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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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. 

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An American in France comparing her situation with her sister in the USA #DAresists #Medicare4all

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

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Advocacy from the UK #DAresists #Medicare4all

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.

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#DAresists #Medicare4all

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.

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Cancer Treatment in the Czech Republic #DAresists #Medicare4all

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.

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Affordable healthcare in the Netherlands #DAresists #Medicare4all

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.

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Anecdote from Sweden #DAresists #Medicare4all

I live in Sweden. Last month my dad had an infection and spent 17 days in the hospital. Total cost: SEK 1700 (USD 213). Thank goodness for guaranteed, affordable health care. Not only that, on the doctor's recommendation, he was entitled to one month of paid sick leave to recuperate. Why anyone would oppose single-payer, universal health care is beyond me. I care deeply about this issue because my family and friends live stateside. I wish the same peace of mind for them that we have here.

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Public vs Private Insurance #DAresists #Medicare4all

Hello, I am an American living in Germany for the last 25 years. Although I was warned that each person living here must be insured, I was falsely advised to go with private insurance. For years I over paid for insurance until a German told me about the advantages of public health insurance. I am a singer and therefore am eligible for a special public insurance for free lance artist. Though I got in just before the cut off age,(55), I am now paying half of what I paid before, and this includes the payment of Social Security! As I get older, it becomes more and more important to pay into a system that I can afford! My older brothers and sisters still living in the US have horrible healthcare stories about outrageous healthcare charges!

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America needs to get with the program when it comes to healthcare #DAresists #Medicare4all

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.

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#DAresists #Medicare4all

Bicycle accident. Two broken ribs, punctured lung. Ambulance, pump/tube to drain lung, x-rays daily, medications (including those normally taken), 4 days in intensive care, Cost: 65 euros (about $75 dollars at the time).

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German Healthcare is outstanding! #DAresists #Medicare4all

The German healthcare system is a blessing for people like me, who are retired and living in the German economy. I have had to undergo surgery (heart) and I can say with great enthusiasm that the care I received was outstanding. The cost of my treatments and medications are minimal and the care is excellent.. We need this kind of system at home!

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SUPPORT UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE #DAresists #Medicare4all

I am a US citizen and as an adult, have now lived and received healthcare in the US, UK and GERMANY. I recently--of my own stupidity--broke my hand by tripping on my stairs. A common household accident that could happen to anyone, but resulted in a broken hand which required surgery. I have normal, public healthcare--no special private or additional insurances. I first went to the emergency room on a Sunday, where I was seen within 15 minutes, had an XRAY and was deemed likely to need surgery. However, as the hospital that I went to were not Orthopaedic specialists, they wanted me to go to Charite, which was the large hospital in Berlin. I called Monday for an appointment and got one for Wednesday. The person I saw at Charitie was a surgeon who confirmed I would need surgery--and I was booked for the coming Monday with the SAME surgeon who saw me. The experience was fantastic care from start to finish. I had a private room, excellent care, and literally someone checking on me every 5 minutes. And after 2 emergency room visits, 1 splint, 2 day/1 night stay in the hospital, 1 cast and 5 meals later, the grand total that I had to pay out of pocket was THIRTY EURO. Nothing. Easy the same experience in the states with insurance would have been 10K out of pocket. There is no system that is perfect, but by and large I am happy to pay into a system that I will hopefully not need often, but when I do it does not bankrupt me or other people. I fully support the introduction of a universal healthcare system for the US. Bernie Sanders, let me know how I can help :)

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No healthcare worries at all since moving to the UK #DAresists #Medicare4all

I moved to the UK on April 4, 2010 and have lived here since. From April 4th onward I stopped worrying about health insurance coverage, premiums and health care costs, all due to the UK's National Health Service. What was once one of the largest sources of stress and concern in my life disappeared literally overnight. The US could have this too - after all, most developed economies in the world provide health care for their citizens. Healthcare for all isn't radical. It's obvious.

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Several experiences from many years 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.

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Perspective of a Dr. from California and Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

I live in Canada and vote in California. I have worked as a family physician in both countries and the health system works better in Canada. People worry about their illness, not how much it will cost. Physicians worry about the health of their patients, not whether or not they will be paid. Care is not disrupted by changes in where or whether you have a job, or by an insurer deciding to change the network. I worked in the "safety net" in the US for years, where we had to stress out all the time about finding health coverage for our patients, constant changes in rules, intense scrutiny and red tape, and the frustration of trying to practice medicine in that environment. Since being in Canada that stress is gone. And when I need care, it is there for me too. My heart aches for the people in the US who still do not have universal coverage. Khati Hendry MD Summerland BC

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