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. (Read our press release here)
Please note that the stories below are all user submited and reflect individual opinions.
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.
17 years in the UK and I've had kidney surgery and have suffered a heart attack. For the latter the treatment was immediate, of course, but also the followup care was terrific. For the kidney stone surgery I had to wait four months but I wasn't critical and it was very successful. Since I've turned 60 all of my medications are now free. Great system! #DAresists #Medicare4all
I get so fed up hearing conservatives in America lament about how terrible national health care is! I have never had to wait for an urgent appointment and can be seen the same day, if needed. I have been hospitalised twice since living in England and both times I have received exemplary care. There are some differences in the style of room. In the US hospitals have become such big business that they tend to look more like spas! Here in the UK the hospitals do not look as glitzy. And I was in a ward, rather than a private room. Truly, it, too, was a wonderful experience as the other ladies were all very supportive of each other. It is amazing to go to the doctor and not have to hand over any money. Yes, our taxes are higher than in the US, but I receive quality health care, consistently and worry-free care to boot.
I am a GP in the British NHS. I went to one of the best US medical schools and prepared to work in the US system but then I fell and love and moved across the pond. The best thing about the NHS from my point of view as a physician is that I can be honest with my patients about what they need, what they could have and what I wouldn't do without cost coming into the conversation. The degree of trust they have in me and my profession is the highest of all professions in the country, over priests and rabbis. I treasure that. Yes we don't always have access to the "newest drug" but I have learned that the newest is not the best and sometimes new means untested and actually dangerous. As a patient I the sense of security I have that I don't have to worry about whether my condition is covered or will I go bankrupt from a treatment. Do we have problems, yes but no more than the US. I think it is good that elective surgery can't happen the day of diagnosis. A cooling off period to consider the options is good. I have never had to wait in an emergency and the care I get overall is pretty good. Not perfect but no worse than the stories I have heard from my colleagues and family in the USA.
I have several non-life threatening pre-existing conditions. They are inconvenient, at times painful, and at times wholly disruptive. They come with risks down the road. When I was in the US for a few years I was silently suffering — even with the ACA, my deductible was significantly higher than the cost of regular specialist checkups and screenings. The cost of my meds was literally prohibitive. Back in France, I am free to get the care I need, even as a freelance writer. I pay into the system and the value I get for my payments transcends any desire to have a market-based "freedom of choice" because I have the quality care and peace of mind that allow the rest of my life to continue normally. That's Real freedom of choice — the choice to have a LIFE. There's a reason people say "If you don't have your health, you don't have anything." Health and the care required to maintain it are fundamental to our existence, and France among many other countries in our world gets it. Moral arguments aside (there's no shortage of those) the US could be so much more if it cared about its human capital as much as its capitalism.
My wife passed away in January of this year from ovarian cancer. She was diagnosed 17 years ago so we had 17 years of cancer care along with normal health care. During her last year, as is typical, she consumed a lot of physician & hospital care as well as medicines. Never once in 17 years did I worry about the cost. During all those years I could focus on keeping a positive attitude and helping her keep positive. I believe that positive attitude gained us several additional years together. And during that last , most difficult, year, I could focus on assisting her as her body gave way to the disease. All this, positive thinking and personal assistance during the last year, was made so much easier by not having to worry about cost. KEITH MULLETT and in memory of my wife MYRIAM
As a teacher in Malaysia, I have experienced their healthcare system. It is the same model we have the USA with both private and government healthcare. However, healthcare is much cheaper and much quicker as doctors from other countries are allowed to practice in Malaysia. I could see a doctor in 5 minutes if I needed it in a non emergency situation. Prescriptions are much cheaper as well. My medication costs 1/5 of the cost in the USA. It just proves that prescription drug companies are trying to gain every cent from Americans. I can be in and out of a doctor's office in 30 minutes with a medication I need for 50rm. Last time in the States, there was a waiting period of 1 month and I was charged 400$ USD for a 30 minute visit and 100$ for the medication. America needs to learn from other nations on how to be more effective with not only the structure of healthcare but how to not let drug companies hike the prices of medications.
Last year, I hit the tropical disease double whammy of dengue and shigella! I'm just lucky to live in a country where 10 hours in a hospital at the specialist unit for tropical diseases, a battery of tests over three days and doctors and nurses calling me at home to check on my status cost me exactly: ZERO. And this year, I tripped and fell while running. The soft neoprene brace I use cut into my skin severely. Stitches, X-ray and antibiotics cost? £8.60 (for the meds). All tolled, including waiting for pharmacy, two hours. Long live the NHS. May the US see the light.
When I lived in the US, I had to pay a $200 deductible every month when I got my prescription asthma medication refilled. In Canada, the medicine is covered by the public insurance, so I don't need to make the choice to forgo my asthma medications.
I have lived in the UK for ten years and have been fortunate to be healthy the majority of the time. But the security I feel in knowing that I can see my doctor even for small things (before they become big things) is something that doesn't get mentioned often enough. As a young person that doesn't make a lot of money, I would be in a very different position in the States, and wouldn't be able to address issues with my health until it was an emergency. Nobody should have to be put in that position. I have had the freedom to leave jobs without worrying about losing my benefits and losing access to healthcare, and the impact this has had on my well-being and mental health cannot be overstated. Obviously, there are so many more reasons why universal healthcare is the only system that makes sense!
American society has made life easy for me because I am male, white, and straight, and I don't have any disabilities. So you would think that I would never have to go without my basic, Human needs being met by my society. Such as basic healthcare. But life is complicated, and in 2004, my basic needs DID go unmet by my society. I was between jobs, had to go to the emergency room for heat exhaustion, and ended up with a $2800 bill, which I didn't have the money for. I was scared. I wrote to the hospital and told them this, and they forgave almost all of the bill. But is that the way it's supposed to be in such a rich country? A citizen who supposedly is everything the society idealizes, no longer all that ideal when he suddenly needs healthcare? If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. And it does. Please give all Americans affordable health care. #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.
Here in France my parents both received excellent care for their cancers which were detected early thanks to all the help getting free screenings and cheap visits to specialists. I also received great care after a sport injury that required a shoulder operation, from identifying what the issue was with scans to my rehabilitation which cost me pennies with a great physical therapist. I hope the US will implement universal healthcare, it is something everyone needs at some point or another in their life.
Living and having grown up in Canada it has never crossed my mind that I would have to worry about medical costs should I get sick. If I don't feel well I go to the doctor, receive care, end of story. Now, I may have a prescription cost which I do have extended coverage from my employer, but to not have to worry about a cost just to visit the doctor which means I catch things early before they have the chance to become more serious. Yes, there may be longer wait times for some tests or procedures, but if it's an emergency there are no wait times. I am more than happy to wait a bit longer for a non-serious condition test if it means I can rest easy that I will not have to go into financial ruin because of it. Universal health care is the only humane form of health care.
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.
Last September I fell and couldn't get up. The spirit was willing but my femur wasn't, as evidenced by my right foot sticking out at a 90 degree angle from what I presumed to be my leg. Someone called the pompiers, who scooped me up and drove me (at no cost to me) to the nearest hospital. There I had to wait a day while they took more urgent cases (one woman was aborting), but the next they replaced my femur with a titanium rig guaranteed not to set off alarms at airports. I was placed in a private room and a therapist came daily for 10 days to walk me around the halls. Nurses fed me, helped me into and out of bed and spoke French at me, which forced me to speak my appalling French to them. After I was sent home, another therapist came twice a week to coach me in walking again and teach me exercises. Nurses came daily to message my leg and give me pills, probably anti-coagulants. (As a tough-guy American, I declined pain medicine.) The whole episode cost me 14,000 euros. (Had I been French, it would have been free.) In the U.S., it would have cost in excess of $100,000. Recovery was predictably slow. I am only now learning to run, very gingerly and slowly, on absolutely flat paving. I have nothing but praise for the French health car system. I have read that it is ranked the best in the world. Australia's is ranked second, with the American somewhere near the bottom in quality and highest in cost. Wright Salisbury
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.
I live in Denmark and have two wonderful, active children ... * Starting with two beautiful births, in water, with everything required for my wife's and the children's safety and comfort ... free, well planned and safe * Uncountable trips to the emergency room for ankles, arms, concussions, ... free, very close by and fast * Meningitis scare with fast specialist escalated treatment, two days in the hospital on a children's ward ... free, well-managed and compassionate * All dental up to the age of 18, annual check-ups, braces, and - even just yesterday - severely bashed front teeth ... free, on school premises or very close by Denmark is doing a lot of 'fiddling' with the healthcare system, but moving away from single payer is not on the agenda. The peace of mind it brings us to have free, high-quality healthcare available on demand for our children is immeasurable.
My partner has beaten cancer twice. Her spirit and willpower to beat it are a daily inspiration to me. But under any of the GOP's plans, her survival is considered a pre-existing condition and we would not be able to afford insurance. Here in Australia she received the medical care she needed to beat cancer, as have so many others that we met during her treatment, and she has gone on to get her Masters degree and contribute to Australia. Forcing Americans to choose between death and bankruptcy will not make our country great. It's time to not repeal the ACA, but develop it into Medicare for All.
I have lived in the UK since 1985 (minus 1988-1990 in California). I have always had very good support from my local doctors and their offices. Usually you can call in the morning and get an appointment the same day from one of the staff doctors at the office. Waiting times vary from 10-45 minutes, usually 15-20 mins.
I have had the usual range of illnesses over that period, plus recently prostate cancer and cataract surgery. I have not paid a penny for any of my superb treatments: cataract lens replacement (brilliant), prostate cancer treatments, including DaVinci robotic prostatectomy, and thirty-three IMRT computer-controlled radiation treatments follow-up. I’ve had many addition surgeries and procedures on my urethra etc.
My bus/train travel was even rebated to me until I turned 63 and I now have a 100% free travelcard in the London area for buses and trains. I continue on a variety of medications, all 100% free and supplied at my local pharmacy. (There is a flat fee of about $12 per subscription before the age of 60, usually)
Without exception, every staffmember and doctor has treated me with skill and respect, and a genuine joy at being able to help me. I am blessed.