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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I love the NHS #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have been living in England for over 17 years (after having grown up in the US for over 25 years, with a father who was a doctor in the States up until about 1989), and have had numerous small treatments through the NHS, for both myself, my husband, and our two children. I have had a couple of minor surgeries for removing suspect moles (including one from my then 10-year old daughter), and have had two wonderful experiences with giving birth in a local NHS hospital (and the amazing after-care/home visits I received from health visitors for up to 6 weeks after giving birth) and haven't had to pay a penny (or pence) for any of our family's treatments, except of course the 20% basic rate tax I pay on my salary. I get free birth-control pills and if there has ever been a charge for a particular prescription I may have needed it has been extremely low (about £9.80 on average), and free for my children, including free ibuprofen (for pain). What this means to us as a family is we don't have to worry about anything like many Americans living in the States seem to, such as "what if I loose my job and I don't have my employer help me with insurance payments" or "what about my pre-existing conditions" or anything like that. The way the healthcare system is set up in England means that all of my family is automatically covered no matter what, and we don't have to worry if one of us suddenly gets ill. I wouldn't say we have never had to wait for appointments or results or such, but the waiting time seems to compare favorably with what I remember from the US system - and of course they prioritize appointments for children or urgent cases here. Overall I have no complaints about the NHS and think it's marvellous! I only wish the US could adopt something similar.

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Originally from Southeast Missouri... #DAresists #Medicare4all

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.

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A helpful roundup from Costa Rica #DAresists #Medicare4all

Regarding Costa Rica's public health care system, I have belonged to the CAJA for 19 years. The cost based on income is affordable. I pay on a voluntary basis. I pay per month. I receive all medical treatment and prescriptions without additional cost. However I supplement CAJA care with private specialists such as my dentist and ophthalmologist. I pay for eyeglasses myself. These services are available through the CAJA but I prefer having my choice of providers in these cases. Lynda Page

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Ernie lived 12 additional years. But what about our children? #DAresists #Medicare4all

Ernie was a loving husband, father and grandfather, the president and COO of his company and a tireless volunteer. He was a US citizen living in Toronto, Canada. In the year 2002, at the age of 68, he was diagnosed with Prolymphocytic Leukemia (PLL). According to medical estimates, he had 6 months to live. With the care of the best doctors and the Canadian universal health system he lived 6 more years! -- until his Canadian doctors told him he needed a medical treatment they were not able to give him at that time. Because he was eligible for US Medicare we were able to go to Chicago, where superb doctors gave him the treatments he needed. -- and he lived an additional 6 years! -- a vital productive life. Our primary expense was the cost of travel between Toronto and Chicago. But the actual cost of the medicine for just one treatment was $8,000.00 -- plus the cost of fees for medical personnel and the cost of the facilities and equipment where the treatments were given. We could barely afford one treatment; he had hundreds. Because Medicare paid the costs, we were able to have him with us for an additional 6 years. But without universal medical care, how will 40- 50- and 60-year olds be able to receive the life-giving treatments now available for leukemia and other cancer patients?

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A new hip and a new beginning #DAresists #Medicare4all

I live in Germany. In early July, I finally had the operation. I say finally only because I had to schedule it around my work schedule (I'm a self-employed musician). But even the weeks and months leading up to the big day speak volumes to the type of care that most of the western world takes for granted. As an aside, I have to mention how I pay for health insurance (and retirement insurance/Social Security/Rentenversicherung, and long term care insurance/Pflegeversicherung). It is through KSK (Kunstlersozialkasse). It is an income-based fund for those that work in the arts or publishing. Joining the organization was the first thing I did on the way to my residency permits and without it those would have been difficult at best, but more like impossible, especially for someone self-employed. A couple of years ago, I had first spoken about a pain in my hip with my GP. X-rays showed that it was arthritis taking its toll. From that point, it was up to me to decide when to have the operation, based both on my level of discomfort/pain, and work schedule. The GP wrote a prescription for ibuprofen tablets (most prescriptions are cost free, I think this cost me €5 for a generous supply. Doctor visits have no co-pay. There is no deductible for most costs). Of course I was free to also choose where to have the operation. And also free to get second or fourth opinions. All covered without questions by insurance. After about 1 1/2 years of dealing with the worsening condition, I ended up visiting a doctor/surgeon recommended by a friend. He worked out of a hospital in a very nice tree-filled area of the city, away from the craziness. From then on things moved rather quickly; updated x-rays, a meeting with the anaesthesiologist, a meeting for blood work-up and screening (it turns out they found a routine infection that was eradicated via a megadose antibiotic). Another reason for comfort with this particular doctor/surgeon is because of the device that he championed. It is a combination titanium and ceramic device, requiring no cement. The latter is better because in my case, I’m a bit young for the operation and it may have to be done again in 25-or-so years, depending on normal wear and tear. But this device will last longer than a traditional metal only unit. I checked in to the hospital (more accurately referred to as a Klinik, I believe because it is a private facility, as opposed to a Krankenhaus, which is public, but that needs to be verified) the afternoon before the surgery. Heh, none of this showing up at 6:00 AM on the day of stuff… The plan was to stay at the Klinik for 11 days, then move directly to a rehab facility for 3 weeks (!). All of this paid for through health and retirement insurance, without a deductible, except for €10 per day while at the Klinik. The room at the Klinik was shared with 2 other men The room at the Rehab facility was private, with all of the panache of a 1.5-2 star hotel… In other words basic, but good enough. As for the level of care, it couldn’t have been better, although hospital food is simply universally disliked. And the focus on infection prevention was incredible, as well. From the aforementioned infection treatment, to the constant reminders to use disinfectant, etc. As for recovery, it was the 2nd or 3rd day after the operation when the physical therapist already had me standing. From then on, daily exercises, then to getting around on crutches shortly afterward, to extended walks around the campus and neighborhood, and all of this while still at the Klinik. The move to the Rehab facility was done via taxi (paid for by insurance, of course) on a Friday morning. Checked in there (another gorgeous area of the city, right next to a park) and basically had the weekend free until the further rehab work would begin. I didn’t know what to expect at Rehab, but what was given was far more than anything I thought would happen. Not just the planned exercises (both in a health-club environment and physical therapy settings), but the seminars over nutrition and pain management, the one-on-one care from the therapists, nurses and doctors, financial advice and aid for those of us self employed and losing income while not working, the relaxation sessions, the time spent socially with other patients, etc. Day by day, better and better. Walks in the park to using stairs more than the elevator, the guidance and support from the staff, down time to practice or work on music (I had brought my computer and such with me). Also, it’s now 2 1/2 months since the operation, and rehab continues twice a week at a health-club-like facility in the city (one is given €5 per appointment for transportation costs!), and continued physical therapy at a second place. Again, to sum it all up, the experience was and continues to be wonderful. And with no worries for payment, what I could or couldn’t afford, even to the point of receiving some compensation to help with the loss of income, it is what most of the western world takes for granted, but what in the US is sadly and maddeningly argued over with all of the idiotic, uninformed fear mongering that goes along with it.

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No waiting / No cost #DAresists #Medicare4all

(Copenhagen, Denmark) Visited a Dermatologist earlier this year because of some sun damage on my nose. The dermatologist advised me that the damage was quite deep and along with a biopsy the damage would need to be treated by a plastic surgeon. The dermatologist informed me that someone from my local hospital would get in touch with me "soon" to schedule the biopsy and follow up surgery to remove the skin damage. Within 48 hours I had a call from the hospital offering me a choice of several different days/times that I could come in the following week. Following the biopsy, I had to wear a dressing for a few days while we awaited the results. The hospital sent me home with gauze, medical tape, ointment, scissors, and tweezers so I could change my own dressings. A few days later after the (negative) biopsy results, they scheduled my plastic surgery to remove the sun damage, and repair it with a small skin graft taken from my neck. The surgery was performed by a team of 4 - a surgeon, 2 nurses, and an anesthesiologist, who took their time and were clearly interested in my care and comfort. Follow up visits were required to remove the stitches, and later to two visits to check on the healing. In all, I probably filled out a total of 3 forms, never waited more than 15 minutes to see a doctor or nurse, and my total out of pocket expense was ZERO - well, actually I did pay the equivalent of about $2 for a bus ride home after my surgery because they told me I shouldn't ride my bike. Compare this to my last US dermatologist visit in 2015 for out-patient treatment of minor sun damage on my face. With what I'd consider pretty good private insurance from my Fortune 100 company policy, my out of pocket was $225. I waited about a week for my appointment (not bad), filled out reams of paperwork - mostly asking the same questions I'd answered in my previous visits, had to file additional paperwork with my insurance company, and was kept waiting 30 minutes beyond the time of my appointment to see the doctor, who was clearly overbooked and quite rushed.

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Suggestion from Panama #DAresists #Medicare4all

I am a dual citizen, born in Panama to American parents, so I qualify for Panama's public health care system. My late brother, who was born in the USA, was living in Panama as a non-citizen and when he came down with liver disease he had to return to the USA to be treated. He was dying and would have preferred to die in Panama. Those last six months in the USA cost Uncle Sam a LOT of money. Had there been a Medicare arrangement with Panama's public health system (the rapacious private hospitals are another matter), the US government could have paid the cost in Panama plus a mark-up and still saved a lot of money. So as the Medicare for All proposal gestates and progresses, will you consider coverage to Americans living abroad, for treatment abroad? Eric Jackson

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Share your story of universal health care in France #DAresists #Medicare4all

My husband and I have lived in France for ten years. We couldn't ask for better healthcare than that provided here. A regular doctor's visit costs only the equivalent of $27.00. We pay approximately $2400.00 per year for the two of us and that is based on our income; this covers 70% of our healthcare expenses. You can also buy a supplemental private policy to cover the remainder. If you happen to have a chronic costly condition like cancer or in my case Macular Degeneration, all costs are covered 100%. Emphasis is placed on preventative care. Flu shots, colonoscopies, and mammograms are provided to all. Everyone in France pays for healthcare according to their income. Those that cannot pay are covered as well. Drugs are significantly less costly than in the US. Hospitals and clinics are extremely efficient and well-run. We have never had to wait for an appointment or treatment. American citizens deserve this same kind of healthcare. If they had a better understanding of how it works they would demand it.

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Pneumonia in Argentina #DAresists #Medicare4all

In Argentina, there are two options: public health care, free for all, and a private option with private insurance companies. The private option is affordable. I am able to own a "Cadillac" plan paying on my own, out of pocket each month, as I work from home as an independent contractor. In 2012, I got pneumonia so serious that I spent five nights in the hospital. I was given a battery of tests: x-rays, Ct scans, blood tests. I was visited by a dietitian who built my hospital meals according to my illness and medications. I was visited daily by a physical therapist who taught me breathing exercises. I was visited by a hematologist daily who monitored my white blood cell count. I was visited by countless nurses and doctors around the clock and given breathing treatments. All of this treatment was included in my private health plan and I had to pay nothing on top of the co-pay I paid for my emergency room visit to be admitted. It's comforting to know that if I get sick I will be taken care of. I work hard and more than a full time schedule, more than 40 hours a week. But in the USA, working from home as a contractor, I wouldn't be given any insurance. I would be looked on as lazy for not getting a "real job" and getting insurance that way. This is unacceptable. There is also public healthcare here that offers comparable service to the private options. The difference is the infrastructure, the private hospitals are more modern, more polished. I've had friends go to public hospitals for surgeries and check ups and are charged nothing. I want to move home to the United States one day. The only thing, the ONLY thing that concerns me is the gamble of health insurance. What if I get into a car accident? What if I get sick? Will I lose everything? I shouldn't be afraid to move home because I may get sick.

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Neonatal Health Care in the UK #DAresists #Medicare4all

My daughter was born at 28 weeks weighing one and a quarter pounds and was 11 inches long. She was in the neonatal unit for just under four months. My husband and I were provided with accomodation at the hospital just down the corridor from the neonatal unit. My daughter received excellent care andas parents we were very well supported. This was an extremely stressful time and I am grateful that we didn't have the added stress of having to finance the medical care my daughter received, not only when she was an inpatient but as an outpatient for monitoring and follow up for many years. It makes a real difference to be able to access healthcare without worrying that you will not be able to afford the care you need. It is tragic that in the USA many people end up neglecting their health and the health of their families because of cost and easy access to services. It is nothing short of criminal to deny people the health care that everyone needs and deserves.

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Health Care refugees in Germany #DAresists #Medicare4all

With health care under attack in the United States, we are now having to come to grips with Americans living abroad becoming health care exiles, not only because of pre-existing conditions, but because of quality and cost of health care overall. Jim and Jane P. are both health care exiles. They moved to Germany for work twenty years ago (while in their 50’s) and decided to retire here. However, like many Americans, most of their assets are in the United States as well as their home. While they are proud Americans, they cannot live there. Four years after retiring, Jane was diagnosed with Castleman’s Disease, a rare autoimmune disease affecting the lymph system. They were informed that there were just 2 specialists in the world who could help, one being a German-trained Dutch doctor in Little Rock, Arkansas. The German health care law states that if they cannot treat a disease in Germany, they have to send you where it can be treated. The German system paid for both to go to the U.S. (flight and accommodation) and Medicare paid for the 3-month hospital stay. According to U.S. regulations, Jane could not stay more than 3 months in the hospital as her treatment could technically be done as out-patient. While the cost of the experimental drug was $10, the cost of administering was $10,000 (due to profit and malpractice insurance) per treatment. Jim and Jane would have had to pay this out-of-pocket had they stayed in the U.S. after the 3 months. They returned to Germany where Jane went through two years of chemotherapy (total out-of-pocket excluding monthly insurance premiums was around €3,000 as opposed to an estimated $100-200K in the U.S.) Jane has been cancer-free for the past four years. Jim had a heart attack last year and needed a triple by-pass. His total out-of-pocket cost was €310 for ten days in hospital and three weeks in rehab. Prescription drugs for blood pressure are limited to €10 for a 3-month refill. Their monthly insurance premiums are 15.7% of their gross income with a cap in Germany of €700 per month. Jim is actively lobbying the Senate with his proposal for fully-funded healthcare. The response so far has been null, which means that we all need to step up our efforts to help our Congressmen and Senators understand that this is the “art of the possible” not a pipe dream.

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Raising a child with Marfan Syndrome #DAresists #Medicare4all

Although I only planned on moving to Ireland for a year, I ended up meeting my current husband and am now raising a family here. As incredibly health conscious individuals, we never relied on healthcare other than the occasional broken bone. This changed two years ago when my daughter failed her eye test in junior infants (the equivalent of kindergarten). They discovered she had a rare, spontaneous genetic condition that required almost immediate eye surgery and will mean ongoing cardiac, ophthalmology and orthopaedic treatment her entire life. My husband has worked in teaching for 25 years and has a stable but not high paying job; I worked in the non-profit sector (ironically with blind people). Without universal healthcare, we would have been destroyed emotionally, financially, and spiritually. While healthcare here is far from perfect, it allows our family to live stress free and remain active, healthy citizens who contribute to the well being of society. It is insane Congress would consider anything less than universal healthcare. #DAresists #Medicare4all

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Unexpected devastating illness #DAresists #Medicare4all

In January, my 24 year old daughter had a very serious, unexpected stroke in NY. She was hospitalized in a local hospital where they were slow to diagnose and where she received no care. When, thanks to personal connections, she was transferred to a better hospital, she began to be treated with an unfortunate wait of over 24 hours. We arrived very quickly, and for the next 4 months, we were caught in a nightmare of insurance difficulties. This is despite the fact that she had a good job with good insurance. She was able to stay in acute rehab only a short period of time, despite her obvious need for more, because of insurance limitations. In the sub acute rehab, we were never clearly told whether she was being covered since the communication was only verbal between the facility and the insurance, and RETROACTIVELY we were told that they were supposedly not paying for 60 days of stay!! In addition, the doctors who saved her life have sent us huge bills that we cannot pay because they were out of network. This is all insane and caused us huge stress over the already enormous stress of this terrible event. When we got back to France as soon as was possible,she was immediately declared to have a major medical problem and thus covered by the government insurance at 100% (rather than the common 70%). She was hospitalized for another month, and is now being treated in a day hospital four days a week, in addition to having private therapy on the other days. All this is completely free. In addition, her transportation to and from the day hospital is provided free. In contrast, she would be completely out of benefits in the US if she had been obligated to stay. This situation of American lack of health care is absolutely inexcusable and needs to change.

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Not One Dollar Out of Pocket for Two Major Surgeries in a Year: O Canada! #DAresists #Medicare4all

First, there was 2016's surgery for cancer; then a total hip replacement in spring of 2017. There was no "co-pay," outrageous hospital bills, or other financially distressing charges: just first-rate medical care throughout both procedures: O Canada!

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It took care of me, but it's not just about me #DAresists #Medicare4all

After a motorcycle fall and a subsequent biking accident, my right ACL ligament just snapped. Of course to confirm that this was in fact the reason I could no longer climb stairs, lift my leg high enough to get into the shower, or get into and out of a car, I needed several doctor's appointments and an MRI - after the emergency room visit. Which provided crutches and a support bandage. After the diagnosis, surgery. After the surgery, stitch removal and physical therapy. Now I have two fully functioning knees and am only about $200 poorer. I pay reasonable income taxes in France every year and I have absolutely no problem with our securité sociale (healthcare system) taking care of everyone who needs it. How can we have a healthy society without healthy people?

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Multiple Sclerosis in the UK #DAresists #Medicare4all

I've lived in the U.K. For fifteen years. Ten years ago my balance on my right side became strange so I booked an appointment with my GP. I was referred to a neurologist who then gave me numerous tests including an MRI, lumbar puncture, blood work and more appointments. Ultimately my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis was declared. Over the years I've received great care including regular consultant appointments, blood tests, MRI's, related dr appointments and prescriptions. All of the cost of these amounts to my yearly contribution of £170.00. I know this because being self employed I see what I pay when I register my taxes every year. The cost of prescriptions is £8.00 each which is very reasonable. Now that I claim disability allowance my prescription charge is 0. These prescriptions are not generic labels. Last year I opted for a new immunotherapy drug which cost me nothing. I'm told the cost of the drug is approximately £74,000.00. Because I've had that treatment , I now have monthly blood work, MS nurse appointments for the next three years all no cost to me. That's not to mention my usual bi annual neurologist appointment and an MRI every four month again, no cost to me. My illness is chronic. I've been told by friends who've gone through heart problems, cancer and other emergencies. They all receive care immediately and have excellent after care. I don't know where I'd be without the NHS and my main feeling about it is to be grateful. I watch my family in the States go through hoops of insurance, HMO's, PPO's, co pays and prescriptions costs that are soo high. When you are ill all these extra worries seem inhumane and cruel. I love the NHS. It does work. If everyone pays a little in, the system can work.

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Knee, not bank, took a beating #DAresists #Medicare4all

I was able to have my knee operated on four times with barely anything paid out of pocket. These operations were done by top-notch doctors in well-equipped hospitals. After my operations, I had months (actually, years) of physical therapy completely paid for through France's universal healthcare system. I feel so lucky to have gotten injured in France and not in the United States.

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A great experience from Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

My wife & I were both unemployed when a checkup found out she had life threatening anemia. She was admitted to hospital immediately, given multiple transfusions, and a barrage of tests including cardiac stress test, ultrasound, MRI, and colonoscopy. It was a horrible week; I was terrified there was something serious and she was too weak to care. We were lucky - we didn't have to worry about the cost wiping out all our savings. The medical team was terrific, and because she shared a room and didn't rent a TV, and we left the hospital with a bill for zero dollars. Every time I think about that summer I am profoundly grateful for the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, and I shudder to think where we'd be had that happened while we were in the US. Yes, it took me longer than I would have liked to get an MRI for a minor shoulder injury, but the Canadian system came through when we needed it most and if my wait meant someone else with a more serious condition had their life saved after a timely MRI, I'm ok with that. S Stephens

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I Wish Americans Could Have Healthcare Like This #DAresists #Medicare4all

My Rheumatoid Arthritis was under control since 2008, but two years ago it got significantly worse. I couldn't even walk into the next room in the morning or go down the stairs. As an elementary school teacher, I was worried that I would have to retire very prematurely. I made an appointment right away with my rheumatologist who recommended adding a new medication. Thanks to our fantastic German healthcare (the state kind -- not private), I am easily able to get the medicine I need to keep working and enjoying my life and it only costs me 10 Euros a month. I don't pay any copays for my doctor visits at all. I choose my own doctors and I get appointments when I need them. I wish that all Americans had access to healthcare like this!

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