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.

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. 
Please note that the stories below are all user submited and reflect individual opinions. 

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Emergency lifesaving treatment as a student in Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

When I was 18 during my freshman year at UofT, I started to have really strong, constant stomach pain and vomiting. It was really frightening, and for two days the doctors didn't know what was wrong with me as it worsened and worsened. It turned out my appendix had exploded, but because they couldn't see my appendix on their instruments they hadn't known what was wrong. I spent a week in hospital, had life-saving surgery, and was readmitted once when there was residual infection from the pus that had filled my abdomen. And even outside of the in-hospital procedures, there was one post-surgery medication that cost almost $1000 per bottle; if I lived in the United States, I would have had to pay for that out of pocket. And I couldn't have paid for it out of pocket. If I didn't live in Canada, I might not have been able to afford to be alive. And my whole extended family is full of stories of life-threatening situations that are treated simply and at no cost; from cancer and thyroid problems, to autoimmune diseases and mental illness. As a dual citizen of both Canada and the US, I can really see the difference between the two countries. Ill health comes for everyone, and a country that takes care of its people is one that provides health care for all. I would like my American family to be cared for just like I am here. Love, Miranda Alksnis

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No more worry about seeking medical attention #DAresists #Medicare4all

Before moving to Germany to study, I had two medical incidents (one of them requiring an ambulance) that my insurance declined to cover. My savings were completely wiped out from the financial shock and the prices for the procedures were exorbitantly high (an ambulance in NY costs about $100/minute which came to $2000 after a 20 minute ride). Since coming to Germany, I've discovered the benefits of a system that is not based on the monetization of healthcare. I no longer have to fear the small print on the contract pages of an insurance company, and I don't hesitate to seek medical attention when I need it.

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Physician Home Visits - France #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have spent a lot of time living in and visiting France and I have experienced the medical system there more than once. On two occasions, my spouse fell ill. All I needed to do was call the local municipal health office and a physician was dispatched to our apartment (four flights up, no elevator). The last time sticks out in my mind because my spouse had eaten a bad oyster and was in bed in pain. Between the time I called the municipal service, the doctor arrived in 20 minutes. The examination was completed, prescriptions given, I had gone to the local pharmacy to get the prescriptions filled, and brought the medications home, all within in hour of the call. The cost? Well, it was a holiday weekend evening, so the cost was higher than normal: $99. The patient never had to get out of bed. I'll take the French health care system any day over the expensive, patient-unfriendly system we have in the US. Medicare for All!

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Universal health care in France #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)

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Health care is important in all countries of the world .... #DAresists #Medicare4all

Health care is important in all countries of the world and not just in the United States and he shows human Governments towards their people and not only that but the State reduce health care disbursements and reduce chronic diseases and thinking people advises health programmes and will cost less and have to be Everybody can get it for free and there are a lot of programs you can use to live healthy and healthy food and I support health care because I can't stand seeing anyone lying on bed and cannot enjoy this beautiful life and man deserves to be used in the service of peoples development

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A comparative story from Australia #DAresists #Medicare4all

Hi there, I’m a NC voter living in Australia and working for Bupa, a UK-based health insurer and care partner. Long before I had up-close experience with a functioning healthcare system and a private insurer who genuinely cares for its customers, I grew up in rural North Carolina with a chronically ill mother. Suffering from Lupus, cancer, and a wide range of related issues, my mom was often in and out of the hospital. Despite working gruelling hours, my dad always found it difficult to make ends meet. Any child who grew up with a seriously ill parent knows all too well the anguish of seeing a loved one in pain, the pitying head pats from Sunday school teachers, and the stomach-dropping discovery that someone you care about had to be rushed to the ER again. My time abroad has taught me that many Australians can commiserate with experiences like these. But most can’t understand the constant battle my parents waged just to make sure my mom could have health insurance. With so many pre-existing problems, it was always hard for my mom to secure a plan that could account for her many needs. The ramifications of poor health are acute enough; children don’t need to overhear their parents crying because they aren’t sure how to pay their medical bills. Thank goodness most Australians already understand this. While no system is perfect, Australia’s public/private hybrid allows consumers extra choice and extra comforts if they can afford them, while supplying basic care for those who can’t. This likely contributes to the comparable cleanliness, safety, and overall better quality of life that Australians tend to enjoy. President Obama took on great political risk to try and fix our own broken system. He did this by selecting a bipartisan compromise: a market-based solution that originated from the Heritage Foundation. While the ACA is definitely flawed, I know that it helped other little girls avoid at least some of the pain I felt. I am repulsed by the moral failure of politicians who have decided that cynical machinations are more pressing than fixing the ACA’s flaws. Their disregard for American lives is alarming. Other countries have recognised that investing in their citizens’ well-being pays dividends; I pray that one day America will wake up to the value of a similar investment. 

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Why are US healthcare costs ten-fold higher? #DAresists #Medicare4all

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

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A perspective from Ecuador #DAresists #Medicare4all

Yes we have universal health care here in Ecuador and even the poorest is received at either the public hospital and health care system. In addition there is the Ecuadorian Social Security System (IESS) for those who voluntarily subscribe or those subscribed through their employers. On paper it is great - until you have to use the system! Although there is some level of care for everyone there are serious problems too! There are shortages of doctors, nurses and administrative staff and since there is a parallel system of lucrative private hospitals and doctors operating private clinics, the good, well trained medical and laboratory personnel tend to migrate to these private institutions in the major cities like Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca, leaving smaller and rural areas without good private care nor with decent government operated facilities. So while I applaud a government run health care system providing services for ALL, all the time, without a parallel private system, it needs to be universal, efficient, employing the best medical and administrative people. Will this be possible? Look at the Veterans Administration for an answer to this question! So if we can't run the veteran's administration correctly, how will we do it for the entire nation? So it is not so simple, requires a lot of planning, mammoth resources, a steady supply of well trained medical and administrative personnel and huge outlays for hospitals and related medical infrastructure, unless we simply nationalize existing private facilities and convert them into government institutions. The transition from what we have today to a public system will be a complicated and difficult task. Good luck. Robert Flick

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A lifetime of perspective from Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have lived in Canada virtually my whole life. I have been privileged to have had access to the Canadian universal health system. It is true for elective assistance, one is in a queue , but for emergencies, the system can't be beat . Widely known that the Canadian per capita expenditure on health care is approximately 50% of the US expenditure and that includes the whole population. My doctor friends are supportive because when a patient appears at their door, they are all treated the same without regard to ability to pay. Hard to believe, as was pointed out in the most recent presidential campaign,the US is the only country in the developed world that does not have universal health care for its citizens. There does not seem to be the same hang-up about government assistance to the victims of hurricanes! Stephen Freedhoff

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Healthcare is a human right #DAresists #Medicare4all

I'm an American living in Canada. In September 2017 I was diagnosed with stage III gestational trophoblastic neoplasia. GTN is a rare cancer that develops after a woman has a baby or a miscarriage. I lost my baby at 13weeks earlier this summer, underwent 2 surgical procedures, a post-op infection, and was ultimately diagnosed with cancer. Having health coverage in Canada, I have not received a single bill for the tests/procedures/specialists I have required. The last three months have been devastating- from the heartbreak of losing my baby to now facing the scary realities of chemo, I am so fortunate to be supported by a health system that does not increase my stress with a financial burden. I am a 37 yr old healthy woman with a dream of having a family- and now I have a pre-existing condition. If AHA is repealed, and coverage of pre-existing conditions is no longer mandated, women like me would suffer. I would not be able to consider even moving back to the US. Healthcare is a human right, and the question Congress should be asking is not IF but HOW to make the system work for all US residents.

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US citizen living in Canada since 1983... #DAresists #Medicare4all

Health care is never free, someone pays for it. My experience in Canada is everyone pays a little more in taxes so that everyone has coverage. What do I mean by coverage...anyone who needs heart surgery, visits a family doctor, or is referred to a specialist, needs an MRI, or is diagnosed with cancer and needs chemo treatment, or have a stay in a hospital...these are just examples...what you do is present your CardCare that has a number to admissions, they record the necessary data...you have your appointment...that's it...no bill comes in the mail ever! Also, I have complete freedom to choose the doctor I want. This is what I know to be true!

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Strong endorsement based on experience in Germany #DAresists #Medicare4all

As a freelance professional who has lived, worked and paid taxes in Germany for forty years I cannot understand why many U.S. Americans do not appreciate the advantages of universal health care. I am covered, my pregnancies were covered, and my children are covered until they reach the age of 26 or start working and earn their own money. I do not have to worry about getting sick and not being able to pay the bills. Expensive treatments are just as much part of the care as simple vaccinations, preventive checkups,operations etc. Paying into health care has been worthwhile from day one.I cannot imagine living in a country where it is not available. Maria Lanman

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Fearing the bill/increased premiums interferes with our health #DAresists #Medicare4all

Before moving to Germany to study, I had two medical incidents (one of them requiring an ambulance) that my insurance declined to cover. My savings were completely wiped out from the financial shock and the prices for the procedures were exorbitantly high (an ambulance in NY costs about $100/minute which came to $2000 after a 20 minute ride). Since coming to Germany, I've discovered the benefits of a system that is not based on the monetization of healthcare. I no longer have to fear the small print on the contract pages of an insurance company, and I don't hesitate to seek medical attention when I need it.

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Birth Control, Eye Infections, Severe Strep Throat #DAresists #Medicare4all

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.

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Universal healthcare makes life with chronic illness just a bit easier #DAresists #Medicare4all

I am writing this story not to place blame, but to share my story of how an inadequate health care system has had a negative impact on my life. I am only a single example of how a bad system can destroy a potentially strong link, and I would prefer that such things do not happen en masse due to the proposed health care bill. I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus at the age of 7, in 1977. At that time, it was almost a death sentence. People died from the disease, and my pediatrician did all he could to keep me alive. Facing potential kidney failure, he put me on a dosage of steroids (Prednisone) higher than even an adult should have taken. This daily dose was part of my medical regime for a year, and while it may indeed have saved my life, it has also - to some extent - ruined it, which is the purpose of telling you my story today. The high dosage of steroids marched through my body like a determined soldier, affecting my body in various ways. Stunted growth, delayed development, Cushing’s syndrome, mood swings, and the worst – softening of the bones. Unfortunately, there was little warning about these symptoms, and when I was well enough I still wanted to be a child – to run, play, climb trees, ride bikes, take dance classes, ice skating, roller skating – and by the time a new pediatrician did warn me of the dangers, it was too late. At age 11, several verterbrae in my upper spine collapsed, just from sitting at the piano. Then, it was discovered that my hip joints were already beginning to disintegrate – avascular necrosis of the hips at age 12. I was too young and too sick for a hip replacement at that time. After age 18, it was decided to monitor my condition, as hip replacements did not last very long, and the longer we could wait, the better it would be, so as not to have the risk of more surgeries than necessary in my lifetime. I persevered. I did well in college, then started a Master’s. I worked full-time. But I had to decline a scholarship to go to law school because the pain had made day to day life more difficult. By the time I was in my mid-20’s the pain was severe. I had to normalize the pain and keep going, as I was someone who refused to “lie down” in the face of my illness, but I went to the orthopedist to inquire if it was indeed time for my surgery. This doctor told me no, because insurance wouldn’t pay for it, as it would be considered “elective” surgery, since I could still walk. Stunned, I left his office in tears. My only choice was to keep going, and endure. At that time I was living in Tennessee. Slowly, my ability to function normally worsened. I couldn’t work as many hours. I couldn’t be active. Yet still, I could walk, so the surgery wasn’t available to me. Yet I got lucky. I got married and moved abroad. We settled in Germany, and within a couple of months of moving to Germany I could no longer walk without the support of crutches. The pain had gotten unbearable, and so I consulted an orthopedist here. The look of shock and pity on his face when he first saw my X-ray told me how bad it was, and I proceeded to see this look many times as I consulted surgeons and planned my surgery. The damage was so extensive to my left hip that the bone had not developed properly – it was smaller than the average implant, and a custom implant had to be made. My pelvis had tilted 6cm in an effort to protect the left hip, which had broken several times. When the doctor asked why I hadn’t had the surgery in the U.S., I told him it was because they said it was elective surgery. The look of disgust and anger on his face was palpable. I was told that damage so bad took decades to occur, and it was likely that surgery would have been necessary when I was 18. In fact, had I lived in Germany, it would have happened at 18, despite any risks, because it is considered a quality of life issue. Imagine that: a health care system where proper treatment is based on improving a patient’s quality of life. Unfortunately, the successful hip replacement surgery (both sides – I make quite the buzz at airport security) is not the happy ending to my woeful tale. It has been three years since the operation on my left hip, and I am still experiencing severe pain. My range of motion is improved, my stamina is better, and the pelvis is almost back to normal (1cm difference). Yet I can’t sit for more than an hour without feeling discomfort, I can’t stand in one position for more than a couple of minutes without a lot of pain, and often I can’t even rest comfortably in bed. I walk and exercise as much as I can, but obviously I must be careful. I see a physical therapist twice a week, which helps as well. I must take pain medication on a regular basis. All other possibilities have been ruled out, and my orthopedist has concluded that the pain is the result of so many years of degeneration and the terrible condition of my hip, and the pain is possibly chronic. In essence, by refusing to make a small investment in my health care, my potential was squandered: including years of work, academic achievement, and productive contribution to society. I am facing the reality that I may never know a life without pain. It is a small thing, compared to a lot of other people. Still, after 40 years of pain, the end result of my successful hip replacement surgeries was expected to be no more pain, or at the very least, very little pain – and knowing that I face more pain, with no confirmation that it will end, is daunting to me. I won’t give up. I have no reason to. I live in a country with a health care system that takes exceptionally good care of me. The U.S. should perhaps look into the German system, if Congress is having trouble trying to “fix” ACA. I know there are also a lot of good ideas out there, from some Democrats and Republicans. The citizens of the United States of America deserve a good health care plan. People are more productive and happy and spend more money when they don’t have to worry about what happens if they get sick, and these are all crucial requirements for a successful economy. Alas, I digress, my story is told, and you know what you have to do.

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Universal Coverage Works in Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

The purpose of Canada’s universal health care system is to provide ALL residents with equal access to quality medical care. I’ve had a few episodes requiring major surgery and had quick access to all the services I needed. The universal system also provides constant ease-of-mind; we know we have the medical coverage we need.

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Cancer Did Not Rob My Bank Account #DAresists #Medicare4all

About 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It was suggest that I go to Princess Margret Hospital because they have the best cancer treatment in the world. I asked how much would that cost. I was told, "Nothing." It took less than six months to go from diagnoses to treatment - that was because I insisted on finishing up the school year before I went into the hospital. The doctors were great! The nurses were even better. I was treated with dignity and respect throughout my entire treatment. I was amazed by the care and treatment I was given without having to dip into our savings or refinance our home.

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Medicare for All: No Worries from Down Under #DAresists #Medicare4all

After 6 and a half years in Australia, I cannot imagine going back to the US system of healthcare. Although there is optional private insurance Down Under, everyone is covered under the federal Medicare scheme where the burden of monthly healthcare costs are non-existent. I have only had a minor scare involving several x-rays and a CT scan, of which was completely levied in taxes - speaking of, that are no different to what I was paying in US on a comparable salary. When my daughter was born, the largest bill paid for the entire birth was a $ 36.00 per day for the underground parking. It is unthinkable now to imagine paying for what should be a fundamental human right, guaranteed and accessible to all citizens regardless of income, situation or pre-existing health condition. While it isn't perfect here, it is vastly better than the US system where the majority of people are placed under enormous stress to afford their health coverage. I urge the US to adopt a Medicare-for-All model similar to Australia.

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More than 40 years of coverage in Spain #DAresists #Medicare4all

My name is Kate Seley and I was married to a Spanish national who passed away on January 20 2017 - doubly horrible day for me. I have lived in Spain for over 40 years and have 3 adult children who I gave birth to here with the national health care system with a minimum of pain and maximum of joy and supportive care. I want to clarify that in European countries with a National Health Care Service, it is NOT considered "socialized medicine". Conservative PM's or presidents, i.e., Cameron in the UK, Sarkozy in France and Rajoy here in Spain have never thought of repealing and replacing. They may increase copayments a bit as they're more austerity- oriented but that's it. It's too popular and they don't see it as it socialism! The GOP seems unique. To return to my family's and my own experience: In this long period we have all been in national health care hospital, my daughter for a bad case of salmonella over 20 years ago and my younger son for a complicated broken wrist and leg.. I myself have undergone a lumpectomy and a titanium bar implant to repair broken humerus, both with with totally satisfactory results. But perhaps the most dramatic case is my husband's. He eventually passed away but he had 4 different types types of cancer -prostate, bone colon and throat as well as chronic congestive heart failure. They managed to defeat the odds and keep him alive almost 4 years, during which he received excellent and sensitive supporting care. Sometimes, during the final year, I used to think that he preferred staying at the public health hospital to being at home cause he felt more secure there. There are no limited visiting hours anda loved one can sleep there in an armchair that opens up into a bed, rather like 1st class airlines seats.. On some floors, you could actually feel positive vibes.. The cancer facilities and especially the Coronary intensive care unit are very state of the art. The Gps in the local clinics or "ambulatorios" are in general competent and caring and medication has only a relatively small copay.

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Great experience in UK #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.)

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