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.
Would you like to add your story? It's not too late, here's how: Take a selfie with our selfie card (or draw your own!), then add your picture and story in the texbox. You can also make a video and send in the url (just add the link in the textbox).
We'll share these stories with Congress to help in their fight for affordable healthcare for all Americans. (Read our press release here)
Please note that the stories below are all user submited and reflect individual opinions.
Both my husband and I have experienced adequate healthcare in the Netherlands, that is affordable. We pay about 310 euros a month for our entire family including some dental and alternative health insurance. Our daughters are free until the age of 18 years old. My husband has been treated twice for a benign brain tumour within 6 weeks of diagnosis, and I had a couple of life-threatening illnesses in which I received immediate care. There are no co-pays on the GP visits, but some thresholds exist, particularly for alternative care. But the difference is affordable. Both my daughters have had their acne treated, half paid by the insurance and half paid by us. Overall it is proof that mixed social and private health care models can work. Specialists are affiliated with hospitals or medical centres.
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.
I live in the UK where everyone has access to quality healthcare, regardless of income. From where I stand, the US health care situation looks appalling. Last summer, a disabled cousin based in Wisconsin died prematurely of cancer aged 54, because his health insurance would only pay for so many days of hospital treatment. He was then transferred to a home where he was forced to "exercise" every day for an hour. He died 10 days into his stay in that institution. That, to me, is the problem with American health care: cutting-edge treatments available to a minority, inadequate care for the majority, especially the vulnerable. That is not a social model to be proud of.
It's actually my sisters story. She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. She had a work comp accident in California, that was made worse in Las Vegas. We moved to Vegas as she got a job promotion. Little did we know that in a state where you pay no state taxes, you also get less services. To make a very long story short, she has fibromyalgia, hyperhydrosis, diabetes, is somewhat physically disabled and bipolar II disorder. Needless to say her medications can run into hundreds of dollars a month. She only gets $930/month from Social security. If funding is cut to Medicare, as Trump plans, she will never be able to afford her meds! Under the AHCA (Obamacare), and with her Medicaid as backup, she is covered for her pre-existing conditions and her co-pays. With Universal healthcare, she won't have to worry if she can "afford" to go to urgent care, or if she can afford to eat and still get all her meds. She will be able to incur LOWER co-pays, and not have to NOT go see a Dr. because she can't afford it. As with all civilized countries now offering Universal Healthcare, the USA needs to stop being so parsimonious with its money, and make healthcare for all, a RIGHT and NOT a privilege!!! Jenna Wong Logan
I have been domicile in the UK since 1978 and during that time I have received excellent health care on the NHS. This has included the birth of a son, thyroid problems, prostate cancert and a heart bypass. This (and more) has been provided free at the point of care. I have never had to worry about paying, pre existing conditions, or anything else. The care has been prompt and excellent. I have been treated for cancer at the oldest, largest and best cancer hospital in Europe. This is a caring servicing. It seems to me that a government which does not ensure health care for everyone is not doing what it should be doing – looking after the citizens and residents of that country. Money must not be used as the criteria for health care. We must “love they neighbour as theyself”.
3x cancer; diabetic; broken shoulder; lymphoedema; heart attack
I have had many health issues over 41 years and NOT ONE PENNY has ever changed hands in my fabulous care under the NHS. My medications - 18 pills a day - have been free for ten years now ( I am 64) and all medications are free in the UK to the over-60s and students. The British NHS was established in 1947. Had FDR not died suddenly in 1945 I am convinced he would have embraced Attlee's brilliant NHS and established an identical healthcare plan for all Americans to the US. I have not been able to travel to the USA to see my family for eleven years because I cannot get UK travel insurance to the USA. This is because British insurers are terrified of the bills that will come in should I fall ill in the USA. I cannot get care in the USA not can I afford it. PLEASE BRING AN NHS TO THE USA! Carol Gould
I support universal health care for all my large extended family in Indiana, California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Illinois and Maine. My brother in Indiana died prematurely of Lyme disease and a stroke last week, due to the lack of affordable health care when he needed it, but couldn't afford it. PLEASE do not support the Republican Congress's changes and, instead, act to ensure universal health care for all. Pamela Ann Smith, London
young, independent, and empowered Universal healthcare is a fundamental right to all human beings. Recently graduating from college and no longer on my parents healthcare plan, i moved to Brazil where I teach English in Vitoria, Espirito Santo. As a young person making money for the first in my life I feel empowered knowing that no matter what health adversity, I can handle this situation. That language is my only hindrance to receiving assistance because financially, Im guaranteed treatment. This is empowerment and true freedfom. Best, Mary Mary E. Nagel
My husband, then 65, needed a knee replacement. He was able to get it after a 5-month wait. After a group information session--which included one old patient maybe in his 80's--we booked the surgery for September 30, 2013. Everything went like clockwork. Until they noticed that his extremities were showing a lack of oxygen. Worried about a blood clot in the lungs, they sent him immediately down for a CT, which was fine. He stayed in the hospital for 2 days, until he could climb five stairs without help. They released him with a set of bandages along with pain and anti-blood-clotting medications. We followed up by getting him into ten cost-free physiotherapy sessions which started about two weeks after the surgery and went until late November. All went according to plan, and now he is able to golf 18 holes and walk 5 miles a day. Cost: $155 for parking at the hospital, $200 for brand new cane, walker, and cold packs. Thanks for the opportunity to tell this story. Patricia Kirby
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....
As a doctor/medical physician in India, one developing country slowly rising out of the economic pit into a possible new economic super power, still has healthcare for all. There are drawbacks but still available. No one is turned away for reasons of lack of finance or insurance, rather they may be turned away because of the lack of space. Having worked in a Government run hospital, no emergency patient was turned away, once we had to since there was no more space, which means no floor space to place a mattress on the floor, we were working at double capacity with beds filled and beside each bed on the floor another mattress with a patient. We had to refer to our neighboring government hospital. Medicines had to be bought, and those who could not even afford this the doctors would pressure the pharmaceutical representatives to supply the necessary dosages for these poor patients, at times we had to sell our soul to the devil for these precious medications so that we could help patients. I don’t understand while the rest of the world enjoys healthcare, even the poorest, with the help of the government funding, why can’t our government for once ignore the bottom line and those who feed on that line (the “bottom feeders”) and serve the very people they were elected to serve? There is a reason I have invested heavily in health insurance here, I know I will not have to fight long hard battles for my stay in the hospitals etc with a company. People here are worried about the availability of medicines rather than medical care. There is a tier service, however that medical care is available is the issue. It is a sad day when people cannot get care because of cost that is driven not by anything else except the pharmaceutical, health insurance companies, and the legal system demanding high insurance rates from my American resident physicians.
About a year and a half ago, my then-boyfriend (now husband) was out for a bachelor party in Lan Kwai Fong, one of Hong Kong's nightlife districts. As he walked down the street, a crazed man ran by brandishing a broken glass bottle, which cut my husband's arm quite severely. He was taken by ambulance to a public hospital, where he waited several hours to be seen/admitted. He ended up staying in the hospital for a few nights, awaiting exploratory surgery to ensure no glass was embedded in his arm and no nerves were damaged. Thankfully, the eventual surgery went well and he has had no complications to date. Although I was shocked that my husband had to wait hours/days at various points during his treatment, I believe he received a high quality of care, especially considering the cost. Upon leaving the hospital, he paid only about US$50 to cover the entire experience. Subsequently, he needed to go for check-up visits to have his dressings changed, and I think the charges were something like US$2 each time. Hong Kong does not exactly have universal healthcare, rather a combination of public and private systems. I am very grateful that the public option here is extremely affordable and accessible, otherwise my husband's experience could've been much more costly. Thanks, Sydney
Hi there, 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.
Here´s a little anecdote of mine: While I was a student in Austria, one night my left ear popped as if I were in an airplane. I couldn´t hear much out of it, but went to bed hoping it would sort itself out by morning. When I woke up and still couldn´t hear, I decided to go to my doctor to check it out. He said, if I wanted, he could refer me to a specialist, and I got an appointment the same day with an Ear Nose Throat (ENT) doctor. This doctor quickly informed me that sudden hearing loss needs immediate treatment and referred me to the hospital where I was admitted that evening. After exhausting different treatment options, I had surgery about a week after my first symptom and then follow-up appointments for the next 6 months. Unfortunately, neither doctors in Austria, nor private specialists in the US have been able to tell me exactly what the cause was, but since the surgery I have regained about half of the hearing that I lost. All in all, I had over 10 doctor´s visits, more than a week´s stay in the hospital, and surgery. My monthly premiums at the time as a student were about 50-60 dollars. The only additional cost I had was 10-15 dollars per day in the hospital to cover meals. Austria´s government insurance program works quickly and affordably and gives the people a sense of security that I´ve never felt in the US health market.
I have lived in the UK for almost 20 years and have very much depended on the UK for my healthcare. I know that when I am ill I can see a doctor fairly quickly with little waiting time. I can then walk into the pharmacy and get whatever medicine is prescribed for me for around 8 pounds. I don't have to worry that I am not able to seek out a doctor of fill a prescription. Healthcare is always available for me. As an expat. I also know that there is no real option for me to return to the US until I am old enough to be covered by Medicare as I would be unable to pay for insurance coverage even if I was unemployed for only a short time. Medicare is socialized medicine so logically it really should be a short jump to the concept of providing healthcare for everyone. Healthcare in Europe is considered a necessity and a right for all citizens and so it is astonishing to most of the world that the US doesn't recognize the importance of providing some level of healthcare to its own people.
I have been living in England since 2001. My health care here has been excellent. I don’t have a single “story” of why the care here is excellent but I do have a general ability to get on with my life and manage my own health because of the support I can count on from the NHS. I’ve experienced minor illnesses, a skin problem that required minor facial surgery, and mental health difficulties that required months of treatment. None of this cost me anything (okay, a small medicine co-pay but REALLY small – and limited since the NHS prescription card is a thing). Any time my son, who is now 19, was ill I could take him to the doctor (I’ve never lived anywhere more than 15 minutes’ walk from the doctor’s office) because no matter how little money we had, he was taken care of. I think back to my life in the US as a child - where my parents had to decide not only if I needed the doctor, but if we could afford to go. That is not my life and not my reality. I can take risks. I can travel. I can extend and renovate my home. I can buy a new car. I never have to hold money back to make sure I can afford the doctor or the hospital. I can be less than perfect with money and not die because of it. I want that for everyone. I want my friends back home to have the freedom I have that comes with universal health care. Regards, Arwen
As everyone can tell you, Canada's system isn't perfect, but it is certainly a vast improvement over the US system. In my years here in Canada, I have battled heart disease, including bypass surgery, degenerative disc disease, and two surgeries for cancer. My husband has had several knee replacements. All this has been at no cost to us. Now that we are over 65, prescription drugs are also included. I watched how much my mother paid for her insulin and a plethora of other drugs in the US, even with Part D of Medicare and an Insurance plan and how that ate into her savings in her old age. To be fair, elective surgery and many specialties are rationed based on severity of illness. In my experience they are pretty good at triage, but you can end up on a wait list if your condition isn't urgent. I can see my family doctor within a day or two. All countries ration health care. In the US it's rationed based on who can pay. In Canada, it's rationed more on need. Hope this helps. Nobody should go bankrupt because they get sick. Jackie DiGiovanni
My wife & I were both unemployed when a checkup found out she had life threatening anemia. She was admitted to hospital immediately, given multiple transfusions, and a barrage of tests including cardiac stress test, ultrasound, MRI, and colonoscopy. It was a horrible week; I was terrified there was something serious and she was too weak to care. We were lucky - we didn't have to worry about the cost wiping out all our savings. The medical team was terrific, and because she shared a room and didn't rent a TV, and we left the hospital with a bill for zero dollars. Every time I think about that summer I am profoundly grateful for the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, and I shudder to think where we'd be had that happened while we were in the US. Yes, it took me longer than I would have liked to get an MRI for a minor shoulder injury, but the Canadian system came through when we needed it most and if my wait meant someone else with a more serious condition had their life saved after a timely MRI, I'm ok with that. S Stephens
I am grateful for Canada's health care system One reader's comment to the New York Times this week captured my feelings exactly: however imperfect our Canadian health system might be (it still needs to bring pharmaceuticals under its umbrella, for example), how reassuring it is to me, to know that my health care will be taken care of, always, even if I have a pre-existing condition, even when I am old, whatever my degree of wealth or destitution. Examples: we are not billed for having babies in hospital - and the birth of my daughter turned into an emergency, with a lengthy hospital stay for baby; my husband's kidney stone was removed - no bill. We pay higher taxes, but in return there are such high dividends in peace of mind - and excellent care. I am deeply grateful for all of this -- it is the polar opposite of what my siblings, still living in the U.S., go through, what with drug prices, insurance and administrative complications. The ones that now qualify for Medicare