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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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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The Italian Health Care System Saves Lives #DAresists #Medicare4all

In December of 2000, two months before my due date, I had an emergency c-section to deliver my daughter because I had developed HELLP Syndrome. My daughter weighed less than 3 lbs. and required a respirator. We weren't able to bring her home from the hospital until her original due date, 2 months later. Both in the hospital and afterwards, my daughter and I both received excellent care. During follow-up visits it was discovered that my daughter is deaf. She has received speech therapy, hearing aids, and routine hearing tests for the past 17 years. My hospitalization, surgery and follow-up care entailed zero out-of-pocket costs, as did my daughter's care. We have contributed to the cost of more sophisticated hearing aids, but medical exams, speech therapy and tutors have been without charge. Another important aspect of this system is the emphasis on preventative medicine and early diagnostics. Two years ago during a routine exam my doctor found a suspicious mole on my back. It was removed, and turned out to be melanoma, caught in the early stages. Had I been unable to afford the original doctor's visit, or the follow-up surgery and treatment, it might have grown and spread, eventually resulting in much more expensive and invasive procedures, or even killing me. When I talk about the health care system here I don't say 'free' because we pay taxes and thus our money goes into the system that provided for these competely unexpected events, and for our other health needs, as well as those of everyone else in Italy, where we live. I am grateful every day to Italy and its National Health Service, and I only wish to see the friends and family I still have in America benefit from a similiar level of truly affordable, life-saving care.


I left Tennessee and moved to Canada so I could access healthcare. #DAresists #Medicare4all

I chose to come and live in Canada so I could access affordable and high-quality healthcare, something I was not provided as a US citizen and resident of Tennessee. I was born with a genetic disorder and I have several autoimmune issues. But thankfully I was able to live a pretty good and happy life in Tennessee. However, several months before graduating from Middle Tennessee State University I received a letter from my parents' health insurance (Blue Cross Blue Shield) saying that I was being kicked off because of my pre-existing conditions. I also received a letter from my school loan company saying my payments were going to begin soon. I had just graduated from college, I was unemployed, and it was the peak of the recession. Receiving these letters was a cold and cruel wake-up call for me. Needless to say my family struggled for the next years to find me access to healthcare. I was on COBRA payments for a while, which cost $320 a month just for me. At certain points I was uninsured and doctors told me to fund the surgeries I needed by applying for charity. Charity. Me, born, raised, and a faithful taxpayer in the US should apply for charity to pay for medical needs. At that moment I decided to leave the US. I now live and work in Canada and I have been able to access all the care I need. The healthcare here in Canada is high quality and most importantly, I do not have to worry about being denied care, nor do I worry about how I will afford to pay rent and food, and also pay for healthcare bills. Because here my care has been publically funded. And yes, sometimes I wait two months to see a specialist (when it's not an emergency), but I waited years upon years to see doctors in the US and I was denied each time (all before Obamacare). I want to one day return to the US, but until some sort of universal coverage is passed, I'm too afraid. I feel too secure and safe here in Canada.


Perspective of an American doctor working in India #DAresists #Medicare4all

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.


A TALE of TWO SISTERS #DAresists #Medicare4all

I live in Canada and my sister lives in the USA. I moved to Canada in 1974 and whenever I go to the doctor or hospital all I do is show my "Health Card". In 43 years, I have had two surgeries, including removal of a benign lump and all costs were covered, including medical tests. Contrast this with my sister in the States. Her husband passed away at age 60 leaving her with a bill of $7 MILLION. She had to sell her good car and her home of 40 years (5 bedrooms, 3 bath) and moved into a one-bedroom at the end of a dirt road. Can you believe that 60% of bankruptcies in the US are from medical bills?? My ancestors came over on the Mayflower in 1620 and my family has lived in New England for FOUR HUNDRED years and I can't even afford to move back home to the US! It's crazy, isn't it??


#DAresists #Medicare4all

Bicycle accident. Two broken ribs, punctured lung. Ambulance, pump/tube to drain lung, x-rays daily, medications (including those normally taken), 4 days in intensive care, Cost: 65 euros (about $75 dollars at the time).


Freedom from Fear #DAresists #Medicare4all

The person who should have written this was my wife. Unfortunately, she couldn’t as she died from pancreatic cancer two years ago. Given that in some of our last conversations she told me that it was important for her to believe that her loved ones would find a way to be happy after her death and to make a difference in the world the way she tried to do during her lifetime, I’m writing this for both of us. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October 2014. Unfortunately, the cancer was not operable which put her chances of recovery at five percent. After her appointment with the oncologist, she met with our GP who enrolled her in the government program that covered 100% of the cost for her treatment including such things as visits from visiting nurses, ambulances, hospital stays — literally everything. In spite of the best medical care one could hope for, she died in August 2015. I was holding her hand at the time. She spent her final week in a hospice where the staff realized that even if the regulations didn’t exactly allow a spouse to stay in the room overnight, there were situations where feelings were more important than regulations. I’ve thought of this since her death and know now that even though we never spoke about it at the time, we were able to spend our time saying things that were important to us because the fear of being hit with huge medical bills never entered our minds. In France, when you're a citizen or a legal resident, you’re enrolled in the publicly-funded healthcare system which normally covers two-thirds or most medical and dental expenses. We also have private supplemental health insurance that usually pays 100% of the difference. My private policy costs about $200 per month. At my age, I pay a lot more attention to my health than I did in my 20’s, but I never have to worry about how to pay for it. One of the famous speeches FDR gave was on the subject of the four freedoms — one of which was the freedom from fear. Although freedom from the fear of catastrophic illness, was not what he had in mind, I believe it’s a concept that Americans should embrace and provide universal health care as has every other developed nation in the world.


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.


Malaysia healthcare advantages #DAresists #Medicare4all

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.


In France -- No anxiety about being sick or paying for health care. #DAresists #Medicare4all

Once I was visiting my parents in the US and I got a sinus infection. I ended up paying $250 for a doctor visit and antibiotics which in France would have cost me exactly 1 euro, the deductible for a doctor visit. I have had four surgeries in the seventeen years I have lived in France: one on each knee, one to remove my appendix, and one to remove a piece of metal lodged in my hand. Sécurité sociale has paid for taxis to pick me up at my home to take me to surgery, and taxis to bring me home when friends couldn't help. I was hospitalized for as long as it took, and never felt rushed or unready to go home. I lived alone at the time of my second knee surgery, and since I couldn't drive, a physical therapist came to my house three times a week for six weeks -- for free. Visiting nurses have come to my home to give me shots, change my bandages, and take my blood -- all for free. The only time I have to pay anything is 1€ for each doctor visit, and for the wifi and private room I requested for my second knee surgery. It is true that the French health system is less convenient when it comes to eyes and teeth, my complementary insurance, for which I pay 17€ a month, covers my contact lenses, and anything over the basic dental work or glasses. What I appreciate the most in France, besides the quality of care, is the lack of anxiety. If I am sick, I know I can stay home from work without repercussion. I can focus on getting better rather than worrying about paying for a surgery. If a doctor recommends a treatment, it happens. I don't have to worry about it being approved. And if I lose my job or move to a new place, I will still be covered. This lack of anxiety is something that I wish for all Americans.


Great long term peace of mind in the UK #DAresists #Medicare4all

The NHS has been my sole health care provider for the last 17 years. Whilst I am in good health I have spent virtually no money on my healthcare except through taxes. I am able to get an appointment with my GP when required within a reasonable timeframe and am sent on the specialists when required. I personally have not had to wait very long for an appointment. When my son was born both he and my wife needed to spend an extra week in the hospital because of a minor complication. Again, the extra stay did not incur any expenses to us. I find staff at the NHS to quite competent. Having the NHS is very reassuring. I never have to think about whether I am covered and whether I can afford medical services. While perhaps not perfect, it is awesome to have, especially when compared to the millions living in the US whose healthcare is precarious. Long live some sort of version of publicly funded medicine!!! David Wasserberg, US citizen, London, England


No hidden surprises - a more civil approach to healthcare #DAresists #Medicare4all

A few years after moving to Canada, I was diagnosed with a deviated septum and required a septoplasty. Only two months elapsed between diagnosis and surgery, a reasonable amount of time for a non-urgent procedure that wasn't causing me any physical distress. On the day of my operation, it only took a few minutes to register; reviewing and signing the consent form is all that was required. No verification of insurance coverage necessary. I remained overnight for observation, during which time I initially hesitated to ask for things like tissues, juice or a bedpan - fearing that each of these items came with a hefty price tag, as they would in the US. It was all free. And the following morning, when I was discharged there was no second battery of paperwork to complete - just a smile and "good luck" from the head nurse. Best of all, in the weeks that followed there were no itemized statements from the hospital or doctors involved. Removing financial worries from an already stressful situation is a far more civil approach to patient care. It's a key reason why I choose to continue living on the Canadian side of the border.


Physician Home Visits - France #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have spent a lot of time living in and visiting France and I have experienced the medical system there more than once. On two occasions, my spouse fell ill. All I needed to do was call the local municipal health office and a physician was dispatched to our apartment (four flights up, no elevator). The last time sticks out in my mind because my spouse had eaten a bad oyster and was in bed in pain. Between the time I called the municipal service, the doctor arrived in 20 minutes. The examination was completed, prescriptions given, I had gone to the local pharmacy to get the prescriptions filled, and brought the medications home, all within in hour of the call. The cost? Well, it was a holiday weekend evening, so the cost was higher than normal: $99. The patient never had to get out of bed. I'll take the French health care system any day over the expensive, patient-unfriendly system we have in the US. Medicare for All!


Strong endorsement based on experience in Germany #DAresists #Medicare4all

As a freelance professional who has lived, worked and paid taxes in Germany for forty years I cannot understand why many U.S. Americans do not appreciate the advantages of universal health care. I am covered, my pregnancies were covered, and my children are covered until they reach the age of 26 or start working and earn their own money. I do not have to worry about getting sick and not being able to pay the bills. Expensive treatments are just as much part of the care as simple vaccinations, preventive checkups,operations etc. Paying into health care has been worthwhile from day one.I cannot imagine living in a country where it is not available. Maria Lanman


Obscene US prescription drug prices #DAresists #Medicare4all

Post-Obamacare, my $225/mo health insurance offered my branded birth control at $20/3-month supply, but it was always listed on my bill as a retail price of $350/3-month supply (without insurance). Great value, right? After marrying and moving to the UK, I went to the NHS to request birth control. I asked for the prescription I'd been using in the US on my health insurance. The NHS told me that this brand was not offered by the NHS in England as it is too price prohibitive on their system. Instead, they offered me other free options. To carry me over as I weighed my decision, I was told I could go direct to a local high street pharmacy and buy my desired product out-right without a prescription that day. I did that. The over-the-counter cost of this "expensive" product in the UK — without prescription or insurance? £40/3-month supply (roughly $52). Americans are being cheated with prescription drug prices, whether they pay for them out-of-pocket or through their high insurance premiums. If you imagine that £13.33/mo is too much to spend per UK patient on birth control, then the UK population is receiving the same pharmaceuticals being distributed in the US — but at a seriously lower cost. The US could be getting the same deal if we demanded regulation on extortionate profit margins.


Survival is not a Pre-existing Condition #DAresists #Medicare4all

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.


An Expat’s View of Heath Care Down Under #DAresists #Medicare4all

As an American expat living in Australia I feel blessed that I can go to sleep every night knowing that my wife and I will never have to worry about not having health insurance. That’s right, whether we lose our jobs, go bankrupt or have pre-existing medical conditions - WE NEVER WORRY ABOUT NOT HAVING HEALTH INSURANCE! The reason is that we live in a country that has a universal single payer health care system that automatically covers everyone from the time they are born to the time they die – a country where something as basic as medical care is viewed as a right and not a privilege for those who can afford it. Sadly, this is still not the case back home where the cost of health insurance is often ruinous. For those not covered by employers, some go without, some go bankrupt and millions more struggle on the margins with inadequate coverage. Astoundingly, the cost of health insurance for a family of four in 2016 was $25,826 while the median family income was $56,516! By contrast, we in Australia pay a health care levy of 2% although if your income falls below a certain level you don’t pay at all. In addition, my wife and I pay an addition $4,000 a year for private health coverage that gives us a choice of doctors in hospitals and extras like private dental and physio. All totalled, it’s considerably less than the cost of health insurance in the US, but regardless of your financial situation you will always be covered for life. So from my vantage point living down under, I view the US privatised health cares system as totally crazy and inhumane. In fact, if you set out to devise the world’s worst possible health care system, I think the US would be your model.


Universal care? How about private insurance? #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have lived in 3 countries with genuine universal care, and could repeat the stories I see already posted. But let me blow your mind with this one: As a foreign resident and freelancer in Spain, I am required to buy private insurance. The cost? I pay less for 6 months -- for full coverage including dental and eye -- than I did for 1 month of catastrophic care at home -- and forget the eyes and teeth, of course.


From France #DAresists #Medicare4all

"A little over a year ago I had a colonoscopy and thanks to the French healthcare system, it cost me less than the price of a nice meal. I was only worried about my health. Last week my doctor sent me to the emergency room for tests and thanks to the French healthcare system, it cost me nothing. I was only worried about my health. I don't have any major health problems but I go to a doctor the minute I have any symptoms because, thanks to the French healthcare system, I only have to worry about my health and not how much my healthcare will cost." Thank you for all the work you do. All the best, David Lewis


A genuine experience from Austria #DAresists #Medicare4all

Here´s a little anecdote of mine: While I was a student in Austria, one night my left ear popped as if I were in an airplane. I couldn´t hear much out of it, but went to bed hoping it would sort itself out by morning. When I woke up and still couldn´t hear, I decided to go to my doctor to check it out. He said, if I wanted, he could refer me to a specialist, and I got an appointment the same day with an Ear Nose Throat (ENT) doctor. This doctor quickly informed me that sudden hearing loss needs immediate treatment and referred me to the hospital where I was admitted that evening. After exhausting different treatment options, I had surgery about a week after my first symptom and then follow-up appointments for the next 6 months. Unfortunately, neither doctors in Austria, nor private specialists in the US have been able to tell me exactly what the cause was, but since the surgery I have regained about half of the hearing that I lost. All in all, I had over 10 doctor´s visits, more than a week´s stay in the hospital, and surgery. My monthly premiums at the time as a student were about 50-60 dollars. The only additional cost I had was 10-15 dollars per day in the hospital to cover meals. Austria´s government insurance program works quickly and affordably and gives the people a sense of security that I´ve never felt in the US health market.


German health care - AOK #DAresists #Medicare4all

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!