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 was hit by a car while crossing the street last year and, naturally, concerned passers-by called an ambulance. This ambulance and the care I then received in the hospital would have caused me to go into 4-figure debt in the US. Luckily, I live in Luxembourg. I was billed $120 that was then fully reimbursed by the national health fund - along with the bills for all of my physical therapy. This kind of healthcare saves lives and I wish desperately that my loved ones back home could benefit from the same kind of system, instead of having to plead with onlookers not to call an ambulance after an accident because they can't afford it.
This is the story of my husband's cancer treatment. His first operation was very expertly done and this was followed by chemotherapy and regular scans. A scan discovered secondary cancer which was treated with chemotherapy again including home visits. This was followed by a second operation done by a specialist surgeon. Since then there have been regular scans and consultations with a very good and humane oncologist who has been there for my husband consistently. We have been made to feel well cared for and calm throughout. This did not cost us anything.
As a former Officer of Marines, I essentially had fully socialised medicine or "Medicare" (Tri-care) from the government in that if I or any member of my family had a medical issue, we simply made an appointment, went in and received the care and any medication required without any worry that any single or multiple medical condition/issue would ever harm us financially in any way. No calls about billing, no exorbitant costs - i.e. no worries. After serving our nation for 11 years, I separated from the service and found myself with a civilian employer in the US. One night, our child grew dangerously ill and we felt compelled to take him to the ER in the middle of the night. At the end of it all, he spent one night in the hospital, was given Pedialite and had one IV inserted in his arm to re-hydrate him. We were shocked with a bill for over 5,000 Dollars (this was in 2005). I had full coverage insurance through my employer and overlap with Tri-care. Neither insurance company wanted to pay and the hospital came after us for the hyper-inflated bill. Considering that I was fully insured, I refused to pay. The battle went on for 5 years and finally Tri-care and my private insurer agreed to pay the hospital. What a nightmare... I have now been living with my family and working in Hong Kong for over 10 years. My employer gives me a medical card and my monthly medical payments are miniscule. I have full coverage medical care for myself and my family in Hong Kong and in the Unites States. Additionally, we have no co-pay for any visits and there are no worries. I do not ever want to go back to the system in the United States which has the highest medical costs and the constant worry of inflated and overpriced medical bills and the worry of possible bankruptcy around the corner because of an unforeseen medical condition. We receive top-notch care here in Hong Kong top quality medical care here in Hong Kong and costs are kept very low removing the worry of financial hardship. I have sampled many different medical systems throughout the world and they constantly demonstrate to me that the system in the U.S. is overpriced and undully hurts those that are less well off. I am a believer in medicare for all and the Affordable Care Act. No one should be ever be penalized financially for falling ill.
My Rheumatoid Arthritis was under control since 2008, but two years ago it got significantly worse. I couldn't even walk into the next room in the morning or go down the stairs. As an elementary school teacher, I was worried that I would have to retire very prematurely. I made an appointment right away with my rheumatologist who recommended adding a new medication. Thanks to our fantastic German healthcare (the state kind -- not private), I am easily able to get the medicine I need to keep working and enjoying my life and it only costs me 10 Euros a month. I don't pay any copays for my doctor visits at all. I choose my own doctors and I get appointments when I need them. I wish that all Americans had access to healthcare like this!
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.
It was with a sense of dread that the wife and I, both American citizens, moved from New York City to Cali, Colombia, in 2009. Retired and approaching an age when medical issues begin to weigh heavily in people’s lives, we worried about pre-existing conditions and exorbitant medical expenses. Our worries turned out to be completely unfounded. A couple of months after our arrival, we purchased medical insurance for a monthly fee which is today, after eight years of annual adjustments, a bit less than $250 per month. To this we have to add about $150 or $200 in medications. Quite a few medications, I might add. We could ask for them, because they are covered by the insurance, but we choose not to in order to help the system better serve those who cannot pay anything. Colombia can teach the United States a thing or two about medical care. For those who earn an income, the country’s medical insurance has two components: a compulsory portion that all Colombians (or their employers) must purchase in a free market, and a voluntary portion, known as pre-paid medicine. There is a third type of insurance, for those with no income, entirely subsidized by the government. All users have access to superb medical care, medications included, and no one can be denied service. The only difference among these three types of insurance is that those who purchase pre-paid medicine can choose their doctors and in most cases their hospitals. The reader might be excused for thinking that less than $500 a month could not possibly buy decent medical care for two seniors. Nothing could be further from the truth: the fact is that we have access to the best doctors and medical centers in town. This year alone I underwent cataract operations in both eyes and my wife had a cornea transplanted and a malignant nodule removed from one of her breasts. She is currently undergoing radiation therapy to supplement this surgery. Meanwhile, I have undergone blood tests, x-rays and MRIs in preparation for a hernia operation. All of these tests and medical visits have only required co-payments of about $10 to $20 each. For those less fortunate they might be closer to $1 or $2, or they might be zero altogether. Yes, Colombia can teach the United States a thing or two about medical care. #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.
About 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It was suggest that I go to Princess Margret Hospital because they have the best cancer treatment in the world. I asked how much would that cost. I was told, "Nothing." It took less than six months to go from diagnoses to treatment - that was because I insisted on finishing up the school year before I went into the hospital. The doctors were great! The nurses were even better. I was treated with dignity and respect throughout my entire treatment. I was amazed by the care and treatment I was given without having to dip into our savings or refinance our home.
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??
It's not perfect in Hungary, and the quality of the healthcare you receive varies wildly from venue to venue - but my life was literally saved by my healthcare in Hungary. When I suddenly didn't know what was wrong with me, felt a strange pressure in my leg, and was dragging it, feeling like gravity was pulling it into the sidewalk, I was able to go see a doctor, who immediately sent me to emergency at the best hospital in Budapest. I was immediately put on a stretcher and was not allowed to stand up for the next five days - as it was found that my leg was riddled with DVT. I am eternally grateful to my doctor there and all the wonderful nurses, and even my ward-mates in a very comfortable, clean spacious room. I was 48 when this happened - and I might not be here today without that healthcare, as DVT can end up causing a pulmonary embolism, heart attack or even stroke when it moves through the blood stream. After being released from the hospital, my prescription for the newest model of blood thinners was covered 90% by my insurance. And I had regular follow-ups with my local doctor, as well as the doctor who treated me in the hospital.
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!
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.
It's frustrating when my friends living in the US - who have never lived outside the US - tell me about how poor healthcare is in the UK. In reality, the UK system beats the US hands-down. One weekend I experienced problems with vision in one eye. I called my local GP who said the problem could be serious (a detached retina) and get to the practice immediately. He had a look and referred me to the world-class London Eye Hospital. They saw me on Monday, diagnosed non sight-threatening vitreous detachment, and sent me home relieved. There was no bill. Think about how this would have been dealt with in the US, and what it would have cost.
As an American woman who went through pregnancy and gave birth in Spain, I was impressed by the comprehensive, professional, and free healthcare that I was given every step along the way. The Spanish healthcare systems covers the following for all pregnant women: prenatal check-ups, sonograms, prenatal classes, birth, breastfeeding consultancy, and postnatal check-ups. In my second trimester, an ultrasound revealed that my daughter has renal pelvis dilation, a relatively common condition which usually resolves itself in time but requires periodic check-ups. All pediatric care, including her ultrasounds are covered through the Spanish healthcare system. During one of her recent ultrasounds, the technician discovered a cyst on her intestines which requires removal. We are sad that our small baby will need surgery when she turns one, but if it weren't for universal healthcare which would deem the surgery cost-free, our troubles would be further exacerbated by the stress of financial burden, not to mention that if it weren't for such thorough pediatric care, we wouldn't even have had found that cyst to begin with until it becomes a bigger problem. All children deserve the best possible care their society can provide, regardless of their parents' socioeconomic status. I cannot think of any reason that anyone who is pro-family or believes in traditional values would disagree with that.
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.
Re: Share your universal healthcare story Even Thailand has universal healthcare Thailand is an emerging economy that might actually emerge but for lurching from half-hearted democracy to totalitarianism and back every 10 years or so. Much of the country remains what used to be called third world. Nevertheless there is a public hospital in every county and clinic in every township with quality care, including medication virtually free for citizens and a small nominal fee for non-citizens. They don't even ask if you are legal! My son from the US spend seven days in the hospital a few years ago, with a private room. The entire cost, room, doctors, medicines etc. was about 200 US. Would have been much less on a ward. Sure, there's a shortage of physicians and long waits, but in the end everybody has access to good, quality very affordable care, no questions asked, no burdensome paperwork. There are also private hospitals--much less expensive than in the US. What's wrong with the US that it cannot provide what even a chaotic totalitarian dictatorship considers a human right?
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
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)
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
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