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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Great experience in U.K. #DAresists #Medicare4all

When I lived in the US, I had medical care until I was 21 because my parents were working for the US military. After that, I had no medical coverage whatsoever until I managed to get a job with a company that was in an HMO network. Even then, I didn't want to see a doctor because of the co-pay and luckily I never had to go to the emergency room. Now, in the UK, I don't have to worry how much a doctor's visit will cost me. I can feel free to speak to a doctor about a mild pain I've had for years, or for a very bad migraine or illness. No, it's not perfect, but it's far better than what most people in the US have to deal with. Horror stories of people killing themselves because of medical bills don't exist in the UK. Cancer patients and car crash victims don't have huge bills that debilitate them for decades after surviving. Universal healthcare works!


Great experience in UK #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have a history of very early preterm labor. With an injection from 16 to 36 weeks, that risk of early labor and premature birth is minimized. When I was in the US a few years ago, this drug cost $1,500 per shot (so $30,000, before insurance). It was a big deal for me to find insurance that would cover it, and it involved possibly moving states--in the middle of a high-risk pregnancy. The same drug here in Ireland...I walked out of the pharmacy with all 20 doses for about $80. This drug helped me reach full term for two pregnancies. I hate to think about the parents in the US facing another NICU stay or loss of a child because this drug is prohibitively expensive. (It used to cost $10/dose in the US before the drug company hiked the price a few years ago.)


Great experience in Ireland #DAresists #Medicare4all

I live in Ireland and have access to low-cost universal universal healthcare. Ireland is a little different as we are on a two-tiered system - public and private - and the public option isn't free (unless you have a medical card) but it is very cheap. If I go to the doctor, it cost me €50. If my doctor refers me to a specialist on the public option, it is free. Same for emergency room. I once had to go to the emergency room and have X-rays - that cost me only €60 total. We also have a prescription scheme here that caps the amount you pay for prescriptions at a certain amount each month. Once you hit that amount, if you need to fill more prescriptions within that month, you don't have to pay for them. This is useful for expensive birth control and other types of medication. I hope this helps! Hilary Gray


15 Years of Great Coverage in the UK #DAresists #Medicare4all

Dear Julia, I am a US citizen who is living in London because my husband of nearly 14 years is British. A very persuasive argument for convincing me to move back to London was the NHS. We met while I was teaching in France on a Fulbright Exchange and lived in London after marrying, which is how I learned how much better life is with universal healthcare. Although I talked my husband into living in the US with me, we found our health insurance payments were overwhelming--approaching the cost of our mortgage, although the standard of care was not better than the care we received when living in London. We knew how great the NHS is, and appreciated the excellent care we received when my husband was hospitalized for pneumonia for 17 days treatment at Kingston Hospital here in the U.K. As I looked at retirement and the end of my employer sponsored insurance, the cost of and quality of healthcare was daunting, so we returned to London. I have many friends who have expressed envy at my choice. I cannot accept the heartless sacrifice of lives in the USA that is required to fund the profits of the healthcare and insurance industries. My own two daughters from a previous marriage struggled to find any healthcare after they grew too old to be covered by my plan. In their twenties, neither was able to find an employer who offered health insurance or an affordable plan until the ACA was passed. As a result of this healthcare, each daughter was able to receive treatment for problems that had worsened for lack of treatment. I worry about how they will suffer if the Republicans are able to repeal the ACA. When I look at the healthcare available to so many countries, I am distraught that my daughters, and now my grandson, will face lifelong struggles to remain healthy as well as possible bankruptcy and financial ruin just because we are all Americans, born in the richest, most powerful nation on Earth but seen as nothing but consumers. I hope my thoughts on this life-or-death issue are of some assistance in any appeal you can make to our legislators. I have called and emailed my home state's senators to thank them for fighting each of the continual attacks on the ACA, and have contacted through phone calls and postcards other senators to ask them to reject the Cassidy-Graham bill. Kind regards, Debra Daniels


Many experiences in France #DAresists #Medicare4all

Aside from the usual and thankfully banal problems of bearing and raising three children, I can report on fairly major issues. NB: I also have a “mutuelle”—a collective non-profit complementary health arrangement that costs approx. €2000 a year and covers the 30% French social security doesn’t pay in some cases. Except in the last, worst item below I don’t remember which paid what. --A hard fall on cement the night before I was supposed to lecture in Oxford resulted in a hip replacement and hospitalisation for almost two weeks [Radcliffe Hospital] plus special transport arrangements home to Paris. French social security and probably the mutuelle reimbursed costs to the Brits. --Three fractured vertebrae and three “vertebroplasties” in which they inject resin cement: cost zero --Worst: in late 1999 my husband was diagnosed with a fairly rare form of cancer : He died a year and a half later after two operations, one very long and risky, intensive care, a whole variety of convalescent measures at home or in hospital, daily nursing visits when at home and, a particular blessing in the circumstances, he was able to spend the last two weeks of his life surrounded by his family at home, in a hospital bed with perfusion and three times daily visits from a nurse as well as regular ones from our family doctor. He could self-administer doses of morphine as needed and we were all with him when he died. Cost for us: Zero, entirely paid by French social security since he had a recognised “serious illness”. I sometimes tell this story now in talks to encourage the French and other Europeans to fight for all our public services, explaining to them we would have had to sell the house if we had lived in the United States. Since I have mentioned giving talks, it may be worth adding that after Smith College junior year abroad where I met and later married my French husband and living in France, I was able to win two higher degrees, a “licence” in philosophy, equivalent to a US master’s degree and allowing Immediate entry to the doctorate. Ten years later I got my PhD with honours in political science from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences sociales, a quite prestigious part of the French university graduate schools system. Cost—about $150/year in today’s dollars for inscription and insurance fees. Comment: Totally impossible for me cost-wise had I lived in the US. With 17 books and innumerable talks, articles and interviews for various social / ecological/ political causes since, mostly without fee, I feel I have “given back”, as Americans like to say. Note: My four grandchildren have now graduated from a variety of excellent, highly recognised schools [except for some at masters’ level with modest tuition fees] in several disciplines and—barring global warming disaster—are set for life. Long live Bernie Sanders!


The experience of a North Carolinian living in Australia #DAresists #Medicare4all

I’m a NC voter living in Australia and working for Bupa, a UK-based health insurer and care partner. Long before I had up-close experience with a functioning healthcare system and a private insurer who genuinely cares for its customers, I grew up in rural North Carolina with a chronically ill mother. Suffering from Lupus, cancer, and a wide range of related issues, my mom was often in and out of the hospital. Despite working gruelling hours, my dad always found it difficult to make ends meet. Any child who grew up with a seriously ill parent knows all too well the anguish of seeing a loved one in pain, the pitying head pats from Sunday school teachers, and the stomach-dropping discovery that someone you care about had to be rushed to the ER again. My time abroad has taught me that many Australians can commiserate with experiences like these. But most can’t understand the constant battle my parents waged just to make sure my mom could have health insurance. With so many pre-existing problems, it was always hard for my mom to secure a plan that could account for her many needs. The ramifications of poor health are acute enough; children don’t need to overhear their parents crying because they aren’t sure how to pay their medical bills. Thank goodness most Australians already understand this. While no system is perfect, Australia’s public/private hybrid allows consumers extra choice and extra comforts if they can afford them, while supplying basic care for those who can’t. This likely contributes to the comparable cleanliness, safety, and overall better quality of life that Australians tend to enjoy. President Obama took on great political risk to try and fix our own broken system. He did this by selecting a bipartisan compromise: a market-based solution that originated from the Heritage Foundation. While the ACA is definitely flawed, I know that it helped other little girls avoid at least some of the pain I felt. I am repulsed by the moral failure of politicians who have decided that cynical machinations are more pressing than fixing the ACA’s flaws. Their disregard for American lives is alarming. Other countries have recognised that investing in their citizens’ well-being pays dividends; I pray that one day America will wake up to the value of a similar investment. Kind regards, Shanna Hall


Romney Care was a life saver that should be available to all #DAresists #Medicare4all

My mother contracted Alzheimer’s in her mid 70s (about 20 years ago) after a fall and a hospital stay that required giving her morphine for the pain. Although she her broken ribs healed, her mind was never the same. Her general forgetfulness turned into otherworldliness. The cost of in-home daycare was prohibitive and after we got home, still wiped us out each night trying to keep up with her. She was still ambulatory, but was out of our control — sort of like a large 3-year old. After a few years of shuffling her back and forth between family homes every six months or so (my brother in Massachusetts, a cousin in Florida and eventually me in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico), It was obvious we couldn't care for her that way any longer. She had worked all her life at low-income wages, had her own home, but couldn't live there any longer alone and her income was only about 600 dollars in social security per month. We looked into rest homes in Massachusetts, where my brother could keep an eye on her, but we couldn't afford them — the minimum cost was about 3,000 U.S. per month. My brother and Icould only come up with about 400-500 dollars per month each from our meager incomes. So we sold her home and she stayed in Mexico, where a rest home run by a well-respected gerontologist could take care of her for less than 14,000 dollars per year, everything included.She got progressively less responsive and finally couldn't recognize her family. Eventually, after almost eight years here in Mexico, even with us chipping in the money ran out, and we looked for other options. Ex-Governor Mitt Romney had run for president and while bad mouthing government-paid health care to appease the Republican base, but had left a fantastic system in place in Massachusetts. So we flew Mom home from Guadalajara (not an easy task) and worked the system for a couple of difficult months with expensive in-home care until we were able to get her into a rest home in Hyannis, were my brother could see her a few times a week and other nearby relatives could check in on her. The state health care system paid for everything and even left my brother with a few dollars each month from what was left from her meager social security so he could get her hair cut, buy her new clothes, some glasses so she could see us, ect. She passed away three years ago at 91 years old.We were thankful that she was well cared for her last three years in her home state and that we weren’t bankrupt in the process. I think that people who work their whole lives and play by the rules shouldn’t be dumped because they weren’t in a high-earning bracket.Most of the people I know make less than their parents did in the 1950s ‘60s and ‘70s, when the U.S. working class had pretty good wages and benefits. My dad, a fellow who never went to college, but is one of the Great Generation, who went to WWII and worked for the federal and state governments, makes more with his various pensions than I can take home with my white-collar job running my own business. That sums up a lot of working folks situations these days. If health care for the working class isn’t a priority for a nation that spends more on health care then any country in the world, then why should national cohesion be expected?How can we be expected to be good citizens when the country takes us for granted? I don’t advocate a socialized economy, but I think what I’ve read and heard about universal health care coverage is part of what makes the United States a great nation. It takes care of its own.I do not think that leaving the half of the nation that can least afford it to fend for itself when the chips are down is part of the American dream, that the Great Generation fought for or part of the legacy they left us. I've lived in Mexico for the past 27 years and see what unequal systems can do to destabilize national cohesion — and this in a fairly homogeneous country. In a country like the U.S. where more than 30 percent of the population are immigrants, only the rule of law and the idea of fairness can keep the country united. Don't let inequality in one of the most basic situations in life —the health of the nation's people — make the country I have been mostly proud to call mine turn into a place where only the rich can survive. Sean Godfrey Former Massachusetts resident Registered Democrat


A Universal Healthcare system can coexist alongside capitalism #DAresists #Medicare4all

These Australian health care photos demonstrate that a Universal Healthcare system can effectively coexist alongside of capitalism. South Australia Health has brilliantly partnered with David Jones department store at Adelaide's Rundle Mall, for a space to provide free screening mammograms to all woman--even me as an American citizen residing in this great country. All woman to access the BreastScreen SA clinic had to pass through David Jones's shoe and lingerie department. I am sure products were purchased. A brilliant synergestic example of Universal Healthcare and Capitalism for a mutual financial benefit. Not to mention the ease, and reduction in fear for women to slip into pleasant store rather than an intimidating clinic for a mammogram. This also, provides for an increase in early detection as women more likely will get the recommended mammogram when either shopping or even better yet for some women, an opportunity to meet a friend at a nearby cozy cafe. I loved my mammogram experience and hope to share this partership opportunity back in the United States.


Scorecard: Money and Longevity #DAresists #Medicare4all

United States Italy Gross Domestic Product per capita $57,467 $30,527 Health spending per capita $9,892 $3,391 Life expectancy at birth 78.8 years 82.6 years What’s Their Secret? As an American physician practicing in Rome I'm convinced the main reason Italians get more bang for their health care buck is that they have a single-payer National Health Service, financed out of taxes. Everyone can see their own primary care doctor and be cared for in the hospital without paying a penny, while medications, testing, and specialist exams require at worst a tiny co-pay. Add in low income inequality and a famously healthy lifestyle, and Italy has more than enough on the plus side to compensate for its medical system’s many flaws. Susan Levenstein, MD


Fearing the bill/increased premiums interferes with our health #DAresists #Medicare4all

Before moving to Germany to study, I had two medical incidents (one of them requiring an ambulance) that my insurance declined to cover. My savings were completely wiped out from the financial shock and the prices for the procedures were exorbitantly high (an ambulance in NY costs about $100/minute which came to $2000 after a 20 minute ride). Since coming to Germany, I've discovered the benefits of a system that is not based on the monetization of healthcare. I no longer have to fear the small print on the contract pages of an insurance company, and I don't hesitate to seek medical attention when I need it.


No more worry about seeking medical attention #DAresists #Medicare4all

Before moving to Germany to study, I had two medical incidents (one of them requiring an ambulance) that my insurance declined to cover. My savings were completely wiped out from the financial shock and the prices for the procedures were exorbitantly high (an ambulance in NY costs about $100/minute which came to $2000 after a 20 minute ride). Since coming to Germany, I've discovered the benefits of a system that is not based on the monetization of healthcare. I no longer have to fear the small print on the contract pages of an insurance company, and I don't hesitate to seek medical attention when I need it.


Bankrupt and Dead Three Times Over #DAresists #Medicare4all

I would be bankrupt and dead three times over without Sweden's universal healthcare system. As long as we've lived here I've been grateful for knowing that everyone is covered, everyone has health insurance. We're a community, we help each other. Then I had reason to need that help myself.

1. In 2010 I had HPV-induced tongue-base cancer which had spread to a lymph gland. I received six weeks of daily radiation plus weekly chemotherapy, followed by brachytherapy (radium inserted directly into where the primary tumor had been). I got a radiation burn which got infected and I was in the hospital for a week, plus another week with the brachytherapy and complications. I was on a feeding tube for three months because of extreme pain in my mouth and tongue. The cancer has shown no sign of recurring. I was charged $10/day while in the hospital to cover my food. I got heavily-subsidized food pouches for the feeding tube. I paid about $125 for all medical visits during the year, and about $225 for all prescriptions. I've had excellent follow-up care at the dental-surgery clinic because the radiation damaged the circulation in my jaw. A wisdom tooth became loose and was just removed after 4 weeks of hyperbaric (high-pressure) treatments breathing pure oxygen for two hours each day -- plus another two weeks after the tooth removal.

2. In 2013 I had bladder cancer. One polyp was "shaved" away and three smaller ones were cauterized. Later I had six weeks of BCG (weakened TB virus) treatments twice, and still later six weeks of chemo treatments directly in my bladder. There have been 6-month follows throughout this period. Costs are similar to those above (except that I haven't been in the hospital -- and the tests and procedures weren't as high-tech -- so okay, I might not have been bankrupt that time).

3. In 2016 I had heart failure -- my heart was beating irregularly and at three-times it's normal rate -- and could hardly breathe. I was in the hospital for two weeks during which there were all kinds of high-tech (and expensive) tests conducted (angiogram, MRI, ultrasound), culminating in atrial ablation (a tube was inserted into an vein in my groin, then threaded through to my heart where small patches were burned out (scarred) to prevent electrical signals from firing irregularly. Since then I've been on four daily medications, at least one of which is quite expensive. All this with costs as above.

I feel totally healthy. I'm 70 and slowing down, sure. But I'm not dead. I saw my daughter graduate medical school last June and start her first job as a doctor, and have also seen my son (who is younger) get his first job and thrive. My wife seems to like keeping me around too. (She was also a major help, of course, in getting me through each of these episodes, especially the oral cancer and heart failure.)

Thank you to Swedish universal healthcare!


Birth Control, Eye Infections, Severe Strep Throat #DAresists #Medicare4all

I arrived to my new Edinburgh, UK home on December 29th. By the 10th of January, my tonsils had swollen up so much I couldn't eat, couldn't talk, couldn't swallow. What to do in a country with a completely foreign-to-me health care system? I hadn't even been set up with a GP (your local doctor you sign up with) yet! I found that I could go to A & E (Accidents and Emergencies) and be seen there. After hearing lots of American right-wing paranoia about socialized healthcare, I expected to arrive at this A&E hospital and experience rushed service, long wait times, and bare minimum care. Couldn't have been farther from the truth. I was seen within 20 minutes of arriving, my nurse was extremely thorough and gentle, and I was given antibiotics on the spot ( and for free since I had paid my yearly NHS surcharge as an American student). Fast forward to Spring. I've been signed up with my local GP for months now. It's a 5 minute walk from my house. I've seen several doctors at this location, and they are all friendly, thorough, and knowledgable. I've woken up one day with a severe eye infection; my eye has swollen shut. I call at 8am for an appointment with the doctor, and they see me a few hours later. I'm given a prescription for medicated eye drops and I walk one block from the doctors to the pharmacy. Within 15 minutes, I'm given my eye drops without any money being exchanged. Fast forward to Summer. I'm in my first serious relationship in many years. I've never had birth control in the States; the added cost had convinced me not to use it unless necessary. I decide to now research my birth control options and choose one to use in the here and now, in the UK, administered under the NHS. I made an appointment with a lovely, confident, knowledgable doctor at my Bruntsfield Medical Practice, and within 30 minutes had the BC implant inserted into my arm. I'm in awe and gratitude every time I experience the health system here in the UK. I've watched a fellow American friend here discover a diagnosis with skin cancer and be fully tested, treated, and cared for, with as many visits and procedures administered as needed to improve and manage her health. I've never felt more safe, secure, confident in being able to control my health and happiness because of the National Health Service here in the UK. Healthcare is not a privilege. Health care is a human right. Healthcare is not a privilege. Health care is a human right. Healthcare is not a privilege. Health care is a human right. Healthcare is not a privilege. Health care is a human right. Healthcare is not a privilege. Health care is a human right.


Old age in Spain #DAresists #Medicare4all

We moved here in 2006-my wife has dual citizenship, and I became a permanent resident shortly afterwards. They gave me access to their health care system. I had a massive hearth attack in 2010- had surgery and they patched the pericardium. Im also a diabetic taking insulin. Im grateful to the care I receive here ,not sure we’ll be able to make in the Us


Why are US healthcare costs ten-fold higher? #DAresists #Medicare4all

In 2012 I was advised by my cardiologist that my heart beat irregularities were such that I urgently needed a pacemaker. I was not a part of the French health care system but had retained my old American Foreign Service insurance(AFSPA) which reimbursed us for coverage in France. We went to a private clinic in nearby Lannion and I received a top of the line American Metronics pacemaker, with the surgery, hospitalization of three days costing $2,800. We paid this and the AFSPA happily reimbursed us. They informed me that in the US they and Medicare would have to pay between $25-30 thousand for the same procedure. The private clinic in France presumably made a nominal profit. So my question is why are costs in the US ten-fold higher? Roy


Universal Health Care=Freedom. #DAresists #Medicare4all

Many patriotic Americans see "freedom" as a core American value, but privatized health care severely limits one's freedom. As an American living in Canada, I have been free to make many important choices in my life without being constrained by health care needs. I made the choice about when to start a family because of universal healthcare. Shortly after attaining Canadian residency, my husband and I moved to Canada when I was 7 months pregnant with my first child. As we had both been completing our masters degrees abroad, we did not yet have jobs. I was provided the highest quality care in my pregnancy and childbirth, and throughout it all paid only $10 to park at the hospital. Following the birth there was support from public health nurses, midwives and doctors who called or visited my home to monitor me and my baby. A few years later I made the gut-wrenching decision to terminate a pregnancy with a fetus that faced severe life-long health issues. Nobody judged me, protested me, or forced me to jump through hoops. I was provided with sensitive and efficient care free of cost. When I made the decision to try again I was gently guided through my next pregnancy by health care workers sensitive to my previous traumatic situation, and delivered a healthy baby. And most recently, I have made the decision to leave a job I didn't love and start my own business doing work I was passionate about. I did not have to worry about the loss of healthcare benefits. While the universal health care system in Canada is not cost free (we pay some premiums, prescription drug costs, and excluded services like dental and optometry) and it is not prefect (there can be waits as patients are seen in order of urgency) I have found in my experience that it is equal to or better than the care my family receives in the US. And, universal health care gives me the freedom to make choices in my life that are best for me and my family. Meanwhile, I have observed my family in the US having restricted freedom because of lack of maternity leave, high health insurance costs, and general lack of affordability in their lives. Universal healthcare provides a privilege everyone deserves: freedom.


Incalculable Reassuring Comfort #DAresists #Medicare4all

I am a U.S. Citizen living abroad in Canada for almost two decades. Over that time I have developed a tremendous appreciation for the Canadian Healthcare system. I am deeply grateful that when I am ill, or a family member has been ill, the first thought has always been to get the appropriate, necessary treatment. When I lived in the States I lived through many periods of time with little or no healthcare. I would suffer unnecessarily to avoid the cost of care. Like so many Americans I thought I had to "be stoic" to avoid going into debt as "just a part of life." I no longer live with this fear in Canada. I have witnessed elderly friends admitted to very good nursing home facilities they could never afford in the States that are completely covered by the Canadian government. I have witnessed people treated with dignity regardless of their ability to pay. I have experienced recuperating from illness and injury without the fear and dread of the many "surprise" bills that will soon arrive in the mail. So my "healthcare story" is this: the Canadian Healthcare system - just by its very existence - has brought incalculable reassuring comfort and peace for my future into my life. Thank you


Originally from Southeast Missouri... #DAresists #Medicare4all

Originally from Southeast Missouri, I moved to London when I was 26. I brought with me six months of contraception (the pill), at a cost of $180 USD purchased before my employer based healthcare expired. I came to pursue postgraduate studies, and when my supply ran low I registered with my local NHS surgery. By the end of the week I walked away with my new prescription, covered by the NHS and paid for by my taxes. Score! 13 years later and I am still here. I have given birth to both of my children here. Both were born caesarian in hospitals through the NHS. My first child was born 5 weeks early, and resulted in a 3 week hospital stay. The care I received from the midwives, nursery nurses, doctors and all helped reassure a nervous first time mother living thousands of miles away from family. My second child arrived much less dramatically, requiring only the minimum 2 day hospital stay. The experience, both before and after giving birth was equally reassuring. I made visits to midwife teams (at their office in my area) and consultants (at the hospital) before giving birth to check on the baby’s health as well as my own. And after each child was born and I was back home, I received visits by the traveling midwife and nursery nurse team, checking on mum and baby and making sure I knew where to access nursery groups - whether for information on breastfeeding or just to meet other mummies and chat. And all this without having to fight insurance agents or request costings for the myriad tests and procedures that are part of giving birth. My children are now 11 and 6. We have gone to the gp chesty coughs, outer ear infections, minor burns and all things child related. Both children have made trips to A&E (accident and emergency, or the ER), with the ride in the ambulance being the highlight for my son’s class. There is no cost for prescriptions for children; the cost for adults is around £7.70.


4 Things Senator Saunders needs to learn from Canadian healthcare system #DAresists #Medicare4all

1. It relies on federal block grants (antithima to Dems) because even in a country as small a Canada, a national program would be too unwieldly and unresponsive (imagine DVA healthcare for all). Dems oppose state level programs because we are so shockingly thin in state government. This needs to be a co-priority in healthcare reform 2. Its not an instant process. Canada took 35 years from first provincial program to the current legal framework. So the US clock started running in 2006 with RomneyCare in Mass. The interim period for Canada featured intense political wrangling, industry push-back (Drs. Strikes, opting out, practitioners leaving the country) and constant tweeking and tuning. So US may be on or even ahead if course 3. Universal healthcare is not synonymous with affordable healthcare as all funding levels in Canada are acutely aware. 4. Finally and probably most importantly, since universal health care, universal health insurance and single payer healthcare are not synonymous he should look for a role model from amongst the dozen or so countries whose mixed funding universal systems regularly outscore Canada (and US) on both costs and health outcomes. We Americans equate choice with quality and choice and universality are not incompatible. Robert Thompson Kanata ON