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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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. "
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.
I have lived in Britain many years and consider the British National Health Service a very good thing. It is for everybody, rich and poor. It is possible to still have health insurance and there are doctors that see both private and NHS patients. There are still private hospitals. The British people consider NHS very important and would not be without it. I can't imagine a civilised country not having a health service. Many countries in Europe have Health Services funded in different ways. I receive ongoing treatment and so far it has been excellent. I have had major operations. All good. Some of the nurses that look after me believe that it is barbaric not to have a health service. I agree. It gives more freedom not less because there is freedom from want. My elderly mother paid insurance all her life in the USA. When I heard about the way she was treated in a hospital she was paying for I felt shocked. I believe the NHS would have treated her etter.
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.
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.
Re: Share your universal healthcare story Even Thailand has universal healthcare Thailand is an emerging economy that might actually emerge but for lurching from half-hearted democracy to totalitarianism and back every 10 years or so. Much of the country remains what used to be called third world. Nevertheless there is a public hospital in every county and clinic in every township with quality care, including medication virtually free for citizens and a small nominal fee for non-citizens. They don't even ask if you are legal! My son from the US spend seven days in the hospital a few years ago, with a private room. The entire cost, room, doctors, medicines etc. was about 200 US. Would have been much less on a ward. Sure, there's a shortage of physicians and long waits, but in the end everybody has access to good, quality very affordable care, no questions asked, no burdensome paperwork. There are also private hospitals--much less expensive than in the US. What's wrong with the US that it cannot provide what even a chaotic totalitarian dictatorship considers a human right?
As an EXPAT it was required to have a German healthcare insurance.While the insurance, plus other than health included, it seems to be reasonable in cost. Expats in Germany "do not cost Germany one cent. #DAresists #Medicare4all
Hello, fellow Democrats Abroad! I have been under universal health care coverage for nearly all my professional career, first in Algeria, and now in France. I have had some harrowing experiences on the health scene, less by questions of policy coverage than by circumstances which necessitated health care. I was nearly always taken in and cared for without question, and indeed without personally incurring expenses. In Algeria public health policy had covered all my immunizations yithout my having to advance even the slightest payment. I once broke an ankle wnile playing basketball with fellow teachers, and although I had to drive to the nearest hospital thirty kilometers away I was properly examined and treated without having to pay. I did have to insist on being cared for, when the opening hours at the clinic expired, but I prevailed, and did not have to pay out of pocket. Near the end of my sojourn in Algeria, I was stabbed in the back in downtown Algiers, and I was taken into emergency care at first and then into intensive care with securitz guard, all without any outlay on my part. To the contrary my care was considered as a responsibilitz of the country because of the "indignity" of having been attacked on the street of the nation's capital. Laterm during my retirement in France, I was covered by the nation's public health care system, but did pay for enrolment in the health care system, a rather nominal sum, but less than the care yould have cost in the United States, although that cost was covered by employer's health care. I have been in relatively good health, but asthmatic and diabetic, for which I receive medication covered at 100%, and see the doctor as needed, usually without an appointment, without undue waits and no payment other than the nominal €23 for the visit, which is, incidentally repaid by my mutual health care policy! I am totally happy with this system, and would not willingly submit to the US health care system in its current disorderly state. Rev. Dr. Hugh G Johnson (BA, STB, MDIV, MA, PhD)
Happily, we have not had to seek health care in France (except for routine blood tests that were easy, quick and inexpensive) but we do have a story. The young son of French friends in Avignon was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthrtis when he was five years old. Their national health insurance paid 100% of all the costs for his diagnosis and care over the course of 2 years by the best specialists in Montepellier and Paris, including travel and hotel expenses. Of modest means -- father an electrician and mother a secretary -- this young family would probably have been ruined had they been living in the US. Sincerely, Woody Halsey
I pay 42.50 (Euros) a month for excellent healthcare. My wife pays about the same. This insurance provides an amazing array of benefits that are common to all. I have easy access to specialists, urgent care, hospitals. There is little or no waiting. My wife and I are having a baby, and the pre-natal care must be about the best in the world. We have had 9 preparatory appointments with a midwife, 5 ultrasounds and several appointments at the hospital, including with a nutritionist. All of this care is completely covered by the basic coverage. For dental, high-priced medicine, glasses and to have all remaining aspects and possibilities completely covered, we have complementary mutual insurance that makes up for the difference not covered by the national health care. This costs an additional 25 Euros a month, which really isn't much. Practically everyone I know in the United States has a nightmare story about medical debt. My brother and sister in law have an autistic child, and a test their doctor recommended ended up costing thousands out of pocket, for example. This would never happen in France, no chance. It is such a relief not to have this unnecessary economic pressure that is totally avoidable by having a national healthcare system, like all advanced economies.