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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Great Endorsement of Universal Coverage from the UK #DAresists #Medicare4all

Dear Democrats Abroad, I'll gladly tell you what it means to have The National Health Service, free for all and a small charge for non EU"s. First, it's a load off your mind, phew. Secondly, although the buildings may not look swish, although some do, there is nothing you can't be treated for. I have had a heart valve replacement, and also Non Hogkins Lymphoma, needing surgery and radiotherapy. I paid not a penny and had excellent treatment throughout. The NHS is the Britain's finest achievement. The measure of a county's greatness is not in the size of it's armies and weapons, but in it's education of children, and it's care of the sick and elderly. I so hate ithe idea that many Americans just don't 'get' this. Shirlee Matthews

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Great Pregnancy Coverage in York, England #DAresists #Medicare4all

I support universal healthcare! I live in York, England. I use the NHS. It's incredible. I'm 8 months pregnant, was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, and have my scans, appointments, diabetes treatment free at point of delivery. When I found out I was pregnant, my father sent me money, thinking I'd need to pay out of pocket. I sent it back because the NHS will take care of you, even though I'm from the USA. I've used the NHS as an asthmatic and I cannot fault the system or care. I feel relaxed heading into delivery, as I'll discuss the options with my team without wondering about whether one option will cost more, will my insurance cover it, how long will my insurance cover me for staying in the hospital, etc. I've had all vaccinations, checkups, tests, without worrying about paying a dime out of pocket. This level of stress free pregnancy should be universal everywhere. I'm on a pregnancy forum, where many of the women are American and in the States. They discuss whether they'll be able to pay for the hospital bill, how they hope they don't have complications, that they cannot afford an ambulance to the hospital if something happens. It's heartbreaking and this just shouldn't happen. Andrea B. York, England

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Peace of Mind in France #DAresists #Medicare4all

Single Payer works in France. Top notch care, no waiting, and no cost. #Medicare4all I cannot express the peace of mind that comes from having access to the French healthcare system. The care is excellent and I have never had to wait for an appointment with a specialist or a generalist. When you get sick in France, you go see the doctor. You don't wait for two weeks to see if you really HAVE to see the doctor, you just go. You get the diagnosis and medicine you need immediately, and for virtually no cost. In addition to these visits and normal screenings, I have given birth to two children, had an emergency appendectomy, and had MRIs, X-rays and CAT Scans related to various injuries. I didn't have to pay anything, and never gave a thought to the cost of any of these procedures. The only issue at hand was the health of my babies and myself. This is how healthcare should work. Quality care for everyone, regardless of ability to pay, since it is a public service. I was recently in the US, where I caught strep throat. The out-of-pocket cost of the visit to the doctor, the strep test, and the antibiotics was over 200 dollars. The same process in France would have cost "the system" approximately 50 dollars, and my out of pocket would have been 2 dollars. It is true that taxes are high in France, and that part of this is related to the health care system, and it is clear that there is some abuse in the system, but all in all, the per-capita cost of healthcare in France is significantly less than that in the US, with outcomes that are just as good, if not better. The French system can be improved upon, but single payer works!!

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20 Years of Coverage in the UK #DAresists #Medicare4all

(This was printed in my local paper – Montrose Daily Press- earlier this year.) Dear Editor, I was raised in Montrose, Colorado from the age of 5-18. I moved to London, UK directly after college and have been here ever since (going on almost 20 years now!) Universal health care is all I have known for the duration of my adult life. I have never had to worry if I could afford insurance or if I qualified for insurance even though I have some pre-existing conditions. When I lost my job , I didn’t have to worry if I would still be covered. When my husband changed jobs or when he decided to work for himself, the health coverage of our family was never in jeopardy. Breaking Bad is one of my favourite shows but it could never happen in the UK. If you get lung cancer, you don’t have to become a drug dealer in order to pay your medical bills and feed your family without going bankrupt! We are human beings. And our bodies break. And I can’t tell you how comforting it is to know that with or without money, my family’s healthcare is taken care of -- and I look at my own country in disbelief. The idea that some Americans get the finest medical care on earth, while tens of thousands of others are left to die for lack of care -- doesn’t sit well with me. British health care isn’t always perfect - but it allows me to sleep at night without worrying that one I might have to choose between healthcare for my daughter and a roof over our heads. I so wish my fellow Americans had the same freedom. Yours Sincerely, Ms Jerramy Fine

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Diabetes Coverage in Spain #DAresists #Medicare4all

I am a full supporter of universal healthcare under a contribution (insurance) system as this will increase the negotiating power of the health service and reduce costs overall to the citizenship. Of course, the organization needs to address inefficiencies and posible instances of benefit abuse. My personal case, an american citizen born in Spain, worked and studies in the U.S. for a decade and returned to Madrid. Unfortunately, I have diabetes type 1 and primary progressive multiple sclerosis. Both of these are being taken care of by the public health system in Madrid and my experience has been good. I visit New York often and share my experience with doctors at the Weil Cornell Medicine in NYC and the doctors there actually look at new treatments in Europe. I am also a die hard democrat and part of DA Madrid. My great grandfather was US Senator (Dennis Chavez from New Mexico). What is happening now to our country's politics is appaling and needs social participation to overturn. Best regards, Ismael González de Diego Miller (B'86)

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Perspective from UK #DAresists #Medicare4all

I support universal healthcare because it saves lives. Living in England and enjoying the ability to receive healthcare when it is needed, has shown me the importance of providing help without the need to go into debt; help when it is needed rather than when it can be afforded. When I was living in the US and found myself in extreme pain from appendicitis, I went into the hospital and was operated on as a welfare case because I had no insurance. After the surgery I could no longer work during my period of recovery, which left in on the verge of homelessness. Without health insurance we are susceptible to financial ruin, which takes us out of the workplace and into poverty. Additionally, many people with health insurance find themselves in the same position if they have a catastrophic illness or accident. Proper healthcare can be the difference between working and not working, early diagnosis of illness and spiralling debt. Universal healthcare saves lives.

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Great Cancer Care Coverage in Hong Kong #DAresists #Medicare4all

Member of DA Abroad for over 20 years. Born in Milwaukee, WI - 1940 Last residency in USA = Bucks County, PA - 1975 Since then I have resided in Hong Kong, with a 6 year + residency in Ho Chi Minh City until 3 years ago - now retired in Hong Kong living on USA Social Security plus various hourly teaching sessions at both HK Gov & Private schools. Totally dependent upon HK Gov Medical services My story: The Gov Medical series here are patterned upon the UK National Health Service (NHS). Everything is based upon our HK ID cards, which contain a photo and ‘smart chip’ containing our fingerprints along with other data. We must always carry our ID’s and present it at every clinic / hospital visit. All fees are in USD Dollars, based upon an exchange rate of $1.00 USD = $7.80 HKD. It costs $6.50 to see a General Practitioner at a clinic. EVERYTHING is computerised and when one visits a doctor, he or she will take a moment to review one’s medical records. This is so efficient that if one has been scheduled to see a specialist just AFTER taking a FREE scheduled X-Ray, it will be available for viewing by the Doctor within minutes. A specialist Doctor (Oncologist, Urologist, Ophthalmologist, etc. costs $17.30 for the first visit and if he/she suggests a follow up visit, the ensuing visits will costs $10.25. The vast majority of prescribed drugs are FREE or a small token fee of $1.25. I was diagnosed as having Prostate Cancer a year & a half ago. It began with a GP suggesting that I have my prostate checked. (I was 75 years-old at the time.) The first GP visit cost $6.50. The urologist (manual exam) cost $17.50. A further exam (Ultra sound plus tissue samples) cost $17.50. I was given the choice of surgery or Radiology; I chose the latter. I was told that I would have three tiny gold dots placed into the Prostate to provide an exact target for the Radiology treatment. That cost $19.50 INCLUDING an overnight stay in the hospital. I was then booked for an MRI, CT Scan and later a Bone Scan. All of these were FREE. I then began a series of 38 daily Radiology treatment; Monday to Friday, not on weekends at $10.25 each. The Radiology equipment was state-of-the -art, from the USA. At the end of the treatment, I saw both an Urologist ($10.25) and Oncologist ($10.25), as these were follow-up visits. My cancer condition, based upon (FREE) blood tests went from 14.8 to 1.6, which the Oncologist considers as ‘cured’. So this quality medical experience only cost a total of $470.00!

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Perspective of a Medical Professional in Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

I support universal health care because: As a physician, it is easier for me to provide care to the patient I don’t have to ask permission to order an MRI. I just order it. As a disabled patient in a wheelchair from injury and a heart condition (from age), it makes it cost effective for me as a high end user of medical care (18 specialists this year alone). All the studies show it is the cheaper option for the govt. So. what’s not to like? MJ Willard DVM MD

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A Comparative Perspective From Australia #DAresists #Medicare4all

This is a rather long story, but I will try to give the short version. I started buying health insurance when I was about 21 and became more independent of my parents. I lived in California and for most of the years, I was "covered" by Blue Shield. By the time I was in my late 50s and into my 60s, I was paying more than $1000 a month for a crappy $10,000 deductible policy that was really only in place to protect me from some true catastrophe. This policy had a $10,000 deductible for every calendar year. Then I found out a company called IMG (International Medical Group). The insurance was designed for ex-pats that lived abroad and was less expensive because hospital costs and doctors fees abroad are much cheaper than the costs in the US. About two years into coverage with IMG, it was discovered that I had a small cancerous tumor in my kidney that needed to be removed. IMG refused to pay for this operation, calling it a pre-existing condition. They cited a clause on page 25 of the 25-page contract with them that defined pre-existing condition as any condition or disease regardless of whether it had ever been symptomatic or diagnosed. Well, as you can well understand, it is EXACTLY why we have insurance to cover us for conditions that have never been diagnosed or symptomatic. I had to bring a lawsuit against them to ultimately get my compensation, but had to pay $25,000 in advance for my operation and wait two years to win the lawsuit. This was the last straw for me. The following year, I officially became a resident of Austria. It was one of the best things I ever did. The health care has been brilliant. Everything is paid for. There is no bureaucracy. Every time I am at the hospital or the doctor's office, I give them my healthcare card for 30 seconds, and I am done. Great doctors, great service, top hospitals and equipment, and virtually free pharmaceuticals as well. I need to wait five more years to become a citizen of Austria, and I hope to do that as well. Best Regards, Jimmy Petterson

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Great Coverage in Italy #DAresists #Medicare4all

Italy has never failed me when I've needed health care. I broke my foot, got immediate care, an operation and post operative care without spending anything out of my own pocket. My husband had multiple health issues, many weeks of the year in hospital or in rehab, and there was no cost to us. It's a scandal that the United States, which is unspeakably richer than Italy, cannot offer universal health care, cannot relieve the anxiety that every citizen there is subject to.

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From France #DAresists #Medicare4all

"A little over a year ago I had a colonoscopy and thanks to the French healthcare system, it cost me less than the price of a nice meal. I was only worried about my health. Last week my doctor sent me to the emergency room for tests and thanks to the French healthcare system, it cost me nothing. I was only worried about my health. I don't have any major health problems but I go to a doctor the minute I have any symptoms because, thanks to the French healthcare system, I only have to worry about my health and not how much my healthcare will cost." Thank you for all the work you do. All the best, David Lewis

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Universal Coverage in Trinidad and Tobago #DAresists #Medicare4all

I've lived in Trinidad & Tobago since 1972. Health care is completely government-funded,including ambulance service, hospital care, and the neighbourhood health offices. This is paid for by tax-payers. In 1976 I had my appendix taken out at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital. No cost to me. In 1981 my daughter was born at a government-run maternity hospital. No cost. Beginning in 2010 and continuing until right now, I have had many hospital stays due to heart and lung problems. Most of these began with an ambulance ride to the hospital. I did not have to pay anything. For more routine, non-emergency health care, I attend a clinic at my neighbourhood health office. Both my husband and I attend twice per year for general check ups of our blood pressure, and any other problems that might arise. Blood work is done every year. Appropriate medication is prescribed. Trinidad & Tobago has health offices scattered throughout the country. They run various clinics on different days of the week. There is a Child Welfare clinic that keeps track of children's growth and ensures that they receive their inoculations. There are birth control services. Although tax payers foot the bill, no one is turned away. The poorest of the poor can be seen by a doctor. This system was set up by the British in colonial times and has been continued. The down side: Trinidad is a "developing country" which means that there are not enough doctors, especially specialists. Often, there are drug shortages. My prescriptions cost nothing to fill at government hospital or health office pharmacies but sometimes I have to purchase them at privately-run pharmacies due to shortages in the public system. The waiting time for attention can be very long. Needed equipment might be broken, not working. There is a parallel, very high priced, private medical system in place, very much like what happens in the US. Some doctors have a conflict of interest. Still, having said all this, what is so hard about setting up health care in the US? The infrastructure is already there; so many hospitals and medical offices. Imagine, a little third world country like Trinidad has health care for all but it's a huge problem in the US! I suspect that more developed countries like Canada and Australia would probably be better examples of successful public health care. As retired people, both my husband and I are grateful for Trinidad's public health care system, even with all it's faults and shortcomings. Yes, America needs to learn that health is an expense, not a profit-making endevour. The doctors and insurance companies in the US need to pack up the greed and realize that the population needs and deserves health care. If nothing else, at least the work force would be healthier. I hope this has shed some light on the subject. I also hope that health-care-for-all becomes a reality in America. Regards, Janice Seaton

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Full Coverage for Delivery in Hong Kong Under Difficult Circumstances #DAresists #Medicare4all

Oh baby! Hong Kong style In 2015, my husband, son and I were living in Hong Kong, and my husband lost his job. We had enough savings to last us a bit, but I was 7 months pregnant and we didn't have enough to get back to the US and pay for the birth. Luckily the visas held, and we were allowed to stay in Hong Kong. Jobless. When the time came, I gave birth, stayed in the hospital an extra night (total 3 nights) for mine and the baby's observation, and the whole thing, including every bit of prenatal care, cost me about 36 USD. Friends of ours who went back at that time (also unemployed, also pregnant) walked into their local hospital in the US and asked how much for just the birth, and were told $8000. That's just for the bed and the doctor. No medicine, no intervention, no overnights, no emergency situations. I am glad I stayed.

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From Down Under! #DAresists #Medicare4all

Not so long ago, we had two small children, the youngest 9 months old,. Winter was nearly over when the baby came up with a strange cough, then his breathing wasn't right. In the wee hours of the morning, off to the hospital we went -- his lips were blue by the time we entered the Emergency Room. We were surprised when he was diagnosed with bronchiolitis -- no, we didn't have asthma in the family... We were able to focus on our baby's health, and the pediatrician team's care, because my new home country has Medicare for everyone -- 2.2% of our income tax goes to fund the Medicare levy, Australia's universal healthcare. Having had an autoimmune disorder in my early twenties before moving abroad, I'd experienced first-hand NOT HAVING health insurance -- as a recent college graduate awaiting my first career break. That illness cost me many thousands of dollars., once I was well. I had put off going to get treatment, because of the cost, further endangering my health. I was fortunate, I recovered, and had a supportive family & friends -- and I lived near one of the best research hospitals in the US. Once I was able to return to work, it took me 4 years to pay off my medical debt -- while watching friends buy health insurance, afford dental care & regular medical services, cars, houses, travel, or investments. More than ten years later, having moved overseas and married, I was able to take our baby home from the hospital, without the shadow of financial stress. Winter continued, and between work commitments, and young children's pre-disposition for bringing home viruses -- I came down with pneumonia. Our local doctor advised my husband to take me directly to the hospital. Dropping the 4 year-old and the baby at the neighbour's on the way, off we went. I was in the hospital for four days, my husband bringing in the baby every 6 to 9 hours for a feed -- mastitis was a threat, with bacteria strong in my body, so it was essential to keep up the breastfeeding, for everyone's sake. Once again, I was lucky, I lived in a metropolitan area, with excellent medical support -- again, we left hospital to concentrate on our family, no bills overshadowing my recovery. Within a week or so, my husband also came down with pneumonia -- caring for the children, and me, and trying to go to work, took its toll. Once again, we sought treatment because it was easy and not a financial choice between paying a doctor's bill, or for electricity, food or keeping a roof over our heads. As our family grew up, my husband and I were able to contribute more to universal healthcare coffers, through our growing incomes. We feel blessed to do so. Our young people are now also tax-payers. They see the doctor when they need to, instead of waiting until a condition worsens or becomes debilitating -- like I did. As a parent, I am especially glad that my young adults have access to universal healthcare -- as they work up to five jobs weekly to pay for their education and build their careers, and their independence. So c'mon my Fellow Americans, supporting universal healthcare is like supporting the building of roads and infrastructure and schools -- it benefits Everyone, every day, no matter what our stage of life, or health score. In Western countries, it's been substantively proven that universal healthcare is profoundly more efficient at providing quality medical care than privatized medical services -- check the annual survey done by The Economist. All Americans deserve affordable, achievable, accessible healthcare. Throughout countries with universal healthcare, there is no evidence that people overuse accessible medical services. All Americans deserve to leave the doctor's office, hospital or Emergency Room, without the shadow of financial burden. Our neighbours, aunts, sisters, uncles, brothers, nephews, children -- don't ask to have multiple sclerosis, ALS, cancer, or other debilitating conditions; our children don't go out of their way to get bronchilitis, asthma, leukemia, broken arms, cuts needing stiches. This all just part of life, and so should a percentage of our income taxes to fund universal healthcare be normal. Good healthcare for all means a healthy society, workforce, quality family life, quality time to devote to the community as well as personal goals; and less costly medical interventions. Medical staff can focus on their core purpose – treating people! Stop lining the pockets of private insurance companies driving up costs. Thank you for reading.

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Reflections from The Netherlands #DAresists #Medicare4all

I pay 178 euros per month for fairly decent coverage for a senior. However it is on the price rise every year. I am still grateful for the service and I am appalled at the state of America. kind regards M.L.Moher

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Great coverage in UK #DAresists #Medicare4all

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

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Advocacy suggestions from Australia #DAresists #Medicare4all

This is what I have sent to my two state senators from Colorado, Michael Bennet and Corg Gardiner. My dear Senators Michael Bennet & Cory Gardiner, My name is Paul Mott and my wife and I used to live on Montebello Drive in Colorado Springs. When I was stationed in Taipei during the Vietnam war I met my Australian wife and we married in California and moved to Colorado back in the 70s. In the mid 70s I moved to Australia for work and to be closer to my wife’s family. I have been an active member of the political scene through Democrats Abroad and continue to monitor and watch what is happening in the USA which I visit as often as I can with my wife. I am appalled at what is happening with the health care debate and the constant push by the house and now the senate that has taken the lead to simply ‘DO SOMETHING’ regardless of how awful it is without regard to the consequences. Where I live in Australia we have health cover under Medicare and also have been fortunate enough to have private health insurance as well. When we go to a GP we do not pay the GP directly. Our payment is basically through a medicare levy that is taken along with our federal taxes. It is so simple. DO NOT VOTE FOR ANY BILL THAT YOU HAVE NOT HAD TIME TO READ AND RESIST WITH ALL MEANS AT YOUR DISPOSAL TO PREVENT ACTION ON THIS HEALTH CARE BILL UNTIL THE USA GETS IT'S HOUSE IN ORDER AND SIMPLY ADDS ON A SIMPLE TAX (LEVY) THAT AT THE VERY LEAST COVERS NORMAL EVERYDAY HEALTH CARE OF GOING TO A GP. Thank you for listening and I am happy to speak with you about my understanding of how a national health care system works so well in the country I am presently living in. Best wishes in your endeavours to honor your commitment to ‘make a better life for Coloradans’. Paul Mott

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Drug coverage in Ireland #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.) -Jennie Sutton, Dublin, Ireland

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Preventive coverage in Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have lived half my life in the USA and half in Canada. I have had positive experiences with the medical systems in both countries - because fortunately, up to this point I have been healthy and have not had any serious medical issues or emergencies. One benefit to the Canadian system that isn't often mentioned or considered is that it promotes wellness and preventative medicine. When one doesn't have to worry about the cost of a doctor visit one is more likely to go to the doctor to have minor issues diagnosed or checked out BEFORE they become a crisis or a more complicated situation requiring expensive and lengthy treatments. Universal health care gives me peace of mind and helps me to stay healthy. Thanks for all you do, DA! Sincerely, Stephanie

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50 years of coverage for juvenile diabetes in Sweden #DAresists #Medicare4all

My husband has had juvenile diabetes since he was 11 years old. Today he is 63 and in remarkably good health considering. His doctor in the US was at one of the best diabetes centers in the US, the Jocelyn Clinic. But since we moved to Sweden over 20 years l ago and following Swedish treatment for diabetics, my husband's blood sugar levels are substantially lower and more consistent over the short and long term which significantly improves his health while reducing the risk for terrible long term damage that so many diabetics in the US suffer from. As part of the normal healthcare regime, he also has regular checkups with a nurse who specializes in diabetes foot care - this is an excellent preventive measure as well as providing care if problems arise. Note that foot problems in diabetics are potentially dangerous and if left unattended can lead to amputation. His insulin, blood testing equipment and other diabetes care supplies are provided as part of the health system. This excellent care - all part of the public healthcare system - enables him to lead an active, full life as well as pursue a career in teaching.

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