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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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.


Great experience in U.K. #DAresists #Medicare4all

When I lived in the US, I had medical care until I was 21 because my parents were working for the US military. After that, I had no medical coverage whatsoever until I managed to get a job with a company that was in an HMO network. Even then, I didn't want to see a doctor because of the co-pay and luckily I never had to go to the emergency room. Now, in the UK, I don't have to worry how much a doctor's visit will cost me. I can feel free to speak to a doctor about a mild pain I've had for years, or for a very bad migraine or illness. No, it's not perfect, but it's far better than what most people in the US have to deal with. Horror stories of people killing themselves because of medical bills don't exist in the UK. Cancer patients and car crash victims don't have huge bills that debilitate them for decades after surviving. Universal healthcare works!


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.)


Great experience from New Zealand #DAresists #Medicare4all

Last year I tore my ACL skiing in New Zealand while there on a working holiday visa. After a trip to the physio I learned about ACC; a program that provides healthcare coverage to everyone within the boundaries of New Zealand if they are injured in any type of accident. At the time I was 25 and had just lost my American health insurance the month prior when my dad lost his job. So my options were to stay in NZ and have knee surgery done without having to pay anything out of pocket, or return to America for surgery and be in debt thousands of dollars. As a recent graduate I was not too keen on adding medical debt on top of my student loans. I was due to leave New Zealand in 10 days and had no intentions of staying but obviously I had to for the surgery. It took me a while to get over how insane it was that I couldn't return to my OWN COUNTRY to have surgery where I'd have my family to take care of me. Lucky for me I had an incredibly generous group of Kiwis who got me through this difficult situation, both physically and emotionally. -Kaylyn Hobelman


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.


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


A Universal Healthcare system can coexist alongside capitalism #DAresists #Medicare4all

These Australian health care photos demonstrate that a Universal Healthcare system can effectively coexist alongside of capitalism. South Australia Health has brilliantly partnered with David Jones department store at Adelaide's Rundle Mall, for a space to provide free screening mammograms to all woman--even me as an American citizen residing in this great country. All woman to access the BreastScreen SA clinic had to pass through David Jones's shoe and lingerie department. I am sure products were purchased. A brilliant synergestic example of Universal Healthcare and Capitalism for a mutual financial benefit. Not to mention the ease, and reduction in fear for women to slip into pleasant store rather than an intimidating clinic for a mammogram. This also, provides for an increase in early detection as women more likely will get the recommended mammogram when either shopping or even better yet for some women, an opportunity to meet a friend at a nearby cozy cafe. I loved my mammogram experience and hope to share this partership opportunity back in the United States.


Scorecard: Money and Longevity #DAresists #Medicare4all

United States Italy Gross Domestic Product per capita $57,467 $30,527 Health spending per capita $9,892 $3,391 Life expectancy at birth 78.8 years 82.6 years What’s Their Secret? As an American physician practicing in Rome I'm convinced the main reason Italians get more bang for their health care buck is that they have a single-payer National Health Service, financed out of taxes. Everyone can see their own primary care doctor and be cared for in the hospital without paying a penny, while medications, testing, and specialist exams require at worst a tiny co-pay. Add in low income inequality and a famously healthy lifestyle, and Italy has more than enough on the plus side to compensate for its medical system’s many flaws. Susan Levenstein, MD


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.


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.


Bankrupt and Dead Three Times Over #DAresists #Medicare4all

I would be bankrupt and dead three times over without Sweden's universal healthcare system. As long as we've lived here I've been grateful for knowing that everyone is covered, everyone has health insurance. We're a community, we help each other. Then I had reason to need that help myself.

1. In 2010 I had HPV-induced tongue-base cancer which had spread to a lymph gland. I received six weeks of daily radiation plus weekly chemotherapy, followed by brachytherapy (radium inserted directly into where the primary tumor had been). I got a radiation burn which got infected and I was in the hospital for a week, plus another week with the brachytherapy and complications. I was on a feeding tube for three months because of extreme pain in my mouth and tongue. The cancer has shown no sign of recurring. I was charged $10/day while in the hospital to cover my food. I got heavily-subsidized food pouches for the feeding tube. I paid about $125 for all medical visits during the year, and about $225 for all prescriptions. I've had excellent follow-up care at the dental-surgery clinic because the radiation damaged the circulation in my jaw. A wisdom tooth became loose and was just removed after 4 weeks of hyperbaric (high-pressure) treatments breathing pure oxygen for two hours each day -- plus another two weeks after the tooth removal.

2. In 2013 I had bladder cancer. One polyp was "shaved" away and three smaller ones were cauterized. Later I had six weeks of BCG (weakened TB virus) treatments twice, and still later six weeks of chemo treatments directly in my bladder. There have been 6-month follows throughout this period. Costs are similar to those above (except that I haven't been in the hospital -- and the tests and procedures weren't as high-tech -- so okay, I might not have been bankrupt that time).

3. In 2016 I had heart failure -- my heart was beating irregularly and at three-times it's normal rate -- and could hardly breathe. I was in the hospital for two weeks during which there were all kinds of high-tech (and expensive) tests conducted (angiogram, MRI, ultrasound), culminating in atrial ablation (a tube was inserted into an vein in my groin, then threaded through to my heart where small patches were burned out (scarred) to prevent electrical signals from firing irregularly. Since then I've been on four daily medications, at least one of which is quite expensive. All this with costs as above.

I feel totally healthy. I'm 70 and slowing down, sure. But I'm not dead. I saw my daughter graduate medical school last June and start her first job as a doctor, and have also seen my son (who is younger) get his first job and thrive. My wife seems to like keeping me around too. (She was also a major help, of course, in getting me through each of these episodes, especially the oral cancer and heart failure.)

Thank you to Swedish universal healthcare!


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


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!


I would rather pay more for better healthcare #DAresists #Medicare4all

In the United Kingdom, I routinely receive sub-standard care and worry anytime anything significant occurs. Almost all the major procedures I have had in the UK resulted in some malpractice. Older people here are terrified of going to hospital because many die and not of the illness they were admitted for. I have no trust in the system. Many times the doctors who can see you for only 10 minutes just give you what you ask for without any tests or google just as you did. Diseases are identified late because prevention is not priority.


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.


Old age in Spain #DAresists #Medicare4all

We moved here in 2006-my wife has dual citizenship, and I became a permanent resident shortly afterwards. They gave me access to their health care system. I had a massive hearth attack in 2010- had surgery and they patched the pericardium. Im also a diabetic taking insulin. Im grateful to the care I receive here ,not sure we’ll be able to make in the Us


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


Universal Health Care=Freedom. #DAresists #Medicare4all

Many patriotic Americans see "freedom" as a core American value, but privatized health care severely limits one's freedom. As an American living in Canada, I have been free to make many important choices in my life without being constrained by health care needs. I made the choice about when to start a family because of universal healthcare. Shortly after attaining Canadian residency, my husband and I moved to Canada when I was 7 months pregnant with my first child. As we had both been completing our masters degrees abroad, we did not yet have jobs. I was provided the highest quality care in my pregnancy and childbirth, and throughout it all paid only $10 to park at the hospital. Following the birth there was support from public health nurses, midwives and doctors who called or visited my home to monitor me and my baby. A few years later I made the gut-wrenching decision to terminate a pregnancy with a fetus that faced severe life-long health issues. Nobody judged me, protested me, or forced me to jump through hoops. I was provided with sensitive and efficient care free of cost. When I made the decision to try again I was gently guided through my next pregnancy by health care workers sensitive to my previous traumatic situation, and delivered a healthy baby. And most recently, I have made the decision to leave a job I didn't love and start my own business doing work I was passionate about. I did not have to worry about the loss of healthcare benefits. While the universal health care system in Canada is not cost free (we pay some premiums, prescription drug costs, and excluded services like dental and optometry) and it is not prefect (there can be waits as patients are seen in order of urgency) I have found in my experience that it is equal to or better than the care my family receives in the US. And, universal health care gives me the freedom to make choices in my life that are best for me and my family. Meanwhile, I have observed my family in the US having restricted freedom because of lack of maternity leave, high health insurance costs, and general lack of affordability in their lives. Universal healthcare provides a privilege everyone deserves: freedom.


Incalculable Reassuring Comfort #DAresists #Medicare4all

I am a U.S. Citizen living abroad in Canada for almost two decades. Over that time I have developed a tremendous appreciation for the Canadian Healthcare system. I am deeply grateful that when I am ill, or a family member has been ill, the first thought has always been to get the appropriate, necessary treatment. When I lived in the States I lived through many periods of time with little or no healthcare. I would suffer unnecessarily to avoid the cost of care. Like so many Americans I thought I had to "be stoic" to avoid going into debt as "just a part of life." I no longer live with this fear in Canada. I have witnessed elderly friends admitted to very good nursing home facilities they could never afford in the States that are completely covered by the Canadian government. I have witnessed people treated with dignity regardless of their ability to pay. I have experienced recuperating from illness and injury without the fear and dread of the many "surprise" bills that will soon arrive in the mail. So my "healthcare story" is this: the Canadian Healthcare system - just by its very existence - has brought incalculable reassuring comfort and peace for my future into my life. Thank you