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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.
Several years ago, my daughter was diagnosed with Lymphoma. That's the kind of news that can be devastating. But thankfully, because we live in Israel, our only worry was how to get this 21 year-old girl healthy. If I had still been in the US, I would be bankrupt by now. When your child gets sick, all you want to do is help them get better and your biggest worry should be taking care of them, not money. Today, with this illness in her past, she gets free dental check ups (which isn't covered by our system), pays a tiny sum every year for her PET-CT, and as a cancer survivor, she's now on the most comprehensive plan available at no extra cost to her. If you ask me, anyone who would deny another person access to healthcare is a murderer, and should be jailed for life.
I am an American who has been living and working in France since 1991. Even as far back as my first days here I had access to healthcare through my boyfriend's (now husband) policy. Some 20+ years later, following a routine mammogram (some costs covered by National healthcare the remaining costs covered by my private additional insurance) I was diagnosed with an early stage breast cancer. During this frightening time, one thing I never had to worry about was how I was going to pay for treatments. In France, a cancer diagnosis means that your National healthcare coverage goes automatically up to 100% for all treatment related to this diagnosis. Two operations, radiation therapy and a 5 year daily chemotherapy regime have all been covered. My only out-of-pocket expense was a bone density scan, 39€, which my private health care policy reimbursed. I am cancer free now but live with the lingering back of the mind fear that the cancer could come back, but I never have to worry that this "pre-existing" condition will stop me from reaching for and obtaining my professional and personal goals. Since my diagnosis and treatment, I have changed jobs and during a pre-hire medical check-up I was able to freely talk about my medical history without fear that would block me from getting hired....I'm year into my new job and loving it!
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.
Here in Germany I'm surrounded by people who don't have to live with the existential angst of not being able to pay for health care. It makes for a very relaxed and privileged atmosphere, in comparison to the US. During my 3 pregnancies, I had a midwife come to my home after giving birth and showing me everything from breastfeeding to binding a baby wrap. I even got free acupuncture during the pregnancies. When I was self-employed, insurance only cost less than 200 EUR. There are no waiting times to get appointments and the doctors are first-class. I could go on, but I will spare you. I think you get the point. I sometimes joke, that when it comes to health care and other social services, I feel like I've died and gone to heaven.
Actually, because of our "socialized medicine" here, our various contacts with the rehab center (wheelchairs primarily) have been set up for us by our local health complex. Tom and I didn't have to "reach out to them". We have an occupational therapist from this local health care center who communicates also with the ALS clinic at the neurological hospital, which is also fully staffed with an ALS physical therapist, another OT specific to ALS, a respiratory specialist, ALS nurse, nutritionist, psychiatrist, social worker and chaplain. On that communication circuit are also our local Victorian Order of Nurses (NOVA) who come to do foot care and provide trained caregivers (for a minimal cost, part of which is covered by government, but also partly recoverable by tax deductions) from 9:30 to 3:30 every day now. We have a 10,000$ electric wheelchair, custom made for Tom, on loan from that rehab center and all the OT equipment one could possibly need. Our house was remodeled -- doors widened, ramps and elevators added, bathroom made larger for the wheelchair -- all with government grants. We live in Quebec, which is reputedly the best province for health care. Mind you our taxes are substantial, but we pay them with incredible gratitude for this care which is available to EVERY resident citizen. Our NOVA organization also has a monthly group for the primary caregivers (usually spouses) of ALS patients. We are WELL cared for. At times like this, Tom literally cannot reach out. That's the thing with illness.
Living and working in Germany sincentre 2008. We pay a bit more monthly for our basic healthcare...But it's predictable. A set % of your income, maxing out around 400$/month...forever. No additional costs for emergency care. No surprise fees. Moderate to short wait times. Very happy so far compared to my American experience of surprise! high bills. We have a private dental plan and private hospital supplementary insurance on top of the basic plan. A good mix!
We have universal healthcare here in Luxembourg. The first time I went to the doctor with my son it cost €30 ($35) and all but €3 was reimbursed two weeks later. When I went to the pharmacy for his antibiotics it cost just €1.73. When I went to get a check up at my GP for my thyroid again it cost €3. When I went for my blood tests, which would have cost at least $2,000 in the US, they charged me €0. Both my children are getting orthodontic treatment which when I left Seattle two years ago would have cost about $20,000 per child if we were lucky. Here it will cost less than €1,000 out-of-pocket by the time we are done. We don't have insurance premiums, we don't have insurance cards with co-pays and different levels of service. Everyone is treated the same here. That my friends is what universal healthcare is like in Luxembourg.
Not only have I enjoyed the affordability of health care within the German system, (such as 5-10euro copays on prescriptions and even hospital stays!) as a freelance artist, my contribution to basic monthly costs is cut in half. This is because anyone who is employed, has the same deal by their employer. The system recognises a need for working artists to have this basic level of support. Additionally there are many extra services to catch people in crisis situations, which are provided separately by the government, and do not even go through the health care system. So that anyone in need can receive temporary help to get back on their feet. It's true that there is a bit more bureaucracy, and things can take longer to move through the system. But here in Germany, with patience and putting one foot in front of the other, you can get the help/support/health care you really need - when you need it. And they treat you as a human being, so that you just feel better during the process as well! Also as an artist, I can't even imagine having children in the United States, but the system here provides monthly subsidies for pregnant women, and even a small subsidy until the child is 18. Since moving here, is the first time in my life I ever imagined the possibility to raise a child on an unstable freelance artist income! It puts a smile on my face, to know I could continue my work AND have a family in the future.
I am a healthy young adult living in the United Kingdom. Although the NHS certainly has its problems and is underfunded, it is still fantastic! Just knowing that if I were to pass out at work again (I have low blood pressure) I wouldn't be telling the paramedics not to take me to the hospital because I can't afford it, as I did in the US. Even dental work, like fillings, costs about 20 quid, when it would likely cost hundreds of dollars without coverage. Even though I miss the US at times, I'm terrified to return if Obamacare gets repealed. The United States NEEDS a single payer system. It makes no sense to continue lagging behind the developed world. The peace of mind that if there were some accident or if I were to get sick, it wouldn't bankrupt me, is such a comfort.
I live in Ireland and have access to low-cost universal universal healthcare. Ireland is a little different as we are on a two-tiered system - public and private - and the public option isn't free (unless you have a medical card) but it is very cheap. If I go to the doctor, it cost me €50. If my doctor refers me to a specialist on the public option, it is free. Same for emergency room. I once had to go to the emergency room and have X-rays - that cost me only €60 total. We also have a prescription scheme here that caps the amount you pay for prescriptions at a certain amount each month. Once you hit that amount, if you need to fill more prescriptions within that month, you don't have to pay for them. This is useful for expensive birth control and other types of medication. I hope this helps! Hilary Gray
As a doctor/medical physician in India, one developing country slowly rising out of the economic pit into a possible new economic super power, still has healthcare for all. There are drawbacks but still available. No one is turned away for reasons of lack of finance or insurance, rather they may be turned away because of the lack of space. Having worked in a Government run hospital, no emergency patient was turned away, once we had to since there was no more space, which means no floor space to place a mattress on the floor, we were working at double capacity with beds filled and beside each bed on the floor another mattress with a patient. We had to refer to our neighboring government hospital. Medicines had to be bought, and those who could not even afford this the doctors would pressure the pharmaceutical representatives to supply the necessary dosages for these poor patients, at times we had to sell our soul to the devil for these precious medications so that we could help patients. I don’t understand while the rest of the world enjoys healthcare, even the poorest, with the help of the government funding, why can’t our government for once ignore the bottom line and those who feed on that line (the “bottom feeders”) and serve the very people they were elected to serve? There is a reason I have invested heavily in health insurance here, I know I will not have to fight long hard battles for my stay in the hospitals etc with a company. People here are worried about the availability of medicines rather than medical care. There is a tier service, however that medical care is available is the issue. It is a sad day when people cannot get care because of cost that is driven not by anything else except the pharmaceutical, health insurance companies, and the legal system demanding high insurance rates from my American resident physicians.
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.
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.
The easy accessible free birth control here in Sweden is great. It promotes a healthy outlook on sex, especially amongst young people like myself. Apart from the obvious benefits of reduced unwanted pregnancies it helps young women deeling with menstrual issues such as extensive pain. There is also a follow up on side effects which help you find what is right for you and your body. And it's completely free resulting in no one being excluded from this much needed but not always prioritized care.
One day when I was riding my bike, my left hip sublaxed. I didn't think much of it the second and third time. It came to a point where I could barely walk without excrusiating pain. At 26 years old I didn't think this was normal. After a trip to my GP I was diagnosed with hip dysplasia. There was a local doctor who was a specialist in treatment and we scheduled a surgery for 4 months later. After a 8 day stay in the hosptial I only had a bill of 350 euros. I live in Belgium and was suggested to take out a hospital insurance for 150 euros per year on top of my 75 euros a year universal healthcare. This covered my entire stay and the rehibilitation for 3 months. If I had been in the US it would have cost me around $500,000 without insurance. Now I can bike pain free and live my life. I don't know what I would have done without the Universal healthcare. And the sad thing is that since I was born with the defect, I would have been rejected the surgery as a pre-existing condition. Please Congress help everyday people get the care they need and deserve. By providing healthcare in a system that keeps costs in check we can manage it. You never know what the next day will bring and what your needs will be even in the short term.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003....I am an American expat who lives in Canada....I am now a dual citizen...but believe me, I Vote!!! When I had cancer, the tests, mamms, ultra sounds, and a bunch more...all of my treatment and surgery and medications were paid for....Everything! I feel that in such stressful times, and some are ongoing and never ending, All Americans, old and young, rich and less rich, pre-existing condition or not....All have and deserve the right to Universal Health Care.... Please do not let anyone decide who should live or die or suffer...we can afford it....who is brave enough to donate those campaign donations to create and Implement this oh so important subject....history will remember!!
We moved from the US to the UK around 15 years ago. Britain's National Health Service is a taxpayer-funded universal health service, run by the government and available to all citizens and legal residents and free at the point of use. These are its founding principles and the NHS has broad public support which crosses all party lines. I suppose the NHS is probably one of the purest examples of "socialised medicine." My daughter was diagnosed with thyroid cancer as a young adult. Once the diagnosis was made she was operated on within weeks. The surgeon was very skilled, the nurses very attentive and the hospital was white-glove spotless. Once she had sufficiently recovered from the surgery she was again hospitalised for the radiation treatment. Five years later she is now cancer-free. She has yearly followup visits with the oncologist, and has to take thyroxine for the rest of her life. At the time, my daughter was a student and part-time coffee shop barista. She paid not a penny out of pocket for her treatment, and gets her ongoing prescriptions at no cost. The Brits view healthcare as a human right and the National Health Service as a mark of a civilized society. Americans certainly deserve no less.
I moved to Hungary 4 years ago and my husband and I decided to sign up for the TAJ (Hungarian Health Care). We have paid an average of $200 per month each as we are required to pay into their social security system for the first five years. In 2018 our cost will be reduced to $40 per month as we will have our permanent residence cards then. There are no co-pays or deductibles. In January this year I broke my elbow when I slipped on some ice. We went to the emergency room as it was 13:00. I went it and was registered right away. I was seen, xrayed and casted in less than one hour. Everyone was professional and helpful and it didn't cost one dime more. I had numerous folliw up visits and, again I was not charged anything. In the US I would have waited for at least 3 to 6 hours and, with insurance, it would have cost me a minimum of $500 out of pocket costs. Before Obamacare I was hospitalized twice, once for a heart attack and once for a serious food poisoning. Both times a weeks stay in the hospital and doctor expenses cost me over $12k.
I'm a dual citizen. In my old job, I used to travel a lot for work. One time, I was taking antibiotics, and got to my destination interstate to realise I'd left the box on the counter at home. I asked the local office manager to make an appointment with the nearest local clinic for late in the day. At 4:30, I walked in to that clinic, and at 4:40 I had a new prescription -- no cost to me for the visit. No bs about who is in or out of my plan, no worry about out-of-state treatment, no hassle. That said, any legislation introduced here without costings or funding would be laughed out of parliament. Bernie's bill is not serious. Rep Conyers' bill, introduced in the House every year for over a decade, is the one to support..
I live in Germany, where I worked for 25 years. I am now retired and have full health care coverage for me and my family. Last week my wife woke up in the middle of the night with severe chest pains. I drove her to the emergency room in the local hospital. (only because it was quicker than waiting for an ambulance.) She was admitted immediately and began numerous tests, blood pressure, EKG, blood makeup, Xrays, Ultra sound and more. She stayed for three days, two nights, for observation. She was given various medications during her stay. Luckily it was determined to be a sever asthma attack with shortness of breath and a panic reaction. Today I received the Hospital invoice. 10€ a day for a total of 30€. When we were raising our kids, the Kinderartz (pediatrician) came to our home, and within minutes of a call, when we thought it was am emergency. Ambulance rides, free; Doctor visits, free and never any wait, other than the usual Doctor office wait. A few months ago I had a Hiatal Hernia. Diagnoses, MRI for confirmation, prep, surgery, recovery with 3 days in the hospital, again total cost was 30€. I can't afford to retire in the USA. I'm stuck here in Bavaria. Prost!
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