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 have Crohn's disease and am currently enjoying my first unmedicated remission (2 years so far!) since being ill for 20 years. My husband recently expressed his fear that my health might get that bad again. When I shared his fear with my doctor, the response "you'll likely never be that ill again" took me by surprise and my response was incredibly emotional. When I first became ill, I didn't have health insurance. I was being raised by a single mum and I hid my illness as long as I could until it became emergent. My father lived in a nearby state and put me on his insurance so that I was able to get care, stay in hospital for a month and have 3 life-saving surgeries in 9 months. That was me sorted until I aged out of my father's insurance, which resulted in my ignoring my illness until it got too bad, going to the ER, being admitted to hospital and given temporary medication and having medical bills too high to pay and signing on to state aid to pay the bills. Flaring that often and that hard as well as not having a relationship with one caregiver meant that my body was irrevocably damaged. A little over 2 years ago, I had a major surgery to remove the damage and outfit me with a permanent ostomy. This means that I can no longer move back to the US, as I need a regular supply of ostomy products, which can easily be covered with health insurance, but which would quickly become costly without. I know that my quality of life and care were only possible with insurance and a relationship with one doctor monitoring my health. This is what I tell my representatives when I call them from here in Zürich, Switzerland.
I am now a dual French-US citizenship after moving to France 22 years ago. I have benefited from only quality care in France for myself and my family and have never had to worry about the cost. What I've seen and experienced in the US during these years has made me very grateful to live in France. During one vacation in the US, I got a terrible ear infection in the evening and was in unbearable pain. The only option at that time of day was to go to the emergency room, but I knew how much that would cost, so I accepted my father's offer of some very strong prescription pain medication that he was taking for his back. The pain went away instantly and I was high as a kite! The next day, I went to a clinic and ended up spending $150 for the visit, antibiotics and decongestants. This would have cost a quarter of that sum in France, IF I'd had to pay everything out of pocket, and I would not have had to weigh the risk of taking medication that was not prescribed to me against the financial strain of an emergency room visit. As a family, we had several other experiences during US vacations where we did not seek medical attention due to the cost. My son had a boating accident that ripped open the palm of his hand. We certainly would have taken him to get stitches in France, but decided to take care of it ourselves (luckily my sister is a registered nurse). My husband once had heart attack symptoms, and my sister again came to the rescue and snuck him into a back door of her office to give him an EKG, after we had gone to the hospital and were greeted with a price list detailing what we would have to pay for any treatment he got. Now we take out extra insurance when we go to the US, but the cost of what we would have to pay if anything happened is still a concern. I don't think anyone in the US goes to the emergency room without worrying about the cost. Here in France, my health comes first. Not having to worry about how to afford health treatment should not be a luxury, but unfortunately it is for many Americans. How can people pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness if they can't afford the medical care they need to stay healthy?
I have never lived in France but for seven years my husband and I owned a second home in a small town in Provence. I have allergies to just about everything that blooms there, and one year I had a particularly bad time with wheezing, sneezing and coughing so I visited Dr. Issot, our village physician. He spoke some English, thankfully since my French vocab for medical terms is limited, and he spent about an hour with me, asking about my symptoms, listening to my chest, etc. The charge for the hour visit was about $25 US. I also received three prescriptions - for an inhaler, an antibiotic and an antihistamine, and the total at the local pharmacy was about $35 US. I shudder to think what this would have cost in the States. We have American friends who live in France full time and are on the French health care system, and they love it. They are elderly and have some health problems, and they have had physicians even come to their home to check on them. They say there's no comparison with the terrible health care we have in the States. I don't understand why the U.S. can't look at other systems around the world, cherry pick the best parts, and then come up with some universal health care that will work for all of us.
I first moved to England from America with a six week old infant and a two year old. The two year old had been constantly sick in the US and the time and effort to file claims and fight with for profit insurance companies was exhausting and many items were not covered. On moving to England she was diagnosed with asthma and we began using an inhaller and nebulizer, fully paid for and all doctors appointments covered. No paperwork! Then we moved back to the USA for two years and the level of medication they wanted to give her went through the roof (pills, breathers, alergy tests, etc.) and they wanted to see her every month. It seemed like my daughter was a money maker for the doctors and the drug companies. On moving first to Singapore and then back to England, we went back to the simple prevention of symptoms . As many children do, she grew out of the asthma and is a happy health college student. I can't say enough good things about the UK NHS and single payer systems.
1. It relies on federal block grants (antithima to Dems) because even in a country as small a Canada, a national program would be too unwieldly and unresponsive (imagine DVA healthcare for all). Dems oppose state level programs because we are so shockingly thin in state government. This needs to be a co-priority in healthcare reform 2. Its not an instant process. Canada took 35 years from first provincial program to the current legal framework. So the US clock started running in 2006 with RomneyCare in Mass. The interim period for Canada featured intense political wrangling, industry push-back (Drs. Strikes, opting out, practitioners leaving the country) and constant tweeking and tuning. So US may be on or even ahead if course 3. Universal healthcare is not synonymous with affordable healthcare as all funding levels in Canada are acutely aware. 4. Finally and probably most importantly, since universal health care, universal health insurance and single payer healthcare are not synonymous he should look for a role model from amongst the dozen or so countries whose mixed funding universal systems regularly outscore Canada (and US) on both costs and health outcomes. We Americans equate choice with quality and choice and universality are not incompatible. Robert Thompson Kanata ON
Originally from Southeast Missouri, I moved to London when I was 26. I brought with me six months of contraception (the pill), at a cost of $180 USD purchased before my employer based healthcare expired. I came to pursue postgraduate studies, and when my supply ran low I registered with my local NHS surgery. By the end of the week I walked away with my new prescription, covered by the NHS and paid for by my taxes. Score! 13 years later and I am still here. I have given birth to both of my children here. Both were born caesarian in hospitals through the NHS. My first child was born 5 weeks early, and resulted in a 3 week hospital stay. The care I received from the midwives, nursery nurses, doctors and all helped reassure a nervous first time mother living thousands of miles away from family. My second child arrived much less dramatically, requiring only the minimum 2 day hospital stay. The experience, both before and after giving birth was equally reassuring. I made visits to midwife teams (at their office in my area) and consultants (at the hospital) before giving birth to check on the baby’s health as well as my own. And after each child was born and I was back home, I received visits by the traveling midwife and nursery nurse team, checking on mum and baby and making sure I knew where to access nursery groups - whether for information on breastfeeding or just to meet other mummies and chat. And all this without having to fight insurance agents or request costings for the myriad tests and procedures that are part of giving birth. My children are now 11 and 6. We have gone to the gp chesty coughs, outer ear infections, minor burns and all things child related. Both children have made trips to A&E (accident and emergency, or the ER), with the ride in the ambulance being the highlight for my son’s class. There is no cost for prescriptions for children; the cost for adults is around £7.70.
I am a U.S. Citizen living abroad in Canada for almost two decades. Over that time I have developed a tremendous appreciation for the Canadian Healthcare system. I am deeply grateful that when I am ill, or a family member has been ill, the first thought has always been to get the appropriate, necessary treatment. When I lived in the States I lived through many periods of time with little or no healthcare. I would suffer unnecessarily to avoid the cost of care. Like so many Americans I thought I had to "be stoic" to avoid going into debt as "just a part of life." I no longer live with this fear in Canada. I have witnessed elderly friends admitted to very good nursing home facilities they could never afford in the States that are completely covered by the Canadian government. I have witnessed people treated with dignity regardless of their ability to pay. I have experienced recuperating from illness and injury without the fear and dread of the many "surprise" bills that will soon arrive in the mail. So my "healthcare story" is this: the Canadian Healthcare system - just by its very existence - has brought incalculable reassuring comfort and peace for my future into my life. Thank you
Many patriotic Americans see "freedom" as a core American value, but privatized health care severely limits one's freedom. As an American living in Canada, I have been free to make many important choices in my life without being constrained by health care needs. I made the choice about when to start a family because of universal healthcare. Shortly after attaining Canadian residency, my husband and I moved to Canada when I was 7 months pregnant with my first child. As we had both been completing our masters degrees abroad, we did not yet have jobs. I was provided the highest quality care in my pregnancy and childbirth, and throughout it all paid only $10 to park at the hospital. Following the birth there was support from public health nurses, midwives and doctors who called or visited my home to monitor me and my baby. A few years later I made the gut-wrenching decision to terminate a pregnancy with a fetus that faced severe life-long health issues. Nobody judged me, protested me, or forced me to jump through hoops. I was provided with sensitive and efficient care free of cost. When I made the decision to try again I was gently guided through my next pregnancy by health care workers sensitive to my previous traumatic situation, and delivered a healthy baby. And most recently, I have made the decision to leave a job I didn't love and start my own business doing work I was passionate about. I did not have to worry about the loss of healthcare benefits. While the universal health care system in Canada is not cost free (we pay some premiums, prescription drug costs, and excluded services like dental and optometry) and it is not prefect (there can be waits as patients are seen in order of urgency) I have found in my experience that it is equal to or better than the care my family receives in the US. And, universal health care gives me the freedom to make choices in my life that are best for me and my family. Meanwhile, I have observed my family in the US having restricted freedom because of lack of maternity leave, high health insurance costs, and general lack of affordability in their lives. Universal healthcare provides a privilege everyone deserves: freedom.
In 2012 I was advised by my cardiologist that my heart beat irregularities were such that I urgently needed a pacemaker. I was not a part of the French health care system but had retained my old American Foreign Service insurance(AFSPA) which reimbursed us for coverage in France. We went to a private clinic in nearby Lannion and I received a top of the line American Metronics pacemaker, with the surgery, hospitalization of three days costing $2,800. We paid this and the AFSPA happily reimbursed us. They informed me that in the US they and Medicare would have to pay between $25-30 thousand for the same procedure. The private clinic in France presumably made a nominal profit. So my question is why are costs in the US ten-fold higher? Roy
We moved here in 2006-my wife has dual citizenship, and I became a permanent resident shortly afterwards. They gave me access to their health care system. I had a massive hearth attack in 2010- had surgery and they patched the pericardium. Im also a diabetic taking insulin. Im grateful to the care I receive here ,not sure we’ll be able to make in the Us
I arrived to my new Edinburgh, UK home on December 29th. By the 10th of January, my tonsils had swollen up so much I couldn't eat, couldn't talk, couldn't swallow. What to do in a country with a completely foreign-to-me health care system? I hadn't even been set up with a GP (your local doctor you sign up with) yet! I found that I could go to A & E (Accidents and Emergencies) and be seen there. After hearing lots of American right-wing paranoia about socialized healthcare, I expected to arrive at this A&E hospital and experience rushed service, long wait times, and bare minimum care. Couldn't have been farther from the truth. I was seen within 20 minutes of arriving, my nurse was extremely thorough and gentle, and I was given antibiotics on the spot ( and for free since I had paid my yearly NHS surcharge as an American student). Fast forward to Spring. I've been signed up with my local GP for months now. It's a 5 minute walk from my house. I've seen several doctors at this location, and they are all friendly, thorough, and knowledgable. I've woken up one day with a severe eye infection; my eye has swollen shut. I call at 8am for an appointment with the doctor, and they see me a few hours later. I'm given a prescription for medicated eye drops and I walk one block from the doctors to the pharmacy. Within 15 minutes, I'm given my eye drops without any money being exchanged. Fast forward to Summer. I'm in my first serious relationship in many years. I've never had birth control in the States; the added cost had convinced me not to use it unless necessary. I decide to now research my birth control options and choose one to use in the here and now, in the UK, administered under the NHS. I made an appointment with a lovely, confident, knowledgable doctor at my Bruntsfield Medical Practice, and within 30 minutes had the BC implant inserted into my arm. I'm in awe and gratitude every time I experience the health system here in the UK. I've watched a fellow American friend here discover a diagnosis with skin cancer and be fully tested, treated, and cared for, with as many visits and procedures administered as needed to improve and manage her health. I've never felt more safe, secure, confident in being able to control my health and happiness because of the National Health Service here in the UK. Healthcare is not a privilege. Health care is a human right. Healthcare is not a privilege. Health care is a human right. Healthcare is not a privilege. Health care is a human right. Healthcare is not a privilege. Health care is a human right. Healthcare is not a privilege. Health care is a human right.