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.
I live in Italy, and I was 40 years old and pregnant with my third child when I got pneumonia for the first time. Over 11 years I was treated at the ER 9 times for pneumonia. I never paid anything for my care at the ER. For the past 3 years, I've been under the care of a national health service pneumologist. My annual visit, including a spirometry test, costs around €23. The inhaler I must use year-round costs me €2 every 40 days, about €20 a year. Due to my chronic condition, I qualify for free annual flu shots as well as periodic pneumonia vaccinations. No doctor has ever identified a "cause" for my recurring lung problems, but all have assured me that I will need to continue my current medical regimen for the rest of my life. So now I have a pre-existing condition, which makes me wonder if I can ever afford to return to live in the country of my birth. Everyone should have the right to be healthy, regardless of their income. Don't you get that?
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.
In the Netherlands, I spent 2 weeks in the hospital to treat a major infection. I never saw a bill. I didn't have to worry about how I was going to pay. My treatment in the hospital and recovery at home was fully covered and all administration was handled by the insurance company. I could focus on getting well.
In 2014 I had to have back surgery to remove a severely herniated disc. Leading up to the surgery I had an X-ray, two MRIs, two non-effective cortisone injections and ultimately a referral to the top spinal surgeon in Paris. I had to stop working because I could not stand, lay, walk or sit in comfort. I was given many medications over the period leading up to eventually necessary surgery. In France, this type of surgery requires multiple nights in the hospital. I checked in on Friday afternoon for my surgery later that day. I checked out Monday afternoon after the surgeon and the orthopedist had both performed further examinations and made sure I could walk properly. After 6 more weeks off of work, I went back to my job having continued to earn 70% full salary over the 3 months off of work. I can't even imagine having had my surgery in the US. I paid a total of €150 out of pocket for doctors visits, medications, treatment and diagnosis leading up to and including back surgery and a three night stay in the hospital. And that 150 was to pay for my mom to have a bed in my room and three meals a day with me. In the US I'd be bankrupt. It's a government's duty to protect its citizens. It should not be the party responsible for doing its citizens harm.
I am very thankful to have universal health care in France because I was mugged one night in Paris in 1979. I was beaten, and had a double fracture of my right ankle. Someone called the police who transported me to the hospital where I was operated for a compound fracture. A pin was installed. Once discharged from the hospital, I was transported to a physical rehabilitation center where I had months of rehabiltation therapy. All this paid in full by my French universal health care insurance because I work in France. Can you imagine this same scenario in the USA ? Having universal health care helps you to solve all your other problems without having to worry about where you're going to get thousands of dollars to pay for major medical situations.
Not so long ago, we had two small children, the youngest 9 months old,. Winter was nearly over when the baby came up with a strange cough, then his breathing wasn't right. In the wee hours of the morning, off to the hospital we went -- his lips were blue by the time we entered the Emergency Room. We were surprised when he was diagnosed with bronchiolitis -- no, we didn't have asthma in the family... We were able to focus on our baby's health, and the pediatrician team's care, because my new home country has Medicare for everyone -- 2.2% of our income tax goes to fund the Medicare levy, Australia's universal healthcare. Having had an autoimmune disorder in my early twenties before moving abroad, I'd experienced first-hand NOT HAVING health insurance -- as a recent college graduate awaiting my first career break. That illness cost me many thousands of dollars, once I was well. I had put off going to get treatment, because of the cost, further endangering my health. I was fortunate, I recovered, and had a supportive family & friends -- and I lived near one of the best research hospitals in the US. Once I was able to return to work, it took me 4 years to pay off my medical debt -- while watching friends buy cars, houses, travel, or investments. More than ten years later, having moved overseas and married, I was able to take our baby home from the hospital, without the shadow of financial stress. Winter continued, and between work commitments, and young children's pre-disposition for bringing home viruses -- I came down with pneumonia. Our local doctor advised my husband to take me directly to the hospital. Dropping the 4 year-old and the baby at the neighbour's on the way, off we went. I was in the hospital for four days, my husband bringing in the baby every 6 to 9 hours for a feed -- mastitis was a threat, with bacteria strong in my body, so it was essential to keep up the breastfeeding, for everyone's sake. Once again, I was lucky, I lived in a metropolitan area, with excellent medical support -- again, we left hospital to concentrate on our family, no bills overshadowing my recovery. Within a week or so, my husband also came down with pneumonia -- caring for the children, and me, and trying to go to work, took its toll. Once again, we sought treatment because it was easy and not a financial choice between paying a doctor's bill, or for electricity, food or keeping a roof over our heads. As our family grew up, my husband and I were able to contribute more to universal healthcare coffers, through our growing incomes. We feel blessed to do so. Our young people are now also tax-payers. They see the doctor when they need to, instead of waiting until a condition worsens or becomes debilitating -- like I did. As a parent, I am especially glad that my young adults have access to universal healthcare -- as they work up to five jobs weekly to pay for their education and build their careers, and their independence. So c'mon my Fellow Americans, supporting universal healthcare is like supporting the building of roads and infrastructure and schools -- it benefits Everyone, every day, no matter what our stage of life, or health score. In most Western countries, it's been substantively proven that universal healthcare is profoundly more efficient at providing quality medical care than privatized medical services -- check the annual survey done by The Economist. All Americans deserve affordable, achievable, accessible healthcare. All Americans deserve to leave the doctor's office, hospital or Emergency Room, without the shadow of financial burden. Our neighbours, aunts, sisters, uncles, brothers, nephews, children -- don't ask to have multiple sclerosis, ALS, cancer, or other debilitating conditions; our children don't go out of their way to get bronchilitis, asthma, leukemia, broken arms, cuts needing stiches. This all just part of life, and so should a percentage of our income taxes to fund universal healthcare. Good healthcare for all means a healthy society, workforce, quality family life, quality time to devote to the community as well as personal goals. Stop lining the pockets of private insurance companies driving up costs. Thank you for reading.
I moved to Italy after my Italian husband and I married; we considered starting in the US but the cost of healthcare was too prohibitive. My line of work is usually contract only which does not offer health coverage. After moving to Italy I received a health card almost immediately and felt like it was such a gift; though in retrospect it shouldn’t feel like that, it should be the norm. A few months later I was pregnant and all tests and checkups and emergency visits were covered. With the exception of an early (still in trial phase so not covered) genetic prescreening because of age, I paid next to €0 during pregnancy. Hospital stay, labor and delivery, all care was covered. When speaking with family in the US they were amazed that I didn’t have to worry about bills, I could invest all my time and thought to my child.
France Our famously high-rated and humane French health care system could serve as a model for a country like the USA. While it is not completely single payer, it is a universal system that gives government control over its parts, notably private insurance and drug costs that kick in in addition to government guarantees. The Obama system was a great beginning toward this goal, one that could be streamlined and simplified to hold down administrative costs and maintain high quality care. We have to fight to keep it.
When I lived in America, I had been relatively healthy and luckily never had any major medical issues. I have now been in the UK for over 11 years. Two years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, thankfully caught early enough by mammogram and I was diagnosed as curable. The treatment, care and support I received from the NHS during this difficult time has been absolutely incredible. I was offered everything I needed - surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and Herceptin injections (for a full year) and I also made good use of the cancer support center at the hospital and still do. They offer everything from a comfortable place to chat and have tea, to counselling and complimentary therapies for both me and my husband, all free of charge. I even received a medical card which enables me to get any and all prescriptions I need free of charge for a good many years. When I went for my call-back mammogram before I was diagnosed, I was taken to a room and asked about my status in the UK. I told them I was not only married to a Brit, but that I also became British (dual citizen) in 2011. Out of curiosity, I asked just how much it would be if I had to pay for this mammogram and they said that alone would have cost around £350. I can't imagine what the total bill would have been if I'd had to pay for all of my treatment! I am still getting support and check ups and I have not had to pay a single penny for anything. Although my cancer diagnosis came as a complete shock, I am so very grateful that I got ill here in the UK and not in the US as I would not have been able to cope with the huge cost a cancer diagnosis can incur.
As a Type 1 diabetic, living in Italy has been good fortune. All my health care needs are met, and I pay very little for that care. Taxes are steep, but they are predictable, and I don't worry about a medical emergency bankrupting my family. Sadly, the prospect of returning to the US feels fraught with the "pre-existing conditions" provision, which has to be one of the most cynical and immoral policies in a civilized society. How odd that as someone born and raised in the US, and for 30 years a taxpayer there, I may be a medical exile from my homeland.
I support universal health care. I and everyone I know in the UK have benefitted from it. I had one child in an NHS hospital and benefitted enormously from the in-home aftercare the NHS provided. I had a home birth with my second child and again, fantastic aftercare which I know my sister in the US with her two expensive caesareans did not have. I've had operations on the NHS, my children have their vaccines, etc etc. I've got friends who've had cancer and don't have to worry that if it comes back they won't be 'covered' for further treatment. How cruel and heartless would that be? In a civilised country, taxes should pay to take care of the population as a whole - access to health care should be a right, not a privilege. A society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens. Jennifer Grigg
It breaks my heart every time I see a health-related GoFundMe campaign, particularly for CHILDREN. Having lived 14 years in Europe, I finally get it. Little by little, the heavy burden of healthcare was lifted from my body and mind as I adjusted to the reality that healthcare would always be there for me, no matter what. My colonoscopy was 100% free. And also for my daughter: when she was in the hospital, I worried about her, not about her bills. We never got a bill. From a distance, I now see health care in the US as an albatross, along with credit card debt and school loans, dragging anyone not wealthy down and chaining them to the US and to jobs they may hate or situations they cannot escape. I know it's hard to believe, Americans, but it IS possible. The money IS there. They find trillions for defense, and they can find the funds for this. Don't believe the hype that it's "not possible here" or "too expensive" or "poor quality". Those are all lies. I wouldn't have believed it myself until I left the USA for long enough to really experience healthcare in two other developed countries. It can be done - but you have to believe it or it will never become a reality!
My sick baby had an emergency medical team at my door at midnight on a Saturday within 15 minutes of calling them. There was no charge. When I broke my leg in a tube accident, entirely of my own making, I had an EMT crew collect me, take me to the hospital, surgery and a hospital stay all at no direct cost to me. I am delighted to pay my taxes to support that kind of access for all. Occasional waiting lists for certain non-urgent conditions and some restrictions on available drugs due to cost are a small price to pay. Healthcare to GDP in the UK is half of what it is in the US with lower infant mortality and higher average life expectancy. They must be doing something right. Keep up the good work! Barbara
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
French bureaucracy is infamous, and yet healthcare here is much more accessible and cheaper (duh) than it is in the States. My co-pays have always been a fraction of what they are in the States, even before I had a Carte Vitale or a French social security number. I'm sure this has been said, but women's healthcare in France makes American women's healthcare look dystopian. Birth control is available, cheap, and pharmacists are willing to help us out in moments of desperation, even if we don't have a perscription on hand (!!!). It's quite something to live in a country where the state doesn't perceive my body as its enemy.
I pay 42.50 (Euros) a month for excellent healthcare. My wife pays about the same. This insurance provides an amazing array of benefits that are common to all. I have easy access to specialists, urgent care, hospitals. There is little or no waiting. My wife and I are having a baby, and the pre-natal care must be about the best in the world. We have had 9 preparatory appointments with a midwife, 5 ultrasounds and several appointments at the hospital, including with a nutritionist. All of this care is completely covered by the basic coverage. For dental, high-priced medicine, glasses and to have all remaining aspects and possibilities completely covered, we have complementary mutual insurance that makes up for the difference not covered by the national health care. This costs an additional 25 Euros a month, which really isn't much. Practically everyone I know in the United States has a nightmare story about medical debt. My brother and sister in law have an autistic child, and a test their doctor recommended ended up costing thousands out of pocket, for example. This would never happen in France, no chance. It is such a relief not to have this unnecessary economic pressure that is totally avoidable by having a national healthcare system, like all advanced economies.
Happily, we have not had to seek health care in France (except for routine blood tests that were easy, quick and inexpensive) but we do have a story. The young son of French friends in Avignon was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthrtis when he was five years old. Their national health insurance paid 100% of all the costs for his diagnosis and care over the course of 2 years by the best specialists in Montepellier and Paris, including travel and hotel expenses. Of modest means -- father an electrician and mother a secretary -- this young family would probably have been ruined had they been living in the US. Sincerely, Woody Halsey
Hello, fellow Democrats Abroad! I have been under universal health care coverage for nearly all my professional career, first in Algeria, and now in France. I have had some harrowing experiences on the health scene, less by questions of policy coverage than by circumstances which necessitated health care. I was nearly always taken in and cared for without question, and indeed without personally incurring expenses. In Algeria public health policy had covered all my immunizations yithout my having to advance even the slightest payment. I once broke an ankle wnile playing basketball with fellow teachers, and although I had to drive to the nearest hospital thirty kilometers away I was properly examined and treated without having to pay. I did have to insist on being cared for, when the opening hours at the clinic expired, but I prevailed, and did not have to pay out of pocket. Near the end of my sojourn in Algeria, I was stabbed in the back in downtown Algiers, and I was taken into emergency care at first and then into intensive care with securitz guard, all without any outlay on my part. To the contrary my care was considered as a responsibilitz of the country because of the "indignity" of having been attacked on the street of the nation's capital. Laterm during my retirement in France, I was covered by the nation's public health care system, but did pay for enrolment in the health care system, a rather nominal sum, but less than the care yould have cost in the United States, although that cost was covered by employer's health care. I have been in relatively good health, but asthmatic and diabetic, for which I receive medication covered at 100%, and see the doctor as needed, usually without an appointment, without undue waits and no payment other than the nominal €23 for the visit, which is, incidentally repaid by my mutual health care policy! I am totally happy with this system, and would not willingly submit to the US health care system in its current disorderly state. Rev. Dr. Hugh G Johnson (BA, STB, MDIV, MA, PhD)
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.
As an EXPAT it was required to have a German healthcare insurance.While the insurance, plus other than health included, it seems to be reasonable in cost. Expats in Germany "do not cost Germany one cent. #DAresists #Medicare4all