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.

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. 

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Perspective of a Dr. from California and Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

I live in Canada and vote in California. I have worked as a family physician in both countries and the health system works better in Canada. People worry about their illness, not how much it will cost. Physicians worry about the health of their patients, not whether or not they will be paid. Care is not disrupted by changes in where or whether you have a job, or by an insurer deciding to change the network. I worked in the "safety net" in the US for years, where we had to stress out all the time about finding health coverage for our patients, constant changes in rules, intense scrutiny and red tape, and the frustration of trying to practice medicine in that environment. Since being in Canada that stress is gone. And when I need care, it is there for me too. My heart aches for the people in the US who still do not have universal coverage. Khati Hendry MD Summerland BC

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From Down Under! #DAresists #Medicare4all

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 health insurance, afford dental care & regular medical services, 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 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. Throughout countries with universal healthcare, there is no evidence that people overuse accessible medical services. 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 be normal. Good healthcare for all means a healthy society, workforce, quality family life, quality time to devote to the community as well as personal goals; and less costly medical interventions. Medical staff can focus on their core purpose – treating people! Stop lining the pockets of private insurance companies driving up costs. Thank you for reading.

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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??

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Perspective from Israel #DAresists #Medicare4all

Thanks for the e-mail. Living here, universal health care seems such an obvious feature of life. Doctors fees are much less since I think they have to participate in the health plan to get tax breaks, and also they do not have to hike up their fees to cover malpractice insurance. At any rate, at my age, I need to see several doctors, and each one costs $5 per visit, and the health plans do not seem to be suffering financially. In the States, my experience is that a routine visit costs $150-200 and the service is worse in the US -- most of the work is done by a nurse practicioner who might be only marginally qualified (the one I saw did not know how to remove a bandage) whereas in Israel you see the doctor directly. There is competition among the health funds here, and this seems to me a good thing, to avoid complacence. Sincerely,Louis Rowen

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Healthcare in Taiwan #DAresists #Medicare4all

I've lived in Hsinchu, Taiwan since August, 2014 working as an English teacher. I've enjoyed the benefits of single-payer healthcare ever since. With only a monthly payment of roughly $25 USD, I have access to a whole range of benefits that, were I to remain in the United States uninsured, would probably be prohibitively expensive. For example, I pay only $2-3 out-of-pocket per visit to any health clinic, and dental work, such as teeth whitening, are priced similarly at $2-3. However, Taiwan's healthcare system is certainly not without its flaws. A quick search on Wikipedia will tell you its current challenges. The system doesn't take in the same amount as the value of the services it delivers, so it must borrow from banks. Also, there are few doctors per capita, so wait times can be long, and consultations with doctors themselves are often kept to a maximum of 2-5 minutes in most clinics. To alleviate these problems, the likely solution is to raise premiums on payroll taxes, but the government is reluctant to do so for fear of losing votes. That being said, I truly believe this is superior than the alternative. I think Taiwan's system is exemplary and has the ability to re-calibrate itself. Time will tell if the system here can endure, but it in my opinion, it functions pretty well for now.

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I strongly support universal health care #DAresists #Medicare4all

I love universal healthcare because ... as a American citizen firstly studying abroad and now, having earned my PhD, working as a university lecturer in the UK, I have zero health care in the US. In the UK, I was seen twice at Moorfields Eye Hospital and more than seven times in hospital under the NHS (including once by the xray department) without a single co-pay charge. This meant that I didn't have to worry about how I was going to pay for my treatment as well as worrying about an ongoing condition itself.

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Perspective of a young American living in Brazil #DAresists #Medicare4all

young, independent, and empowered Universal healthcare is a fundamental right to all human beings. Recently graduating from college and no longer on my parents healthcare plan, i moved to Brazil where I teach English in Vitoria, Espirito Santo. As a young person making money for the first in my life I feel empowered knowing that no matter what health adversity, I can handle this situation. That language is my only hindrance to receiving assistance because financially, Im guaranteed treatment. This is empowerment and true freedfom. Best, Mary Mary E. Nagel

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NHS in the United Kingdom and Cancer Treatment #DAresists #Medicare4all

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.

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No need to fight with an insurance company for life-saving treatment #DAresists #Medicare4all

We live in Germany, where health care is universal. The system is a little bit like Obamacare, where employers and employees split the insurance cost, and the unemployed and elderly get insurance from a default insurer. Unlike the USA, most insurers are non-profits and strictly regulated with respect to their finances. They don't spend all their time and our money trying to find ways to deny you coverage. But they still compete for your business. There are no caps, no deductibles or co-pays in most cases, no preexisting conditions, you choose your doctor. Insurance is simple and worry free. Health care is excellent. And Germany still pays far less for health care than the US does. Germany understands that health care is a social good and a human right, not a privilege. For-profit is the wrong way to provide health care. We had to put this system to the test. Our daughter, 18, contracted Hodgkin Lymphoma. In the USA, a routine case costs around 150,000 dollars to treat, more or less, with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. After the initial approval of treatment, our insurer left us and the doctors alone. Our daughter was treated according to the latest available protocol and has since maintained a complete remission. We, our daughter, and her doctors didn't need to fight with an insurance company every other day about whether it would pay for life-saving treatment. We were allowed to concentrate on what mattered - supporting our daughter in her fight to get well. In the USA, this might have been the experience of someone insured as the employee of a top company, a Google, a Microsoft, a Facebook. Other people would not have been so lucky. Other sons and daughters may not have gotten the all of the treatment they needed, and some may have died, unnecessarily, since Hodgkin Lymphoma can be "cured" nowadays. Other families would have been burdened with debt, and their children would have been marked forever as "uninsurable because of preexisting condition." You know, a return to the time before Obamacare, as the Republicans want, would be cruel and for many citizens, miserable. It does not have to be that way.

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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.

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From Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

My wife is from the US and I am a UK citizen; we are living in Canada at present. Four years ago I developed Stage III melanoma and went through all the usual scans, surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and months of home care nursing. The single biggest expense? Hospital parking!

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Cancer Treatment in the Czech Republic #DAresists #Medicare4all

I live in the Czech Republic, which has universal healthcare. Last May, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and needed to be treated immediately. I received all my treatments—tests leading to a diagnosis, total thyroidectomy, hormone replacement therapy, radioactive iodine treatment, and follow-up care—from the Czech national healthcare system. The care I got was identical to what I would have received in the US (I know this because I, nervous patient that I am, sought second, third, and fourth opinions from US doctors), and in some cases it was superior. The Czech system keeps patients in the hospital longer than we do in the US, for example, so that complications can be treated immediately and wound care and drain management can be done by nurses rather than by the recovering patient herself. Moreover, after my thyroidectomy, the Czech nurses thought to check for potential complications that staff in US hospitals where friends have had the same procedure (including the Mayo Clinic!) have missed. This attention to detail and patient safety is possible because the Czech health system avoids a particularly dangerous pitfall of US hospitals: overburdened nurses. For both my surgery and my radioactive iodine treatment, the ratio of nurses to patients was 1:1, as compared with the typical US standard of 1:4. Did I have to give up anything to be treated here instead of in the US? Yes. The food in the hospital is horrible, the buildings are ugly, and the hospital gowns are scratchy. The Czech system refuses to waste money on aesthetics because it prefers to invest in excellent care for everyone. And when you need care, there is no waiting, no wrangling with insurance companies, and no fear that issues of cost are influencing the treatment you receive. The Czech Republic has a per capita GNP that's about half that of the US. If they can provide excellent healthcare to all their citizens, surely we Americans can do the same.

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Why are US healthcare costs ten-fold higher? #DAresists #Medicare4all

In 2012 I was advised by my cardiologist that my heart beat irregularities were such that I urgently needed a pacemaker. I was not a part of the French health care system but had retained my old American Foreign Service insurance(AFSPA) which reimbursed us for coverage in France. We went to a private clinic in nearby Lannion and I received a top of the line American Metronics pacemaker, with the surgery, hospitalization of three days costing $2,800. We paid this and the AFSPA happily reimbursed us. They informed me that in the US they and Medicare would have to pay between $25-30 thousand for the same procedure. The private clinic in France presumably made a nominal profit. So my question is why are costs in the US ten-fold higher? Roy

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German Healthcare is outstanding! #DAresists #Medicare4all

The German healthcare system is a blessing for people like me, who are retired and living in the German economy. I have had to undergo surgery (heart) and I can say with great enthusiasm that the care I received was outstanding. The cost of my treatments and medications are minimal and the care is excellent.. We need this kind of system at home!

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Great Experiences in Portugal #DAresists #Medicare4all

Everyone should have access to affordable health care, like we have here in Portugal. When we were in the US, if you didn't have health insurance through your job (and there were plenty of folks who worked full-time and still didn't have this benefit), you were in a lot of trouble if you got sick. In Portugal that doesn't happen. Elvira Barry

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Great Pregnancy Coverage in York, England #DAresists #Medicare4all

I support universal healthcare! I live in York, England. I use the NHS. It's incredible. I'm 8 months pregnant, was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, and have my scans, appointments, diabetes treatment free at point of delivery. When I found out I was pregnant, my father sent me money, thinking I'd need to pay out of pocket. I sent it back because the NHS will take care of you, even though I'm from the USA. I've used the NHS as an asthmatic and I cannot fault the system or care. I feel relaxed heading into delivery, as I'll discuss the options with my team without wondering about whether one option will cost more, will my insurance cover it, how long will my insurance cover me for staying in the hospital, etc. I've had all vaccinations, checkups, tests, without worrying about paying a dime out of pocket. This level of stress free pregnancy should be universal everywhere. I'm on a pregnancy forum, where many of the women are American and in the States. They discuss whether they'll be able to pay for the hospital bill, how they hope they don't have complications, that they cannot afford an ambulance to the hospital if something happens. It's heartbreaking and this just shouldn't happen. Andrea B. York, England

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More than 20 years of satisfying coverage in Canada! #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have lived in the UK since 1995. I’ve had 2 children here. They’re both fully vaccinated. My husband and daughter have both had emergency appendectomies. Both children have had braces. I’ve broken a tooth. My daughter has worn glasses for ten years. We’ve had a run-in with Lyme disease. I’ve had cervical cysts removed twice. The list goes on and on. My maternity care included pre-natal classes and follow-up visits after the children were born; my 8-year-old daughter’s appendectomy included a place for me to stay with her in the hospital for most of a week. The care we’ve received has been first rate. I can get an appointment on the same day for non-emergency care. Yes, I pay for this service in my taxes. No, it is not an unreasonable cost. I can visit any country in the European Union and expect the same level of care there. For all the flaws in the system, it is a fantastic system. I am privileged to be covered by it and extremely grateful. My husband, daughter and son have all LITERALLY had their lives saved by the NHS: I would be a childless widow without their expertise. And there has never been a bill for any of it. I am self-employed. As I approach retirement age, I have to face the hard reality that I will never be able to move back to the United States because I will not be able to afford the health care. Please, please help fix this broken system for all the generations to come. Elizabeth Gatland

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I left the USA in 1969 and became a Canadian citizen in the '70's. #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have experience the Canadian health care system as both a patient and a physician. I have nothing but praise for Canada recognizing that health care is a right, not a privilege. As a physician I was always certain that I could provide the best care without worrying if my patient could afford my care. I am a psychiatrist and mental health care is covered just as any physical illness. As a patient I have suffered from a chronic malignant condition. I have received excellent treatment without worrying about losing my finances. The freedom from financial stress is healing in itself. Could the Canadian system be improved? Yes, of course, nothing is perfect. We need universal pharmacare, and dental care. We could better utilize our system to reduce wait times. Some elective tests, treatments are delayed, but any emergency investigation or treatment is available. Everyone is covered and we can use our medical card in any Canadian province. It even covers some benefits outside of Canada.

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UK NHS provides peace of mind #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have lived in the UK for almost 20 years and have very much depended on the UK for my healthcare. I know that when I am ill I can see a doctor fairly quickly with little waiting time. I can then walk into the pharmacy and get whatever medicine is prescribed for me for around 8 pounds. I don't have to worry that I am not able to seek out a doctor of fill a prescription. Healthcare is always available for me. As an expat. I also know that there is no real option for me to return to the US until I am old enough to be covered by Medicare as I would be unable to pay for insurance coverage even if I was unemployed for only a short time. Medicare is socialized medicine so logically it really should be a short jump to the concept of providing healthcare for everyone. Healthcare in Europe is considered a necessity and a right for all citizens and so it is astonishing to most of the world that the US doesn't recognize the importance of providing some level of healthcare to its own people.

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A lifetime of perspective from Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have lived in Canada virtually my whole life. I have been privileged to have had access to the Canadian universal health system. It is true for elective assistance, one is in a queue , but for emergencies, the system can't be beat . Widely known that the Canadian per capita expenditure on health care is approximately 50% of the US expenditure and that includes the whole population. My doctor friends are supportive because when a patient appears at their door, they are all treated the same without regard to ability to pay. Hard to believe, as was pointed out in the most recent presidential campaign,the US is the only country in the developed world that does not have universal health care for its citizens. There does not seem to be the same hang-up about government assistance to the victims of hurricanes! Stephen Freedhoff

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