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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Affordable healthcare in the Netherlands #DAresists #Medicare4all

Both my husband and I have experienced adequate healthcare in the Netherlands, that is affordable. We pay about 310 euros a month for our entire family including some dental and alternative health insurance. Our daughters are free until the age of 18 years old. My husband has been treated twice for a benign brain tumour within 6 weeks of diagnosis, and I had a couple of life-threatening illnesses in which I received immediate care. There are no co-pays on the GP visits, but some thresholds exist, particularly for alternative care. But the difference is affordable. Both my daughters have had their acne treated, half paid by the insurance and half paid by us. Overall it is proof that mixed social and private health care models can work. Specialists are affiliated with hospitals or medical centres.


Managing Leukemia on the UK National Health Service #DAresists #Medicare4all

I live in London and have for many years now. When I was feeling unusually sluggish for weeks, I went to see my GP, who suggested a blood test. He had the result the next day and rang me immediately, offering me a choice of two local hospitals, and he then arranged for me to see a specialist at my chosen hospital within the hour. The hospital quickly confirmed a diagnosis of Leukemia and I was admitted for treatment of blood transfusions. I was then referred to another London hospital who are the UK Center of Excellence for the treatment of the rare form of Leukemia I have. They offered me a drug trial and I have never looked back, achieving remission in six months. My specialist was available to me for weekly visits as well as phone calls and email whenever I had any questions or concerns. She normally replied to my emails within about two hours. And all of this cost me not one penny - not the consultations, drugs, tests, transfusions or treatments. When I read the horror stories in the US press about "socialized medicine," I would like everyone in the US to know what it is really like to be backed up by the UK system, which is caring, responsive and up-to-date, and all free at the point of delivery.


Perspective of a Medical Professional in Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

I support universal health care because: As a physician, it is easier for me to provide care to the patient I don’t have to ask permission to order an MRI. I just order it. As a disabled patient in a wheelchair from injury and a heart condition (from age), it makes it cost effective for me as a high end user of medical care (18 specialists this year alone). All the studies show it is the cheaper option for the govt. So. what’s not to like? MJ Willard DVM MD


Working in both the US and Canada as a doctor #DAresists #Medicare4all

I am both a US and a Canadian citizen. I am in the unusual position of having practiced in Canada before the development of universal government-funded health care known as Medicare, followed by practice in the US without universal health care, followed by practice back in Canada when Medicare had been established. Having experienced the worst of US medical care, I decided to never again practice in the US. I fear today for Canadian health care as it drifts toward a US-style private model. I developed and ran a three centre health care network in Rochester New York 1970-75, where I also practiced. I had good contracts with Blue Cross for the employed of Kodak, Xerox and American Optical, and I had a good reimbursement rate for those who were destitute on Medicaid. In the middle we tried to care for the marginal poor or sometimes employed. It can’t be done. What I faced as an administrator in trying to be fair to those who cannot pay eventually put the system in jeopardy. This loomed large in my decision to return to Canada, where I ran a similar system in Montreal from 1975-1993. There I no longer worried about providing cost effective care. Our Canadian health care system has not had a major overhaul since its inception in the 1970s, but we need to work on fixing those problems through comprehensive health care reform, without destroying a system that most Canadians feel is an expression of the highest values in our society. Those who see an increase in private care as the main way to fix the system seem unable to separate their own financial benefit from the needs of the nation. While I looked in the US for a warm place where my wife Bonnie, who is handicapped, could be independent, in the end I was so distressed with the US private-for-profit system that permeated everything from how poor people were cared for to the educational system that seemed blind to what was happening around them, that I felt that I had no choice but to return to Canada. It is useful to think about how Bonnie was flown without charge from Quebec to Ontario on a specialized intensive care jet to receive landmark surgery unavailable in Quebec, how the costs of her many months in hospital were the price of room TV. Or when I required back treatments then unavailable in Canada, Quebec paid for me to receive care in Minneapolis. Unlike what many in the US believe, there are no restrictions in Canada on choice of physician, assuming availability. In fact, our system is largely entrepreneurial and uncontrolled, unless the doctor is on salary, which is still rare. Some would say that ours is not a health care system at all but a system of paying doctors and hospitals for providing services according to a schedule of payments. And we are unique among comparable Western societies because we do not fund essential drug costs for the patient. I am astonished, though I ought not be, that many Americans, who are one disease short of being destitute, believe that single payer health care is bad for them. Part of the US population’s refusal to embrace the obvious is achieved by scaring them with terms like “socialism” and the spectre of a Canadian system where people cannot choose their own doctor and they will not receive the care that they need. Canadians of course can see their own doctor, and as many times as they need, without cost to them, just by showing their Medicare card. Lies about the Canadian health care system are willfully propagated by US private insurance interests, and ignorant legislators in the pocket of lobbyists are believed by a naïve and unsophisticated public. While there are undeniable problems in the Canadian health care system, compared to the US we are in much better shape, and we can fix our problems, within the existing system-- if we put our minds and pockets to it.


A 35 year perspective from Canada! #DAresists #Medicare4all

I am a US citizen living in Canada for about 35 years. For the most part, the health care system here works well. We receive universal health care and can use our own family doctor or go to community clinic as the need arises to receive free health care. I have not found it difficult to get my own family doctor. But some individuals need to spend more time. Emergency care is always available. I personally had surgery done here successfully. My wife had a series of tests that needed to be done as ordered from her doctor and were done on time, We pay higher taxes here in Canada but that is really the price paid for universal health care - it It is also a more humane and evolved way of living! Many other countries are able to accomplish this - I hope a more united congress with participation from democrats can accomplish this. Regards, James Sofia


Fearing the bill/increased premiums interferes with our health #DAresists #Medicare4all

Before moving to Germany to study, I had two medical incidents (one of them requiring an ambulance) that my insurance declined to cover. My savings were completely wiped out from the financial shock and the prices for the procedures were exorbitantly high (an ambulance in NY costs about $100/minute which came to $2000 after a 20 minute ride). Since coming to Germany, I've discovered the benefits of a system that is not based on the monetization of healthcare. I no longer have to fear the small print on the contract pages of an insurance company, and I don't hesitate to seek medical attention when I need it.


Hit by a car while rollerblading #DAresists #Medicare4all

I live in France but spend a lot of time in Austria. Ten years ago I was side-swiped by a car while rollerblading and my right arm was severely injured -- I couldn't use it for a year. The treatment involved an ambulance, emergency care followed by six hours of surgery, a two-week hospital stay in Austria, check ups by my French orthopedic surgeon upon my return to France, lots and lots of pain killers AND ten years of weekly physical therapy. My co-pay was less than €100 all together.


Universal health care in the United Kingdom #DAresists #Medicare4all

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


Universal Health Care is a necessity #DAresists #Medicare4all

I moved to Canada from Pennsylvania in 2000. My wife is Canadian, and one of the main reasons we decided to live in Canada was the health care system. She was petrified at the horror stories she saw about health care bills. In 2005, I was a permanent resident, not yet a citizen, and I was diagnosed with Leukemia. If you've ever seen the joke about what Breaking Bad in Canada would be like, ("Mr White, you have cancer. Treatment starts next week." End credits.) that was my exact situation. I was diagnosed on a Friday, and chemo started the following Monday. I went through 4 rounds of chemo, spent 28 days inpatient, had numerous ER visits, and went through a course of extremely expensive medication to treat fungal pneumonia. All of this was FREE. The treatment I received was both immediate and impeccable. Without universal health care, I'd be dead, or bankrupt. I certainly wouldn't be able to afford a home, or enjoy the life I fought cancer for.


The experience of a senior citizen couple in Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

As everyone can tell you, Canada's system isn't perfect, but it is certainly a vast improvement over the US system. In my years here in Canada, I have battled heart disease, including bypass surgery, degenerative disc disease, and two surgeries for cancer. My husband has had several knee replacements. All this has been at no cost to us. Now that we are over 65, prescription drugs are also included. I watched how much my mother paid for her insulin and a plethora of other drugs in the US, even with Part D of Medicare and an Insurance plan and how that ate into her savings in her old age. To be fair, elective surgery and many specialties are rationed based on severity of illness. In my experience they are pretty good at triage, but you can end up on a wait list if your condition isn't urgent. I can see my family doctor within a day or two. All countries ration health care. In the US it's rationed based on who can pay. In Canada, it's rationed more on need. Hope this helps. Nobody should go bankrupt because they get sick. Jackie DiGiovanni


More than 40 years of coverage in Spain #DAresists #Medicare4all

My name is Kate Seley and I was married to a Spanish national who passed away on January 20 2017 - doubly horrible day for me. I have lived in Spain for over 40 years and have 3 adult children who I gave birth to here with the national health care system with a minimum of pain and maximum of joy and supportive care. I want to clarify that in European countries with a National Health Care Service, it is NOT considered "socialized medicine". Conservative PM's or presidents, i.e., Cameron in the UK, Sarkozy in France and Rajoy here in Spain have never thought of repealing and replacing. They may increase copayments a bit as they're more austerity- oriented but that's it. It's too popular and they don't see it as it socialism! The GOP seems unique. To return to my family's and my own experience: In this long period we have all been in national health care hospital, my daughter for a bad case of salmonella over 20 years ago and my younger son for a complicated broken wrist and leg.. I myself have undergone a lumpectomy and a titanium bar implant to repair broken humerus, both with with totally satisfactory results. But perhaps the most dramatic case is my husband's. He eventually passed away but he had 4 different types types of cancer -prostate, bone colon and throat as well as chronic congestive heart failure. They managed to defeat the odds and keep him alive almost 4 years, during which he received excellent and sensitive supporting care. Sometimes, during the final year, I used to think that he preferred staying at the public health hospital to being at home cause he felt more secure there. There are no limited visiting hours anda loved one can sleep there in an armchair that opens up into a bed, rather like 1st class airlines seats.. On some floors, you could actually feel positive vibes.. The cancer facilities and especially the Coronary intensive care unit are very state of the art. The Gps in the local clinics or "ambulatorios" are in general competent and caring and medication has only a relatively small copay.


The cost of doing business #DAresists #Medicare4all

About eight years ago, my husband left his own company and started his own business in London. It was a bit risky with three children still at home and university fees looming, but one thing we did not have to worry about was private health insurance, which would have been crazily expensive for a family of five in the US. We have had great experiences with the NHS. My husband created many new jobs in this company and his next one, and we didn't have to worry about high premiums or deductibles at a time of financial risk. Simply put, the US insurance-based system is terrible for the economy and job growth, as well as people. On the other side of the pond, my sister, who just lost her job, pays hundreds a month for a policy with a $5,000 deductible. She's decided to put off preventive care because she just can't afford it. . #DAresists #Medicare4all


A comparative story from Australia #DAresists #Medicare4all

Hi there, I’m a NC voter living in Australia and working for Bupa, a UK-based health insurer and care partner. Long before I had up-close experience with a functioning healthcare system and a private insurer who genuinely cares for its customers, I grew up in rural North Carolina with a chronically ill mother. Suffering from Lupus, cancer, and a wide range of related issues, my mom was often in and out of the hospital. Despite working gruelling hours, my dad always found it difficult to make ends meet. Any child who grew up with a seriously ill parent knows all too well the anguish of seeing a loved one in pain, the pitying head pats from Sunday school teachers, and the stomach-dropping discovery that someone you care about had to be rushed to the ER again. My time abroad has taught me that many Australians can commiserate with experiences like these. But most can’t understand the constant battle my parents waged just to make sure my mom could have health insurance. With so many pre-existing problems, it was always hard for my mom to secure a plan that could account for her many needs. The ramifications of poor health are acute enough; children don’t need to overhear their parents crying because they aren’t sure how to pay their medical bills. Thank goodness most Australians already understand this. While no system is perfect, Australia’s public/private hybrid allows consumers extra choice and extra comforts if they can afford them, while supplying basic care for those who can’t. This likely contributes to the comparable cleanliness, safety, and overall better quality of life that Australians tend to enjoy. President Obama took on great political risk to try and fix our own broken system. He did this by selecting a bipartisan compromise: a market-based solution that originated from the Heritage Foundation. While the ACA is definitely flawed, I know that it helped other little girls avoid at least some of the pain I felt. I am repulsed by the moral failure of politicians who have decided that cynical machinations are more pressing than fixing the ACA’s flaws. Their disregard for American lives is alarming. Other countries have recognised that investing in their citizens’ well-being pays dividends; I pray that one day America will wake up to the value of a similar investment. 


Overview from nearly 20 years in the UK #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have been living in England since 2001. My health care here has been excellent. I don’t have a single “story” of why the care here is excellent but I do have a general ability to get on with my life and manage my own health because of the support I can count on from the NHS. I’ve experienced minor illnesses, a skin problem that required minor facial surgery, and mental health difficulties that required months of treatment. None of this cost me anything (okay, a small medicine co-pay but REALLY small – and limited since the NHS prescription card is a thing). Any time my son, who is now 19, was ill I could take him to the doctor (I’ve never lived anywhere more than 15 minutes’ walk from the doctor’s office) because no matter how little money we had, he was taken care of. I think back to my life in the US as a child - where my parents had to decide not only if I needed the doctor, but if we could afford to go. That is not my life and not my reality. I can take risks. I can travel. I can extend and renovate my home. I can buy a new car. I never have to hold money back to make sure I can afford the doctor or the hospital. I can be less than perfect with money and not die because of it. I want that for everyone. I want my friends back home to have the freedom I have that comes with universal health care. Regards, Arwen


#DAresists #Medicare4all

I'm a Michigan expat who moved to Sweden 16 years ago. Within one week of arriving in Sweden, I was registered with my "person number" (S.S.#), soon after which I was invited to my local medical center for a thorough physical check-up, including a pap smear and a mammogram, to establish a medical database for myself in Sweden. Sweden's "one-payer" national healthcare system is amazing for several reasons. First, there's none of that American pre-exsisting condition nonsense to worry about. One-payer systems work by the principal of "many hands make light work". I'm happy and proud to pay a little extra in taxes so that every man, woman, and child is covered, because caring for every citizen is one of the things that makes a country civilized. Plus, there is a ceiling for dental and healthcare costs for those which chronic or congenital illnesses and conditions. I love Sweden for more reasons than just its amazing healthcare system, and I pity Americans who have to fight tooth and nail to get basic human services. Living in Sweden has taught me that countries should be run like non-profit organizations. Sure, it's o.k. to make a profit, but turn it back into the country and its citizens for the benefit of everyone.  


A perspective from Ecuador #DAresists #Medicare4all

Yes we have universal health care here in Ecuador and even the poorest is received at either the public hospital and health care system. In addition there is the Ecuadorian Social Security System (IESS) for those who voluntarily subscribe or those subscribed through their employers. On paper it is great - until you have to use the system! Although there is some level of care for everyone there are serious problems too! There are shortages of doctors, nurses and administrative staff and since there is a parallel system of lucrative private hospitals and doctors operating private clinics, the good, well trained medical and laboratory personnel tend to migrate to these private institutions in the major cities like Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca, leaving smaller and rural areas without good private care nor with decent government operated facilities. So while I applaud a government run health care system providing services for ALL, all the time, without a parallel private system, it needs to be universal, efficient, employing the best medical and administrative people. Will this be possible? Look at the Veterans Administration for an answer to this question! So if we can't run the veteran's administration correctly, how will we do it for the entire nation? So it is not so simple, requires a lot of planning, mammoth resources, a steady supply of well trained medical and administrative personnel and huge outlays for hospitals and related medical infrastructure, unless we simply nationalize existing private facilities and convert them into government institutions. The transition from what we have today to a public system will be a complicated and difficult task. Good luck. Robert Flick


Healthy and debt-free in France #DAresists #Medicare4all

Here in France my parents both received excellent care for their cancers which were detected early thanks to all the help getting free screenings and cheap visits to specialists. I also received great care after a sport injury that required a shoulder operation, from identifying what the issue was with scans to my rehabilitation which cost me pennies with a great physical therapist. I hope the US will implement universal healthcare, it is something everyone needs at some point or another in their life.


Reflections from The Netherlands #DAresists #Medicare4all

I pay 178 euros per month for fairly decent coverage for a senior. However it is on the price rise every year. I am still grateful for the service and I am appalled at the state of America. kind regards M.L.Moher


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!