Healthcare Stories

Health care stories from abroad

Thank you to everyone who has sent in their universal health care story. As you can see from the very many stories in the pages below, many Americans living abroad feel strongly about this issue. We believe that our stories will make a difference by showing the many sides of universal healthcare - from an average check up, to a hospital stay, to stories about our lives being saved thanks to universal health care.

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We'll share these stories with Congress to help in their fight for affordable healthcare for all Americans. 
Please note that the stories below are all user submited and reflect individual opinions. 

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Great Experiences in Portugal #DAresists #Medicare4all

Everyone should have access to affordable health care, like we have here in Portugal. When we were in the US, if you didn't have health insurance through your job (and there were plenty of folks who worked full-time and still didn't have this benefit), you were in a lot of trouble if you got sick. In Portugal that doesn't happen. Elvira Barry

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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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Advocacy from years of experience in Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

As an American who has lived my whole life in 🇨🇦 and having first hand experience with universal health care as the sole way to deliver quality health care I fully support this measure. Vaibhav "We shall overcome, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice" Martin Luther King Jr. 1968

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​My dual-national healthcare story #DAresists #Medicare4all

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?

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Healthcare in Alberta Pt. 1 #DAresists #Medicare4all

My family moved to Canada May 29,1975, due to my husband’s work. We thought we’d be here 10 years, it’s now 42 years and counting! Several things helped to keep us here besides my husband’s job. The most important influence was the healthcare program. We were a family of 6, with 2 boys, and 2 girls. Immediately prior to moving to Canada we had formally adopted our second daughter. That very summer we discovered that Beth, (2nd daughter), wasn’t hearing us as well as our older children. We took her to the hospital and the doctor determined Beth needed tubes put into her eardrums to release pressure buildup on the inside of the ear. This happened twice. Well, that was a new experience! NO CHARGE! That floored us. We paid for every little and big thing medically in the USA. Every quarter we paid, as a family, about $130.00 for Healthcare. My hysterectomy cost me $5.00 for the paperwork! Both girls had tonsil/adenoid-ectomies - No Charge! I was lying in a hospital bed recovering from surgery to my right shoulder, (arthritis), when my oldest son, in high school, walked into my room to tell me he, too, was in the hospital recovering from an emergency appendectomy! He had driven himself to the hospital due to the pain!! No Charge for either of us. Not to be outdone, our second son eventually had arthroscopic knee surgery twice, but several years apart. No Charge. My turn to have a total right knee replacement due to arthritis. No Charge! Physic was also covered by Alberta Health

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An experience from Mexico #DAresists #Medicare4all

I had colon cancer surgery in Sept. 2012 and 6 days released from the hospital with a staffed infection in my left arm which was twice as my right and I lost 12lbs in my eight day stay.My Medicare paid and Blue cross/ bule Sheild paid.In 2015 I had a heart attack while in Mexico and the surgeon installed stilt on 9/2015 and my insurance paid the hospital.Three mouths later. I had my right kidney removed with a 2.5 cm cancerous tumor. It took two years to settle with the insurance company and the dollar exchange changed by a loss of 1200.00 usd.which I lost because of stupidity on the insurance company.Then two weeks I get a letter needing more info for the same claim. The company has to many hands on claims at different locations and the brain power is lost.

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#DAresists #Medicare4all

I married my Danish partner in 2012 and she gave birth to our beautiful twin daughters in 2013. Because it was her first delivery, and she was older and had to undergo hormonal treatments, she experienced hormonal imbalances. No problem, she was given two weeks of inpatient care at the country's premier hospital in Copenhagen. Later, one night she awoke at 3 a.m. with severe back pains. No problem, an on call physician arrived at our doorstep within 30 minutes! Recently, one of the now four year old twins fell and damaged her teeth, of course in the evening! My wife called the emergency medical number, was given an appointment at the emergency dental clinic, and within 30 minutes had gone with my daughter, received treatment and returned home, which in this case was the removal of her two top front teeth. In Denmark, all you have to do is show your national health card upon entry to any medical facility. Your record pulls up, you are told exactly where to go relative to your appointment, and off you go! That entire process takes less than one minute. And because she was a child with an obvious immediate dental need, she went right to the front of cue, no questions asked! On my side, I just recently received my national ID number and thus access to the local health care system. Previously I would have needed to use my US insurance for routine care. However, I had a bike accident resulting in a concussion and needed emergency medical attention. I was fully covered, including many nights in the hospital, several MRIs, and two months of outpatient treatment. No bureaucratic lines, no hassles of any sort, 100% first care, easy treatment. During last year's presidential election season, Denmark was referenced often as a place where according to Bernie Sanders health care works and according to Republicans: "we don't want socialized medicine like in Denmark." Well ... Bernie is right. It works great here. It is hassle free. And the total costs are LESS than in the States. Sounds like something that our leaders should more seriously look into!

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Living with a disability in Australia is not a death sentence #DAresists #Medicare4all

I was disabled after a car accident and I have to be very careful with money as I am now on a pension. But I never have to worry about my doctors fees, my doctor bulk bills my account so it has no cost to me, my prescriptions are supported by the government so they only cost about $6, and any scans I need, like for a breast lump I felt last year, are covered under Medicare so I don't need to choose between eating and getting treatment as needed. Luckily for me, my tests came back negative, but others are not so lucky and catching something early is the best way to fix it. Imagine being too scared of the costs to go in and treat something before it becomes a problem?

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Universal health care in the United Kingdom #DAresists #Medicare4all

My sick baby had an emergency medical team at my door at midnight on a Saturday within 15 minutes of calling them. There was no charge. When I broke my leg in a tube accident, entirely of my own making, I had an EMT crew collect me, take me to the hospital, surgery and a hospital stay all at no direct cost to me. I am delighted to pay my taxes to support that kind of access for all. Occasional waiting lists for certain non-urgent conditions and some restrictions on available drugs due to cost are a small price to pay. Healthcare to GDP in the UK is half of what it is in the US with lower infant mortality and higher average life expectancy. They must be doing something right. Keep up the good work! Barbara

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Wonderful health care in France #DAresists #Medicare4all

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.

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Nearly 50 years of great health care from an American living in Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

When I transferred from NYC to Montreal in August1970, I thought it would be for a few years - just the time to complete my education and work on improving my French. That fall paperwork arrived announcing the beginning of universal healthcare. I filled it in, and received my card. I thought nothing of it; I was a healthy 24-year-old. At 25 years and 11 months, I married. At 27 years and 8 months, our son arrived. Had we not asked for a private room, there would have been no fees for my few days in the hospital post-delivery. The exorbitant bill came to all of $25. At 29 years and 7 months, our daughter arrived; same scenario, though a day or two less in hospital, and same bill. All their well-baby checkups were free of charge. As were all their vaccinations, every trip to the ER for ear-aches, fevers, colds, minor injuries, one ambulance ride and all the x-rays needed to verify that clumsy son's header into the shallow end of a pool hadn't done great damage, the collar he had to wear the rest of that summer. When I felt under the weather, it turned out I had inherited my mother's hypothyroidism. Radioactive iodine uptake test showed it was about three-quarters kaput. Lifelong followup and daily pills. OK, the pills aren't exactly free, but the cost of the prescription - even before the provincial government began its prescription plan - didn't cause me any hardship, and we were living paycheck-to-paycheck and never in the black. The testing and followups are all covered. In 1989, I was diagnosed with diabetes. All the testing and followups, all the diabetes education classes, ALL entirely covered. The children's vision and dental care was covered until age 18 (or 21? or end of post-secondary schooling? They're in their 40s now, and I don't remember when it ended.) And the absolute best part of all this carefree medical coverage is that, beyond renewing the healthcare card every four years, there is NO paperwork on the patient's end. No, it's not really FREE. The personal tax rate in Quebec isn't low by any means, but it's a price that's easily and painlessly paid. When I'd come here, I knew nothing of all this. I had fully intended returning to the US to make my life. I'll never relinquish my US citizenship, but I don't believe I'll ever be returning either. Picture this: I was visiting my mother in NYC. I helped her corral a cat that needed to be taken to the vet. Her cat was uncooperative, and sank her teeth into my hand in the process of capturing. I immediately washed and treated the puncture wounds. By the time we got to the vet, my hand had swollen up like a rubber glove; the vet told us to get me to an ER. Well, we'd already decided to do that. So, off we went to the ER of the hospital my mother usually used. After four hours sitting unseen in the waiting room, I was called. Much to my mother's distress, the hospital refused to have anyone even look at my swollen hand! There was no way they could treat me, since I wasn't my mother!!! No amount of cash could change their ruling!!! WTF!!! So across town to another ER which the first said would care for me. Another long wait. I was finally seen, treated, prescribed a course of antibiotics, and sent on my way. I haven't a clue how much my mother had to pay, but I'm betting it was at least triple digits. Had that occurred here in Montreal, ANY hospital's ER would have treated my injury without a lengthy wait - open wounds get cared for before most other cases excepting those arriving by ambulance. From arrival to exit would probably have been under an hour, and - because treated without twelve hours delay - I probably wouldn't have been off work for a week after my two-week vacation. Other seniors retire to sunny destinations. I don't even consider it, because the healthcare costs are scarily high.

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

It's actually my sisters story. She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. She had a work comp accident in California, that was made worse in Las Vegas. We moved to Vegas as she got a job promotion. Little did we know that in a state where you pay no state taxes, you also get less services. To make a very long story short, she has fibromyalgia, hyperhydrosis, diabetes, is somewhat physically disabled and bipolar II disorder. Needless to say her medications can run into hundreds of dollars a month. She only gets $930/month from Social security. If funding is cut to Medicare, as Trump plans, she will never be able to afford her meds! Under the AHCA (Obamacare), and with her Medicaid as backup, she is covered for her pre-existing conditions and her co-pays. With Universal healthcare, she won't have to worry if she can "afford" to go to urgent care, or if she can afford to eat and still get all her meds. She will be able to incur LOWER co-pays, and not have to NOT go see a Dr. because she can't afford it. As with all civilized countries now offering Universal Healthcare, the USA needs to stop being so parsimonious with its money, and make healthcare for all, a RIGHT and NOT a privilege!!! Jenna Wong Logan

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A comparative perspective from the U.K. #DAresists #Medicare4all

I want to take some time to talk about usual discussions comparing different healthcare systems: Most comparisons in the US are between the US system and nationalized systems (in Canada, UK, Germany, Australia, Sweden, France...etc); often times such comparisons talk about waiting times of elective procedures. (1) Talking about Elective Procedures is the wrong measure/yardstick! Just because a country has a national healthcare system does not mean it has no private healthcare -- all the countries (Canada, UK, Germany, France..) have private healthcare and citizens can choose to have private in addition to their nationalized systems (talk about CHOICE). (2) Talking about waiting times for procedures (elective or non) is also the wrong yardstick: Waiting times in nationalized systems are related to the amount of funding (or lack thereof) in the system; in the UK, funding cuts in the last several years have led to increased waiting times -- if cuts did not happen (especially in highly populated areas), wait times would not have increased. Same as MN having better bridges if the capital spend had been approved. (3) Competition reduces costs and improves products/services: While competition is good in general, it is better to reserve the competition for more complex/elective needs while offering a universal healthcare for at least the basic health services (level to be defined). This way, one can have the benefits of competition AND have the citizenry access basic healthcare. Current not-for-profit hospitals are not a low cost delivery method of healthcare, certainly not basic care. Not-for-profit hospitals employ large finance teams, issue and refinance bonds almost annually, hoard billions of dollars of cash reserves (2x level of debt) in order to get favorable Moodys and S&P credit ratings so they can issue bonds, therefore hire other finance teams and asset managers and consultants to manage those cash reserves, etc -- in essence everything but "basic and essential care". All these points have something in common -- dialogues in US comparing the systems appear to be all-or-nothing-at-all (black-or-white) while there are several shades of grey (I have heard the number 50 thrown around). It does not need to be only-private or only-national. Let us get our American can-do attitude and solve this elegantly. US systems in general appear to be very complicated (128% of Federal poverty level -- who comes up with numbers and tables like that) and complexity adds costs to any system. Just as the Government is trying to simplify and overhaul our tax system, we should also consider removing complexity from our healthcare system.

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A New Kidney Thanks to Canadian Healthcare #DAresists #Medicare4all

Four years ago, I was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease and was told that I would need dialysis/transplant within 1-2 years. My renal failure occurred two years ago, requiring dialysis. For the first few months it was necessary to go to the hospital for those treatments. Eventually I started training for home hemodialysis. When I was ready, a machine was installed in my home, saving 90 minutes round trip travel time. It also afforded me the ability to time my treatments to suit my lifestyle. These treatments cost about $10000 per month, all of which was paid for by my provincial health plan. The story doesn't end there. Several months ago, I had a kidney transplant with my wife as the donor. Again, this was paid for in its entirety by the provincial health system. I will now require medications costing about $3000 per month for the rest of my life. Our employer health plans cover those costs costs for now. In 3 years I will be 65. At that time the provincial health system will assume those drug payments. A nation's healthcare system is a strong indicator of how its government values and cares for its citizens. Shame on the US for placing insurance companies and their cronies before its people. Long live single payer universal healthcare!

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Luxembourg's Universal Healthcare Cannot Be Beat #DAresists #Medicare4all

We have universal healthcare here in Luxembourg. The first time I went to the doctor with my son it cost €30 ($35) and all but €3 was reimbursed two weeks later. When I went to the pharmacy for his antibiotics it cost just €1.73. When I went to get a check up at my GP for my thyroid again it cost €3. When I went for my blood tests, which would have cost at least $2,000 in the US, they charged me €0. Both my children are getting orthodontic treatment which when I left Seattle two years ago would have cost about $20,000 per child if we were lucky. Here it will cost less than €1,000 out-of-pocket by the time we are done. We don't have insurance premiums, we don't have insurance cards with co-pays and different levels of service. Everyone is treated the same here. That my friends is what universal healthcare is like in Luxembourg.

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The experience of a senior citizen couple in Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

As everyone can tell you, Canada's system isn't perfect, but it is certainly a vast improvement over the US system. In my years here in Canada, I have battled heart disease, including bypass surgery, degenerative disc disease, and two surgeries for cancer. My husband has had several knee replacements. All this has been at no cost to us. Now that we are over 65, prescription drugs are also included. I watched how much my mother paid for her insulin and a plethora of other drugs in the US, even with Part D of Medicare and an Insurance plan and how that ate into her savings in her old age. To be fair, elective surgery and many specialties are rationed based on severity of illness. In my experience they are pretty good at triage, but you can end up on a wait list if your condition isn't urgent. I can see my family doctor within a day or two. All countries ration health care. In the US it's rationed based on who can pay. In Canada, it's rationed more on need. Hope this helps. Nobody should go bankrupt because they get sick. Jackie DiGiovanni

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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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Universal health care in France #DAresists #Medicare4all

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

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Observations from Turkey #DAresists #Medicare4all

RE: What can Turkey teach the US about healthcare I would love universal healthcare for US citizens. Under the current Medicare for All proposals by Senator Sanders, it won’t cover US citizens living overseas. I would hope that Medicare would allow recipients to receive benefits while living or traveling overseas. Currently I need to buy a policy as part of my Turkish residency permit. I have a private insurance policy with a Turkish/international company. However good it is, the Turkish government makes me buy a worthless policy for about $1000 in addition to the excellent policy I buy. The required government policy is just another corruption to give money to the governing party’s friends. Saying that, Turkey has an excellent universal insurance for its citizens (SGK) in which some private hospitals participate. It’s not rocket science to give such a system for all US citizens, whether they live inside the US or overseas. The mentality of the Republicans is that healthcare is a privilege. Until they see it as a basic human right for all Americans, we are doomed. Universal coverage for all Americans can be affordable if we control prices, especially from the pharma sector. Thank you for hearing my voice. Andrew Barrer Istanbul, Turkey

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Freedom from Fear #DAresists #Medicare4all

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.

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