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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Please note that the stories below are all user submited and reflect individual opinions. 

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An Expat’s View of Heath Care Down Under #DAresists #Medicare4all

As an American expat living in Australia I feel blessed that I can go to sleep every night knowing that my wife and I will never have to worry about not having health insurance. That’s right, whether we lose our jobs, go bankrupt or have pre-existing medical conditions - WE NEVER WORRY ABOUT NOT HAVING HEALTH INSURANCE! The reason is that we live in a country that has a universal single payer health care system that automatically covers everyone from the time they are born to the time they die – a country where something as basic as medical care is viewed as a right and not a privilege for those who can afford it. Sadly, this is still not the case back home where the cost of health insurance is often ruinous. For those not covered by employers, some go without, some go bankrupt and millions more struggle on the margins with inadequate coverage. Astoundingly, the cost of health insurance for a family of four in 2016 was $25,826 while the median family income was $56,516! By contrast, we in Australia pay a health care levy of 2% although if your income falls below a certain level you don’t pay at all. In addition, my wife and I pay an addition $4,000 a year for private health coverage that gives us a choice of doctors in hospitals and extras like private dental and physio. All totalled, it’s considerably less than the cost of health insurance in the US, but regardless of your financial situation you will always be covered for life. So from my vantage point living down under, I view the US privatised health cares system as totally crazy and inhumane. In fact, if you set out to devise the world’s worst possible health care system, I think the US would be your model.

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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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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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No need to fight with an insurance company for life-saving treatment #DAresists #Medicare4all

We live in Germany, where health care is universal. The system is a little bit like Obamacare, where employers and employees split the insurance cost, and the unemployed and elderly get insurance from a default insurer. Unlike the USA, most insurers are non-profits and strictly regulated with respect to their finances. They don't spend all their time and our money trying to find ways to deny you coverage. But they still compete for your business. There are no caps, no deductibles or co-pays in most cases, no preexisting conditions, you choose your doctor. Insurance is simple and worry free. Health care is excellent. And Germany still pays far less for health care than the US does. Germany understands that health care is a social good and a human right, not a privilege. For-profit is the wrong way to provide health care. We had to put this system to the test. Our daughter, 18, contracted Hodgkin Lymphoma. In the USA, a routine case costs around 150,000 dollars to treat, more or less, with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. After the initial approval of treatment, our insurer left us and the doctors alone. Our daughter was treated according to the latest available protocol and has since maintained a complete remission. We, our daughter, and her doctors didn't need to fight with an insurance company every other day about whether it would pay for life-saving treatment. We were allowed to concentrate on what mattered - supporting our daughter in her fight to get well. In the USA, this might have been the experience of someone insured as the employee of a top company, a Google, a Microsoft, a Facebook. Other people would not have been so lucky. Other sons and daughters may not have gotten the all of the treatment they needed, and some may have died, unnecessarily, since Hodgkin Lymphoma can be "cured" nowadays. Other families would have been burdened with debt, and their children would have been marked forever as "uninsurable because of preexisting condition." You know, a return to the time before Obamacare, as the Republicans want, would be cruel and for many citizens, miserable. It does not have to be that way.

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#DAresists #Medicare4all

A comment I posted on the internet two years ago: "Insurance companies do not provide health care. They act as intermediaries between you and doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, etc. taking a part of the transaction cost. An insurance company’s objective is to make money. Often they say that they have profits only in the order of single digits, but it is their far greater organizational cost that accounts for the difference between income and outgo. They want to maximize the amount of premiums they take in and minimize the amount of their payouts. They employ oodles of people to check the validity of claims made for payments, others to sell their products and highly paid bosses to oversee these activities. From an individual’s point of view insurance companies are thus the antithesis of obtaining health care. Most health care in Europe is managed by its governments. Money to pay for it is obtained in the form of taxes. This income and the payments for health care are in the general budgets of the countries or adjuncts to it, similar to expenditures for education, infrastructure, armies, police, etc. Doctors participating in public health care systems are public employees and are paid salaries. They don’t have to carry expensive malpractice insurance; the government would sustain any successful claims for malpractice. Doctors do not have hundreds of thousands of dollars to repay for their educations because their education costs are significantly less than in the U.S. Most doctors have gone to state schools. Some medicines are free, some must be paid for by the patient, and some have a “co-pay” of a couple of Euros. One need not go to a doctor or hospital that is publicly funded; there are also private ones. Waits for non-critical specialists’ visits can be long and you can get quicker service going private, but when there is a critical need care is immediately available with the public system. Average life expectancies are longer. Thus health care costs less but is better in Europe than in the U.S. "

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Talk radio strikes again! #DAresists #Medicare4all

It's frustrating when my friends living in the US - who have never lived outside the US - tell me about how poor healthcare is in the UK. In reality, the UK system beats the US hands-down. One weekend I experienced problems with vision in one eye. I called my local GP who said the problem could be serious (a detached retina) and get to the practice immediately. He had a look and referred me to the world-class London Eye Hospital. They saw me on Monday, diagnosed non sight-threatening vitreous detachment, and sent me home relieved. There was no bill. Think about how this would have been dealt with in the US, and what it would have cost.

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Israel's Universal Healthcare - Efficient and Affordable #DAresists #Medicare4all

Several years ago, my daughter was diagnosed with Lymphoma. That's the kind of news that can be devastating. But thankfully, because we live in Israel, our only worry was how to get this 21 year-old girl healthy. If I had still been in the US, I would be bankrupt by now. When your child gets sick, all you want to do is help them get better and your biggest worry should be taking care of them, not money. Today, with this illness in her past, she gets free dental check ups (which isn't covered by our system), pays a tiny sum every year for her PET-CT, and as a cancer survivor, she's now on the most comprehensive plan available at no extra cost to her. If you ask me, anyone who would deny another person access to healthcare is a murderer, and should be jailed for life.

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German health care - AOK #DAresists #Medicare4all

I live in Germany, where I worked for 25 years. I am now retired and have full health care coverage for me and my family. Last week my wife woke up in the middle of the night with severe chest pains. I drove her to the emergency room in the local hospital. (only because it was quicker than waiting for an ambulance.) She was admitted immediately and began numerous tests, blood pressure, EKG, blood makeup, Xrays, Ultra sound and more. She stayed for three days, two nights, for observation. She was given various medications during her stay. Luckily it was determined to be a sever asthma attack with shortness of breath and a panic reaction. Today I received the Hospital invoice. 10€ a day for a total of 30€. When we were raising our kids, the Kinderartz (pediatrician) came to our home, and within minutes of a call, when we thought it was am emergency. Ambulance rides, free; Doctor visits, free and never any wait, other than the usual Doctor office wait. A few months ago I had a Hiatal Hernia. Diagnoses, MRI for confirmation, prep, surgery, recovery with 3 days in the hospital, again total cost was 30€. I can't afford to retire in the USA. I'm stuck here in Bavaria. Prost!

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Universal coverage saved my life in Hungary #DAresists #Medicare4all

It's not perfect in Hungary, and the quality of the healthcare you receive varies wildly from venue to venue - but my life was literally saved by my healthcare in Hungary. When I suddenly didn't know what was wrong with me, felt a strange pressure in my leg, and was dragging it, feeling like gravity was pulling it into the sidewalk, I was able to go see a doctor, who immediately sent me to emergency at the best hospital in Budapest. I was immediately put on a stretcher and was not allowed to stand up for the next five days - as it was found that my leg was riddled with DVT. I am eternally grateful to my doctor there and all the wonderful nurses, and even my ward-mates in a very comfortable, clean spacious room. I was 48 when this happened - and I might not be here today without that healthcare, as DVT can end up causing a pulmonary embolism, heart attack or even stroke when it moves through the blood stream. After being released from the hospital, my prescription for the newest model of blood thinners was covered 90% by my insurance. And I had regular follow-ups with my local doctor, as well as the doctor who treated me in the hospital.

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support at the bottom - subsidies for artists #DAresists #Medicare4all

Not only have I enjoyed the affordability of health care within the German system, (such as 5-10euro copays on prescriptions and even hospital stays!) as a freelance artist, my contribution to basic monthly costs is cut in half. This is because anyone who is employed, has the same deal by their employer. The system recognises a need for working artists to have this basic level of support. Additionally there are many extra services to catch people in crisis situations, which are provided separately by the government, and do not even go through the health care system. So that anyone in need can receive temporary help to get back on their feet. It's true that there is a bit more bureaucracy, and things can take longer to move through the system. But here in Germany, with patience and putting one foot in front of the other, you can get the help/support/health care you really need - when you need it. And they treat you as a human being, so that you just feel better during the process as well! Also as an artist, I can't even imagine having children in the United States, but the system here provides monthly subsidies for pregnant women, and even a small subsidy until the child is 18. Since moving here, is the first time in my life I ever imagined the possibility to raise a child on an unstable freelance artist income! It puts a smile on my face, to know I could continue my work AND have a family in the future.

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Freedom from Fear #DAresists #Medicare4all

The person who should have written this was my wife. Unfortunately, she couldn’t as she died from pancreatic cancer two years ago. Given that in some of our last conversations she told me that it was important for her to believe that her loved ones would find a way to be happy after her death and to make a difference in the world the way she tried to do during her lifetime, I’m writing this for both of us. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October 2014. Unfortunately, the cancer was not operable which put her chances of recovery at five percent. After her appointment with the oncologist, she met with our GP who enrolled her in the government program that covered 100% of the cost for her treatment including such things as visits from visiting nurses, ambulances, hospital stays — literally everything. In spite of the best medical care one could hope for, she died in August 2015. I was holding her hand at the time. She spent her final week in a hospice where the staff realized that even if the regulations didn’t exactly allow a spouse to stay in the room overnight, there were situations where feelings were more important than regulations. I’ve thought of this since her death and know now that even though we never spoke about it at the time, we were able to spend our time saying things that were important to us because the fear of being hit with huge medical bills never entered our minds. In France, when you're a citizen or a legal resident, you’re enrolled in the publicly-funded healthcare system which normally covers two-thirds or most medical and dental expenses. We also have private supplemental health insurance that usually pays 100% of the difference. My private policy costs about $200 per month. At my age, I pay a lot more attention to my health than I did in my 20’s, but I never have to worry about how to pay for it. One of the famous speeches FDR gave was on the subject of the four freedoms — one of which was the freedom from fear. Although freedom from the fear of catastrophic illness, was not what he had in mind, I believe it’s a concept that Americans should embrace and provide universal health care as has every other developed nation in the world.

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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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Universal care? How about private insurance? #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have lived in 3 countries with genuine universal care, and could repeat the stories I see already posted. But let me blow your mind with this one: As a foreign resident and freelancer in Spain, I am required to buy private insurance. The cost? I pay less for 6 months -- for full coverage including dental and eye -- than I did for 1 month of catastrophic care at home -- and forget the eyes and teeth, of course.

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NHS in the United Kingdom and Cancer Treatment #DAresists #Medicare4all

This is the story of my husband's cancer treatment. His first operation was very expertly done and this was followed by chemotherapy and regular scans. A scan discovered secondary cancer which was treated with chemotherapy again including home visits. This was followed by a second operation done by a specialist surgeon. Since then there have been regular scans and consultations with a very good and humane oncologist who has been there for my husband consistently. We have been made to feel well cared for and calm throughout. This did not cost us anything.

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No Need to Fear the Ambulance #DAresists #Medicare4all

I was hit by a car while crossing the street last year and, naturally, concerned passers-by called an ambulance. This ambulance and the care I then received in the hospital would have caused me to go into 4-figure debt in the US. Luckily, I live in Luxembourg. I was billed $120 that was then fully reimbursed by the national health fund - along with the bills for all of my physical therapy. This kind of healthcare saves lives and I wish desperately that my loved ones back home could benefit from the same kind of system, instead of having to plead with onlookers not to call an ambulance after an accident because they can't afford it.

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A New Kidney Thanks to Canadian Healthcare #DAresists #Medicare4all

Four years ago, I was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease and was told that I would need dialysis/transplant within 1-2 years. My renal failure occurred two years ago, requiring dialysis. For the first few months it was necessary to go to the hospital for those treatments. Eventually I started training for home hemodialysis. When I was ready, a machine was installed in my home, saving 90 minutes round trip travel time. It also afforded me the ability to time my treatments to suit my lifestyle. These treatments cost about $10000 per month, all of which was paid for by my provincial health plan. The story doesn't end there. Several months ago, I had a kidney transplant with my wife as the donor. Again, this was paid for in its entirety by the provincial health system. I will now require medications costing about $3000 per month for the rest of my life. Our employer health plans cover those costs costs for now. In 3 years I will be 65. At that time the provincial health system will assume those drug payments. A nation's healthcare system is a strong indicator of how its government values and cares for its citizens. Shame on the US for placing insurance companies and their cronies before its people. Long live single payer universal healthcare!

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A New Kidney Thanks to Canadian Healthcare #DAresists #Medicare4all

Four years ago, I was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease and was told that I would need dialysis/transplant within 1-2 years. My renal failure occurred two years ago, requiring dialysis. For the first few months it was necessary to go to the hospital for those treatments. Eventually I started training for home hemodialysis. When I was ready, a machine was installed in my home, saving 90 minutes round trip travel time. It also afforded me the ability to time my treatments to suit my lifestyle. These treatments cost about $10000 per month, all of which was paid for by my provincial health plan. The story doesn't end there. Several months ago, I had a kidney transplant with my wife as the donor. Again, this was paid for in its entirety by the provincial health system. I will now require medications costing about $3000 per month for the rest of my life. Our employer health plans cover those costs costs for now. In 3 years I will be 65. At that time the provincial health system will assume those drug payments. A nation's healthcare system is a strong indicator of how its government values and cares for its citizens. Shame on the US for placing insurance companies and their cronies before its people. Long live single payer universal healthcare!

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A third world country with a better system than the US #DAresists #Medicare4all

The Colombian healthcare system is so much better than US healthcare. Actually it was rated number 22 out of 194 countries by the WHO in 2010. Employers enroll all employees and pay part of the costs. The very poor have a government subsidised system and anyone can enroll in an EPS as they're called of their choice. All services are included plus most medicines. My wife and I are seniors and we pay only US$35 a month. It's truly disturbing that healthcare in the US is inaccessible to so many and reflects directly on our politicians. Politicians no longer represent the people who elect them otherwise this problem would have been fixed.

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Survival is not a Pre-existing Condition #DAresists #Medicare4all

My partner has beaten cancer twice. Her spirit and willpower to beat it are a daily inspiration to me. But under any of the GOP's plans, her survival is considered a pre-existing condition and we would not be able to afford insurance. Here in Australia she received the medical care she needed to beat cancer, as have so many others that we met during her treatment, and she has gone on to get her Masters degree and contribute to Australia. Forcing Americans to choose between death and bankruptcy will not make our country great. It's time to not repeal the ACA, but develop it into Medicare for All.

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Healthcare in Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

In British Columbia, Canada I pay $1,080 (about $830 US) per year for basic family health care, and my employer pays another $720. The employer also covers a plan through Blue Cross; for about $2500 I get extended health and dental care (for dental there is a user fee of about 20%). Total medical & dental insurance costs of $4,000 per year get us unlimited visits to our family doctor and specialists; no charge for hospitalization including a private room; subsidy for physiotherapy and other ancillary services; and 80% of our dental expenses. Our kids were covered up to age 21. We might have to wait 6 months for an MRI or orthopedic surgery, but we can pay privately for faster treatment. Low-income people get basic health care for free. There are no restrictions on pre-existing conditions and no caps. I remember going to the U.S. before Obamacare and seeing a jam jar in a restaurant raising money for some poor kid's heart surgery. Is this the future in America?

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