always been top notch - and I usually get an appointment at the doctor's office within 2-3 weeks. I feel extremely fortunate paying for and receiving the services of socialized medicine. I am a firm believer that quality health care should be a right and not a privilege for each and every citizen.
I have arthritis in my lower back, presumably as the result of a fall from a tree many years ago. I don't have arthritis anywhere else, which I guess is pretty good for a man of 81, but the arthritis in my back is a doozie. It has caused misc. pain from time to time over the past three or four years, and last year, just before Christmas, I was in so much pain that I could scarcely walk or stand up straight, or sleep through the night, or sit at my desk for more than a few minutes at a time. When my son happened to come by for lunch one day, he took one look at me and said, "Dad, look at yourself! You're incapacitated! You've got to go to the hospital!" And without further ado, I went to Hospital #1, a public hospital. (I chose the hospital, just as I have always chosen my doctors and dentists, after researching Paris hospitals on the internet and talking to friends and my GP.) At Hospital #1, I was given lots of morphine to keep me comfortable, and I was finally given two cortisone shots directly in the spine, on two successive days. The shots were administered under a local anesthetic, and they were administered so skillfully that when I asked the doctor to tell me when she was going to begin she told me that she had already finished. Apparently the shots eliminated (or substantially reduced) the swelling of the spine caused by the arthritis, but my problems were far from over. According to the doctors, the sciatic nerve that comes out of the spine and goes down the leg all the way to the big toe had been severely injured by the compression caused by the arthritis, and my entire right leg and foot still hurt like mad. In other words, in terms of pain I was really not much better at the end of my hospital stay than I had been at the beginning. But after the cortisone shots, I was discharged from Hospital No #1, which did not do rehabilitation. I was discharged, but ........ the hospital social worker (social workers are a regular fixture of French hospitals) made arrangements for me to began treatments in a hospital that does do rehabilitation. Several days after I left Hospital #i1, therefore, I began rehab treatments at Clinalliance, a "private" hospital. All of the arrangements for my admisssion to and treatment at, Clinalliance had all been made by the social worker at Hospital #1, a public hospital. I don't see any particular difference between the private and public hospitals in France, except that Clinalliance is a much warmer and friendlier place than the public hospitals that I have known. (Clinalliance also has marginally less terrible food.) At Clinalliance I was a patient of the "hopital du jour," the day hospital. (I guess that's "outpatient services" in the US. ) That meant that I went three times a week (subsequently reduced to two)-- to spend one hour in a therapeutic pool and one hour doing PT. In both the pool and the PT room, the patients -- there were usually between 4 and 8 of us -- were accompanied by several physical therapists, who gently gave us directions on proper exercises and movements. Every two weeks I had an appointment with the doctor to evaluate my progress. The PT room at Clinalliance is elaborately equipped with high-tech treadmills, ladders, rubber balls of all sizes, stationary bicycles and exercise beds that move up and down. There is even a machine with a tipping and moving floor and a TV screen that shows the patient's attempts to remain on balance as the floor moves around. (This machine was too high-tech for me. I prefer exercises that demand less intellectual rigor.) When I started out at Clinalliance, the doctor-in-charge gave me a prescription for some kind of morphine-based pain medicine. She told later me that she had given me the highest dose of that medicine that she had ever written. On her scale --and she sees a lot of patients -- I was apparently in considerable pain --and on mine too! I gradually reduced that pain medicine to zero, although I admit that on those days when I had to do a lot of running around, I sometimes took a small (not morphine-based) pain pill. I spent a total of 5 months at Clinalliance, going twice a week for PT and the pool. At the end of that time, I had pretty much returned to normal, although the doctor told me that the sciatic nerve had been damaged, and that nerve regeneration takes a long time. She urged me to continue a regular course of swimming and exercise, and I have followed her advice, using a public pool and my adaptation of the exercises I learned at Clinalliance. By the end of the first two months at Clinalliance, I had gone from a person who was doubled over with pain and could not walk two steps without a cane, to a person who used a cane only when I had a lot of walking ahead of me. For short trips, I did not use the cane at all -- and I walked upright, although usually at a somewhat reduced version of normal speed. I was even able to walk up stairs in a normal way. I no longer needed any pain medicine, and today, nearly a year after I first entered Hospital #1, I never take pain medicine and I walk pretty well, although usually at a reduced speed, and often with a cane, particularly for long distances. I sleep and sit normally. That is a big change. I'll close with a word on the French medical system. All of this superb treatment -hospital stays, hospital visits, doctors, medicines, X-rays, RMIs and everything else -- cost me nothing. Nor did I have to pay for the hospital- taxi that took me to and from Clinalliance, which is on the opposite side of Paris from my home. I do have a mutuelle, a private insurance policy that supplements my membership in the French system. Without going into details, I'd say that my mutuelle pays for everything that the public system does not cover. With my mutuelle, everything is paid, 100%, from soup to nuts, including a large private room. For all of these benefits, I pay my mutuelle about $150 per month. I think is not too bad for a person of 82. Getting into the French health care system was a hassle, not because the requirements were forbidding but because the French bureaucracy is forbidding. I have now been in the system for 10 or 15 years, and because I am a foreigner, until recently I made a small annual payment of (something under $1000) to continue my membership in the system. The law has now been changed and I pay nothing. The bottom line is that the entire saga of my painful back basically cost me nothing but the $150 per month that I pay my mutuelle. And the treatment that I received --which is the same treatment that is given to poor people, middle class people and as far as I know, to rich people everywhere in France-- was superb. As Marie Antoinette said to one of her courtiers, What else could the people ask? And why has America so categorically rejected this superlative system?
At my heaviest, I weighed over 310 lbs. I was dealing with diabetes, with high blood pressure, with all sorts of chronic illnesses. Even walking a city block left me out of breath. Life, put simply, sucked.
I had been recommended for weight loss surgery while living in the U.S., but it would have cost nearly $30,000. And my laundry list of ailments meant I would have never found health coverage on the private markets before the Affordable Care Act came into force.
In the interim, I moved to Canada, where even though I waited a while, I did end up having the surgery at a hospital in Montreal.
The cost? US$60. And that's because I wanted a private room.
Since my surgery, I've lost almost 110 lbs. I can run and walk without pain. Climbing stairs is no longer an impossible task. My ailments have mostly resolved themselves. I have a new lease on life. And all this without having to seek bankruptcy.
Universal healthcare has restored my hope for a future. The time has come to ensure that all Americans are able to access the healthcare they need, without having to leave the United States. Full stop.
Ernie was a loving husband, father and grandfather, the president and COO of his company and a tireless volunteer. He was a US citizen living in Toronto, Canada. In the year 2002, at the age of 68, he was diagnosed with Prolymphocytic Leukemia (PLL). According to medical estimates, he had 6 months to live. With the care of the best doctors and the Canadian universal health system he lived 6 more years! -- until his Canadian doctors told him he needed a medical treatment they were not able to give him at that time. Because he was eligible for US Medicare we were able to go to Chicago, where superb doctors gave him the treatments he needed. -- and he lived an additional 6 years! -- a vital productive life. Our primary expense was the cost of travel between Toronto and Chicago. But the actual cost of the medicine for just one treatment was $8,000.00 -- plus the cost of fees for medical personnel and the cost of the facilities and equipment where the treatments were given. We could barely afford one treatment; he had hundreds. Because Medicare paid the costs, we were able to have him with us for an additional 6 years. But without universal medical care, how will 40- 50- and 60-year olds be able to receive the life-giving treatments now available for leukemia and other cancer patients?
Health care is never free, someone pays for it. My experience in Canada is everyone pays a little more in taxes so that everyone has coverage. What do I mean by coverage...anyone who needs heart surgery, visits a family doctor, or is referred to a specialist, needs an MRI, or is diagnosed with cancer and needs chemo treatment, or have a stay in a hospital...these are just examples...what you do is present your CardCare that has a number to admissions, they record the necessary data...you have your appointment...that's it...no bill comes in the mail ever! Also, I have complete freedom to choose the doctor I want. This is what I know to be true!
There isn't a day that goes by that I am not grateful that my son was born in Japan, where we enjoy universal healthcare. My husband, son and I pay $500 - 650/month depending on our income the previous year, which covers 70% of my husband and my medical expenses and 100% of our son's. My son is now a healthy vibrant 7-year-old, but I can say with almost complete certainty that he would be much less verbal than he is - if he would be speaking at all - had he been born in the United States. Theo was born with Down syndrome and with some of the medical issues that most newborns with Down syndrome have. In his case, this was a complete AVSD requiring open heart surgery and esophageal atresia (his esophagus not connected to his stomach). He spent his first 9 months in the hospital and required six surgeries in total. After his second operation, it was discovered that he had tracheal malaise (which meant that the cartilage was not strong enough to keep his trachea sufficiently open). The doctors had two options: (1) move his open heart surgery up and include a secondary procedure that would tie his trachea to his aorta and keep it open enough until his cartilage was strong enough to keep his trachea open on its own or (2) a tracheostomy. Here in Japan, there are no insurance companies to approve or reject a doctor's recommendation, and my son's doctors were able to decide their course of treatment on their own, with our approval. They opted for heart surgery with the secondary procedure, even though it was not guaranteed to work and it would require an extra two weeks in the ICU. Thankfully, they did, because in my son's case the secondary procedure did work and he is now in first grade at the local elementary school - a healthy, active, happy boy. In the US, insurance company-driven protocol requires that patients who cannot be extubated within 10 days receive a tracheostomy. The only other option would be out-of-pocket payment for an extended ICU stay. We would have been bankrupted (most likely way before this with the initial surgeries required), and my son would've had a tracheostomy that would've stayed in place until he was 4 or 5 years old. His speech would've been delayed, as would his physical development. The subsequent therapies, not to mention the ongoing care for the tracheostomy itself, would've generated a great deal in additional expenses. In our case, thanks to universal healthcare, we paid $100 - 200/month (in addition to our monthly insurance bill) while he was in the hospital to cover diapers, food, and a cot for his parents to sleep next to him at night. Not a day goes by that I don't reflect on how very lucky we are.
Thanks to exceptional healthcare in the Netherlands, my husband and I were able to start the family we always wanted. After learning that it would be difficult for us to conceive a child naturally, doctors suggested that IVF treatments were our best option. We were able to take advantage of our time abroad and go through the IVF process from start to finish- doctors visits, prescriptions, countless ultrasounds, embryo transfer- all completely covered by our insurance. We paid next to nothing out of pocket compared to the astronomical sum (tens of thousands of dollars) for this treatment in the USA.
We have universal healthcare here in Luxembourg. The first time I went to the doctor with my son it cost €30 ($35) and all but €3 was reimbursed two weeks later. When I went to the pharmacy for his antibiotics it cost just €1.73. When I went to get a check up at my GP for my thyroid again it cost €3. When I went for my blood tests, which would have cost at least $2,000 in the US, they charged me €0. Both my children are getting orthodontic treatment which when I left Seattle two years ago would have cost about $20,000 per child if we were lucky. Here it will cost less than €1,000 out-of-pocket by the time we are done. We don't have insurance premiums, we don't have insurance cards with co-pays and different levels of service. Everyone is treated the same here. That my friends is what universal healthcare is like in Luxembourg.
I was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism caused by a blood clot in my leg which developed while traveling from Tucson to Italy, where I'd been to visit my family over Christmas. It was such a scary thing to have to go through and I live in Italy by myself with no family of my own. Since then I have really wanted to move back to the States to be closer to my family. It is such a horrible and sad thought that I can't do that because I now have a pre-existing condition and am not insurable. If anything happens to me, I will be alone here in Italy unable to be close to my family when I would need it the most. This has to change. I am a US citizen and should have the right to move back to the country I love without worrying about bankrupting my family if anything happens to me. PLEASE MAKE THIS RIGHT! Universal health care for all!
Read it and weep USA citizens. My close relative had a headache that wouldn't go away. After a few weeks of trying to figure out what was going on she was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma. The surgery was done by one of the best neurosurgeons on the planet. Mark Bernstein(Toronto). You might want to look him up. This in spite of the fact that as far as neurosurgery goes this was a relatively simple operation. The operation was scheduled VERY soon after diagnosis was made. (reports of wait times are B.S. as serious problems get triaged, and are expedited). The patient was in a great hospital, for about 4-5 days. I hate to think what this whole thing would have cost us in the USA. We however, because we live in a country with a heart, saw NO BILL. Parking cost more than any of the medical work. I am a self employed jazz musician, and I feel for all the great musicians all over the USA who depend on charity to get decent healthcare coverage. Come on USA, grow up, provide your citizens, ALL of them with SINGLE PAYER health insurance. The word socialism has NOTHING to do with this. Stop being so fearful. You are so behind the times. Do something! Made a full #DAresists #Medicare4all
Actually, because of our "socialized medicine" here, our various contacts with the rehab center (wheelchairs primarily) have been set up for us by our local health complex. Tom and I didn't have to "reach out to them". We have an occupational therapist from this local health care center who communicates also with the ALS clinic at the neurological hospital, which is also fully staffed with an ALS physical therapist, another OT specific to ALS, a respiratory specialist, ALS nurse, nutritionist, psychiatrist, social worker and chaplain. On that communication circuit are also our local Victorian Order of Nurses (NOVA) who come to do foot care and provide trained caregivers (for a minimal cost, part of which is covered by government, but also partly recoverable by tax deductions) from 9:30 to 3:30 every day now. We have a 10,000$ electric wheelchair, custom made for Tom, on loan from that rehab center and all the OT equipment one could possibly need. Our house was remodeled -- doors widened, ramps and elevators added, bathroom made larger for the wheelchair -- all with government grants. We live in Quebec, which is reputedly the best province for health care. Mind you our taxes are substantial, but we pay them with incredible gratitude for this care which is available to EVERY resident citizen. Our NOVA organization also has a monthly group for the primary caregivers (usually spouses) of ALS patients. We are WELL cared for. At times like this, Tom literally cannot reach out. That's the thing with illness.