Healthcare Stories

Health care stories from abroad

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

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

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Many experiences in France #DAresists #Medicare4all

Aside from the usual and thankfully banal problems of bearing and raising three children, I can report on fairly major issues. NB: I also have a “mutuelle”—a collective non-profit complementary health arrangement that costs approx. €2000 a year and covers the 30% French social security doesn’t pay in some cases. Except in the last, worst item below I don’t remember which paid what. --A hard fall on cement the night before I was supposed to lecture in Oxford resulted in a hip replacement and hospitalisation for almost two weeks [Radcliffe Hospital] plus special transport arrangements home to Paris. French social security and probably the mutuelle reimbursed costs to the Brits. --Three fractured vertebrae and three “vertebroplasties” in which they inject resin cement: cost zero --Worst: in late 1999 my husband was diagnosed with a fairly rare form of cancer : He died a year and a half later after two operations, one very long and risky, intensive care, a whole variety of convalescent measures at home or in hospital, daily nursing visits when at home and, a particular blessing in the circumstances, he was able to spend the last two weeks of his life surrounded by his family at home, in a hospital bed with perfusion and three times daily visits from a nurse as well as regular ones from our family doctor. He could self-administer doses of morphine as needed and we were all with him when he died. Cost for us: Zero, entirely paid by French social security since he had a recognised “serious illness”. I sometimes tell this story now in talks to encourage the French and other Europeans to fight for all our public services, explaining to them we would have had to sell the house if we had lived in the United States. Since I have mentioned giving talks, it may be worth adding that after Smith College junior year abroad where I met and later married my French husband and living in France, I was able to win two higher degrees, a “licence” in philosophy, equivalent to a US master’s degree and allowing Immediate entry to the doctorate. Ten years later I got my PhD with honours in political science from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences sociales, a quite prestigious part of the French university graduate schools system. Cost—about $150/year in today’s dollars for inscription and insurance fees. Comment: Totally impossible for me cost-wise had I lived in the US. With 17 books and innumerable talks, articles and interviews for various social / ecological/ political causes since, mostly without fee, I feel I have “given back”, as Americans like to say. Note: My four grandchildren have now graduated from a variety of excellent, highly recognised schools [except for some at masters’ level with modest tuition fees] in several disciplines and—barring global warming disaster—are set for life. Long live Bernie Sanders!

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Canadian Healthcare Saved Our Son's Life #DAresists #Medicare4all

I am a U.S. citizen who moved to Toronto in 1980 to attend graduate school. While there, I met and married my husband, who was a seminary student at the time. In 2010, our nineteen-year-old son was diagnosed with a life-threatening brain tumor. Although the tumor was benign, it was compressing his brain stem, and required complicated surgery in two stages. Two full days' use of an operating room and three surgeons were required, so there was a slight delay until the necessary scheduling could be worked out. From the time of his diagnosis until his surgery took place was only a matter of six weeks. He was hospitalized for two weeks, then had six weeks of radiation a year later, and has had a series of MRIs and follow-up appointments at regular intervals ever since. I would not be able to begin to estimate the cost of his medical care over the past eight years - and the ongoing care he will need for the rest of his life. In all this time, the only bill we ever received was for the rental of a TV while he was in the hospital. We are a single income clergy couple, with a daughter who has her own medical concerns, so we would have been bankrupted several times over had we not had Canada's universal health care. I am happy to say that our son went on to graduate with honors from the University of Waterloo, and now works full time for a computer software company in Toronto. He will always have some disabilities as a result of the tumor, as well as the surgery and radiation. But for now, he is doing well. I'd like to conclude with a story told to us by one of our son's surgeons, who did a post-doctoral fellowship at Stanford. He had operated on a man who developed complications, and required additional surgery. As the man was being wheeled down to the operating room, a message was received from his health insurance provider, stating that the gentleman had maxed out his insurance coverage. The hospital staff were advised to take the man back to his room and discharge him. At that point, our doctor decided that he would return to Canada to pursue his medical career. Based on our family's experience, I cannot imagine living in a country without universal health care.

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#DAresists #Medicare4all

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.

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Health Care in Canada: #DAresists #Medicare4all

I moved to Canada in 1975 just after I married. At 28 and having been very healthy all of my life, I was quite naïve about the cost of healthcare in the US, and fell very easily into Canada’s single payer system. I bore and raised two children under it, never paying a single penny for healthcare, including maternity care, emergency stitches, tonsillectomies, and allergy specialists. Indeed, having to pay to give birth would have shocked me, I think. Regarding our family health, everything went quite smoothly until 1996 when my husband and I were involved in a car accident which left me a quadriplegic. We lived in Halifax but the accident occurred in New Brunswick and we were taken to the Moncton City Hospital where I spent a month in intensive care. I have nothing but the highest praise for the care I received in that facility, for which I never paid a single penny. At the end of the month I was moved to Halifax where I spent two more weeks in hospital care and then moved on to the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre. I spent 10 months in this wonderful facility, again not paying a single penny. I had to learn how to live all over again down to the basics of going to the bathroom, feeding myself, and finding the best way to read a book. I was helped to regain my strength and taught mobility necessities like how to transfer from the wheelchair to a bed. I met others with mobility issues and became comfortable with the idea that this wasn't the end of my world. At the rehab, my husband and I were counselled on how to best modify our home for my wheelchair needs and compromised hand mobility. We were helped to navigate government bureaucracies and insurance companies for continuing care and future financial needs. My time at rehab was invaluable and my gains could not have been accomplished within the six week time period that I understood US insurance companies allowed for rehab, at least back in 1996. Again, I paid nothing for the care I received in that facility. This past summer, because of severe osteoporosis from sitting in a wheelchair for 21 years, I broke both of my legs at different times. I received immediate care in emergency including same day admission to the hospital. Surgery was planned for the following day until the doctors and I together decided that it would do more harm than good. When deemed necessary, my doctors have been able to secure diagnostic tests for me within a couple of days – x-rays, colonoscopies and ultrasounds. My son was diagnosed with MS at the age of 24 and again has had only positive experiences with healthcare. NS pays for his very expensive drugs. In either of these cases, our family would have been met with catastrophic health care costs, if not then forced to sell our home or possibly go into bankruptcy, were it not for Canada's easy to access single-payer healthcare system.

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I had to quit my job in northern California... #DAresists #Medicare4all

I had to quit my job in northern California to bring my husband to Mexico for dementia care. There was no way we could afford care in the U.S. I had to leave my family and friends to come down here and oversee his care. I gave up my Plan F supplemental health insurance because of the cost and the fact that it does me little good down here in Mexico. I may get a high-deductible supplement to Medicare and use medical flight insurance but that only works if I can be stabilized and then sent home by plan in the event of illness or accident. That won’t work for my husband because a trip for him is next to impossible at his stage of dementia. I fail to understand why our insurance carriers will not pay for care in a country where medical care is much less expensive than at home. I suspect they have agreements with health care providers in the U.S. and gain some financial advantage since it’s always about money in that industry. There was a time when I believed in free enterprise in the health care system but judging the behaviors of drug manufacturers (who charge more to all Americans than to residents of other countries) and by the exorbitant costs of health care that will break the bank of all but the richest Americans, I have begun to consider the philosophy that health care should be a right rather than a privilege. This is from someone who traditionally has paid out of pocket for much of my health care and that of my family; not because we didn’t have insurance, but because we chose to use alternative medicine, which is seldom covered by insurance policies but which serve us well.

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Healthcare in Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

In British Columbia, Canada I pay $1,080 (about $830 US) per year for basic family health care, and my employer pays another $720. The employer also covers a plan through Blue Cross; for about $2500 I get extended health and dental care (for dental there is a user fee of about 20%). Total medical & dental insurance costs of $4,000 per year get us unlimited visits to our family doctor and specialists; no charge for hospitalization including a private room; subsidy for physiotherapy and other ancillary services; and 80% of our dental expenses. Our kids were covered up to age 21. We might have to wait 6 months for an MRI or orthopedic surgery, but we can pay privately for faster treatment. Low-income people get basic health care for free. There are no restrictions on pre-existing conditions and no caps. I remember going to the U.S. before Obamacare and seeing a jam jar in a restaurant raising money for some poor kid's heart surgery. Is this the future in America?

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British National Health Service #DAresists #Medicare4all

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.

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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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Perspective from UK #DAresists #Medicare4all

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

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Great ongoing treatment for chronic condition in Germany! #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have ulcerative colitis, a chronic autoimmune disease that affects my colon. Since moving to Germany, I have had several flare-ups, including a few that have landed me in the hospital. The worst though was when I got so sick my colon was actually bleeding. I ended up in the hospital for 15 days and needed 3 blood transfusions. Because my German public health insurance is so wonderful, the entire hospital stay - blood transfusions, various medications and IV drips, food, and everything else - cost me only 150 euros. That's 10 euros a day. (At today's exchange rate, that's just under $180 for the full 15 days.) Even with insurance, lengthy hospital stays in the US cost exponentially more and can bankrupt a person. I can't imagine what this would've cost me in the US, but I'm so happy to have this kind of health insurance and that getting the treatment I needed was so affordable. It's also worth noting, I don't pay a penny for doctor appointments - it's all covered by my health insurance. If I feel myself getting sick, my doctor is happy to squeeze me in for an appointment that day or the next day, which I was never able to do in the US. I also have to take daily medication for my disease. In the US, I had to pay for those pills up front until I hit my deductible. A 3 month supply cost about $1,500 in 2011. The full price of the same medication (under a different brand) here is around $200, and because of my insurance, I only pay 10 euros for a 2 month supply. This is because Germany, like many other countries, regulates what the pharmaceutical companies can charge for drugs. They aren't allowed to jack up the price to a point where people can't afford the medicine that keeps them alive. No one should have to sacrifice their health or die because they can't afford healthcare services. Ali Garland

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Never Again #DAresists #Medicare4all

As a former Officer of Marines, I essentially had fully socialised medicine or "Medicare" (Tri-care) from the government in that if I or any member of my family had a medical issue, we simply made an appointment, went in and received the care and any medication required without any worry that any single or multiple medical condition/issue would ever harm us financially in any way. No calls about billing, no exorbitant costs - i.e. no worries. After serving our nation for 11 years, I separated from the service and found myself with a civilian employer in the US. One night, our child grew dangerously ill and we felt compelled to take him to the ER in the middle of the night. At the end of it all, he spent one night in the hospital, was given Pedialite and had one IV inserted in his arm to re-hydrate him. We were shocked with a bill for over 5,000 Dollars (this was in 2005). I had full coverage insurance through my employer and overlap with Tri-care. Neither insurance company wanted to pay and the hospital came after us for the hyper-inflated bill. Considering that I was fully insured, I refused to pay. The battle went on for 5 years and finally Tri-care and my private insurer agreed to pay the hospital. What a nightmare... I have now been living with my family and working in Hong Kong for over 10 years. My employer gives me a medical card and my monthly medical payments are miniscule. I have full coverage medical care for myself and my family in Hong Kong and in the Unites States.  Additionally, we have no co-pay for any visits and there are no worries. I do not ever want to go back to the system in the United States which has the highest medical costs and the constant worry of inflated and overpriced medical bills and the worry of possible bankruptcy around the corner because of an unforeseen medical condition. We receive top-notch care here in Hong Kong top quality medical care here in Hong Kong and costs are kept very low removing the worry of financial hardship.  I have sampled many different medical systems throughout the world and they constantly demonstrate to me that the system in the U.S. is overpriced and undully hurts those that are less well off.  I am a believer in medicare for all and the Affordable Care Act.  No one should be ever be penalized financially for falling ill.  

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Accessible, Virtually Free, (but still) High Quality #DAresists #Medicare4all

French bureaucracy is infamous, and yet healthcare here is much more accessible and cheaper (duh) than it is in the States. My co-pays have always been a fraction of what they are in the States, even before I had a Carte Vitale or a French social security number. I'm sure this has been said, but women's healthcare in France makes American women's healthcare look dystopian. Birth control is available, cheap, and pharmacists are willing to help us out in moments of desperation, even if we don't have a perscription on hand (!!!). It's quite something to live in a country where the state doesn't perceive my body as its enemy.

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My grandson's treatment #DAresists #Medicare4all

My grandson, who is now 11 years old and living in Montreal, was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was 1 year old. This particular tumor does not metastasize, but it is life-threatening because as it grows in the brain it destroys other brain tissue. Especially in a child’s brain, it can be quite damaging. My grandson has been in active treatment for about six of his eleven years and under observation and monitoring for four years. Active treatment has included several kinds of chemotherapy and a 12-hour surgery to reduce the size of the tumor. Monitoring includes weekly appointments at the pediatric hospital for assessments including regular MRIs to track the tumor’s size, checks on his physical and cognitive development to assess the impact of the tumor on his brain, nutritional consultation given the impact of the chemotherapy on his appetite, etc. He has therefore had regular treatment by a large team of pediatric specialists. Total cost to his parents: nothing. Both his parents are musicians and could not have afforded private insurance that would have paid for this treatment. Throughout this, and except for the regular hospital visits, he has led a normal life. He is a charming and active young person with a very positive outlook on life, even though the tumor has affected his vision and his physical coordination. Early in this process, we checked with some medical contacts at major hospitals in the United States. They confirmed that the treatment he was receiving was exactly the same as he would have had at the best hospitals in the United States. In short, the Canadian health care system has provided excellent care over a long period at no direct cost his parents, in a case where he would have died long ago without treatment. I don’t know how much this would have cost in the US if the parents had paid directly, but I can’t imagine it would have been less than a million dollars.

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A Tale of Two ER Visits #DAresists #Medicare4all

Trip to the ER (or A&E as it's called here) no. 1: New Year's Eve 2012, struck down by the norovirus that was all over the UK that winter. Received excellent care even at my very busy local London hospital. Hospital bill: zero. Trip to the ER no. 2: summer 2013, a visit to my parents in Boston, severe gastroenteritis the day after I arrived. Received so-so care, a lot of unnecessary tests. Hospital bill: $7,000, which I spent the next two years fighting, eventually with the aid of legal representation. Did my excellent care in the London hospital come out of the slightly higher taxes I pay here in the UK? Yes. As do roadworks and other infrastructure improvements, firefighters, policing...I have no problem with this and I have no idea how any rational person, desirous of living in a civilized society, could.

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When Government & Healthcare Work Together #DAresists #Medicare4all

I'm an American, and now Canadian, working as a professor at a Canadian university. Moving to my new home country was one of the best and most serendipitous decisions my family and I have ever made. A few years ago, I was diagnosed and treated for a significantly large aortic aneurysm. While recovering in hospital, I was told that I had a large mass (cancer) on my kidney. This single-payer healthcare system saved my life twice so that I can continue to be a father, husband, and researcher/educator. My doctors routinely monitor me via scans, etc. The only things that I have been required to provide in return is my name, birthdate, and positive attitude. Great healthcare does exist beyond US borders.

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Great Coverage in Italy #DAresists #Medicare4all

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

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Vote for universal healthcare! #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have lived in Spain for 28 years. I have had numerous small illnesses, have high cholesterol, have had a number of x-rays and other tests, and even a broken leg in these years. I have never had to pay more than $20 at any time for any medicines (including statins), and all of my checkups, tests and other services have been free of charge. Usually medicines are under $5. There is a fee taken from my paycheck every month, pooled with everyone else's taxes, and this provided healthcare for the entire population. Waits for non-emergency services may be longer than I'd like, but I always have the option of paying a small fee (much smaller than in the US) to see a private doctor if I don't feel like waiting. I can easily make an appointment to see my GP online, and if it's more urgent I don't need any appointment. Emergency services are 24/7 at the hospitals, and they work effectively based on level of urgency (someone complaining of stomach problems which have been giving them trouble for weeks will go to the bottom of the list, obviously - they could have seen their GP at any time before going to the emergency room!). It's generally agreed here that the level of public healthcare is better than the private because they have more funding; the only reason people go to private doctors is to avoid queues or if they want special treatment like private rooms for birthcare, etc.

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Compelling story from Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

If I didn't have access to free health care in Canada, I might have died from ovarian cancer.

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Health Care #DAresists #Medicare4all

Hi, I am a Senior and have very little to live on. I have to pay for Medicare, but that still has a deducible, which is a lot of money to me. If I get extremely ill, I will not have the funds to pay for health care. I would hope you would think of your Seniors when forming a health care bill. Most of the Seniors today are still working, I am,because we cannot afford the minimal cost of living and health care. Thank you,

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