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.
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.
I live in Germany, which has universal health insurance but actually allows people to opt between the public insurance or a private insurer. I'm privately insured. The premiums are higher than the German public plan but far lower than what I as a freelancer was paying in the USA before I emigrated. Since arriving in Germany, I have had surgery for a meniscus tear and my gall bladder has been removed. In both cases, I chose the doctor I wanted and I was able to schedule an appointment at least as quickly as in the USA. I would occasionally check back with relatives who are doctors in the USA, showing them MRI scans or test results, and they were always impressed first at the quality of the treatment (for example the quality of the scans) as well as the price of the treatment. Medication costs are also far lower here: I have to take Irbesartan and Amlodipine for high blood pressure, and, again, the doctors I know in the USA are consistently impressed at the price differential, even for these two medications that have been around for ages and which should be cheap in the US as well. I get very sad when I read about the healthcare debate in the US -- the falsehoods that people disseminate about the quality of care in countries with universal healthcare aren't just irritating to me personally because I know they're not true; what bothers me the most is the knowledge that millions of Americans are not getting the quality of care that they are entitled to as human beings because of all this misinformation. A friend of mine (American) from high school died before she reached the age of 40 because she couldn't afford the proper care for her diabetes. I've never heard of anything like that happening in Germany. Americans deserve better.
My wife and I segued fro the corporate sector and had private insurance. My wife developed lung cancer and the initial treatment was paid, after that we were dropped and couldn't get health insurance because of her preexisting condition. We lived in abject fear for 3 years that we would lose everything we had built over our careers and would not be able to afford treatment if it came to that, until the ACA was passed and we were able to get health insurance again.
As an American living in Germany, I’ve never had to worry about my healthcare. We could choose our insurance company, with half of the cost being covered by us and the other half by my husband’s employer. I gave birth to two children, and had fantastic follow-up visits from the midwife to make sure the babies and I were healthy and to be sure I knew what I was doing with my newborns. When I broke my elbow, I went to the hospital and had it set, and then had the necessary follow-up visits. When I recently had a big operation, I could choose my surgeon, my hospital, and had great follow-up care. One of our children has a dustmite allergy, and the insurance not only paid for desensitization shots, but also the mattress and pillow covers. And so on. Germany has a modern industrialized economy like the United States, but there is this idea of “solidarity” here which means that citizens understand the moral obligation to take care of their fellow countrymates. And while people may have some things to worry about, whether or not they can afford healthcare is not one of those worries.
In the United Kingdom, I routinely receive sub-standard care and worry anytime anything significant occurs. Almost all the major procedures I have had in the UK resulted in some malpractice. Older people here are terrified of going to hospital because many die and not of the illness they were admitted for. I have no trust in the system. Many times the doctors who can see you for only 10 minutes just give you what you ask for without any tests or google just as you did. Diseases are identified late because prevention is not priority.
I have to laugh when I hear the Republicans using "horror stories" of Canadian healthcare as a way to scare people into voting for them. My experience couldn't be further from that. I moved to Canada just over eight years ago, and after having only been here a couple of months, I suffered a bout of extreme and intense pain in my chest/abdomen. I took a taxi to the emergency room of the nearest hospital and after a series of tests and examinations, I was diagnosed with gallstones and set up with a specialist to operate on me. I was not yet working, so unsure how I was going to pay for everything. My surgery was initially scheduled for about a month later, but I had to postpone it due to my getting a job. The surgery took place just over a month later (so much for the long wait times) and I had to spend one night in the hospital post-surgery for observation. The cost for all of this? For a trip to the ER, numerous tests, laparoscopic surgery and a stay in the hospital? $13.54 - that was the cost of the taxi I took to the ER. Everything else was paid for by the wonderful healthcare that all residents are entitled to. I wasn't yet a citizen, or even a permanent resident at the time, but just a new transplant from the US. I hesitate to think what all of that would have cost in the US!
I am an American citizen living in Germany and insured through the country's universal healthcare system. Although private insurance is also available here, the vast majority of people have the standard public insurance, and I can see why. It's by far, hands down the BEST health insurance I've ever had. It's simple, affordable, there are virtually no bureaucratic hurdles, and, best of all, any treatment you might need is paid for in full so NO risk of bankruptcy. The premiums are taken from your paycheck every month, exactly like Social Security, are income-based so everyone can afford it, and there are no surprise costs. Ever. The German public healthcare system covers a standard range of check-ups and procedures, which are automatically covered 100%. This range includes preventive care and standard treatment for ALL acute and chronic illnesses and injuries, including pre-existing conditions and basic dental. If there is going to be a charge for any additional treatment not covered by the public insurance (for example, higher quality materials for dental fillings), the doctor has to disclose the exact amount to the patient. The patient then has to sign a statement saying they consent to pay a pre-disclosed amount of money, BEFORE the care is provided. Patients are never required to pay for something they didn't consent to. Even if you do have to pay for something out of pocket the cost is very affordable (especially compared to the outrageous prices Americans are forced to pay). For example, the last time I had bloodwork done I requested a vitamin B12 test, which was not covered by the public insurance, and I only paid 14 euros (about $17) for it. I can hardly express how much safer it makes me feel to know that the cost of my healthcare is completely taken care of. I don't have to worry about it, ever. It's such a relief to know that I won't be surprised by costs that the insurance company just randomly decided not to pay for, which has happened to me several times with private insurance in America and has cost me hundreds and hundreds of dollars. It's comforting to know that here in Germany I will never be faced with the possibility of bankruptcy simply due to an illness or injury. That is a comfort I will never have in America unless something major changes. And in addition to the costs for treatment being completely taken care of, the premiums are affordable because they are solely determined by income. This is not only great because everyone contributes what their income allows, but it also prevents discrimination based on age, sex or health status. Women, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions are not charged more than anyone else. This is the way a humane, civilized healthcare system should be. I think America should adopt many of the conveniences and much of the humanity of the German universal healthcare system. When I go to the doctor here, I show my insurance card when I arrive, they scan it (it has an NFC chip with my information on it), and when my appointment is done I just leave. No paperwork, no copays, no fussing around with bureaucracy. I love that about the German system, and that's how the American system should be too. It will be crucial to look to other countries for inspiration and models that America can base a universal healthcare system on. Look particularly to northern European countries like Finland and Denmark, which have even more streamlined public systems than Germany. Looking to those countries can give a good idea in terms of content of a universal health plan. I also think looking to what Americans would consider "third world" countries with universal public healthcare systems is also useful, since it shows that a system that includes everyone doesn't have to cost a huge amount of money. It's time that America joined the rest of the developed world in providing healthcare to all citizens and residents as a right, and not as a privilege to be bought and sold by the wealthy. A single-payer, Medicare-for-all universal healthcare system is the best choice. If that existed I might even consider moving back to the States, but as it is I'm going to stay in Germany where my health is protected and where my entire financial future can't be compromised by one accident or illness.
I moved to Hungary 4 years ago and my husband and I decided to sign up for the TAJ (Hungarian Health Care). We have paid an average of $200 per month each as we are required to pay into their social security system for the first five years. In 2018 our cost will be reduced to $40 per month as we will have our permanent residence cards then. There are no co-pays or deductibles. In January this year I broke my elbow when I slipped on some ice. We went to the emergency room as it was 13:00. I went it and was registered right away. I was seen, xrayed and casted in less than one hour. Everyone was professional and helpful and it didn't cost one dime more. I had numerous folliw up visits and, again I was not charged anything. In the US I would have waited for at least 3 to 6 hours and, with insurance, it would have cost me a minimum of $500 out of pocket costs. Before Obamacare I was hospitalized twice, once for a heart attack and once for a serious food poisoning. Both times a weeks stay in the hospital and doctor expenses cost me over $12k.
Here in Germany I'm surrounded by people who don't have to live with the existential angst of not being able to pay for health care. It makes for a very relaxed and privileged atmosphere, in comparison to the US. During my 3 pregnancies, I had a midwife come to my home after giving birth and showing me everything from breastfeeding to binding a baby wrap. I even got free acupuncture during the pregnancies. When I was self-employed, insurance only cost less than 200 EUR. There are no waiting times to get appointments and the doctors are first-class. I could go on, but I will spare you. I think you get the point. I sometimes joke, that when it comes to health care and other social services, I feel like I've died and gone to heaven.
Here're my two cents about the health care debate in the US after living in Sweden for 30 years. I never thought that a single-payer health system would gain as much positive attention in the US as it has these last months, but it has. Having been both on the giving (through my taxes) and receiving (mine and my family’s health care) end of Sweden’s well run single-payer health care system, I can heartily recommend a similar system in the US. While I´m sure I pay a bit more in taxes than I would in the US (given the same income), there are a lot of things I don’t have to worry about or consider when it comes to health care. It makes no difference who my employer is – I can work for a private company, a public agency, freelance, run my own business, be between jobs or retired – I know that I have full medical coverage no matter what. And so does my family and basically everyone else in Sweden. It’s an economical and efficient way of taking care of millions of people’s health care needs. We are part of a huge risk pool made up of the whole country – most of us, who are healthy and need very little health care, as well as those of us in need of urgent care every once in a while or those of us who are chronically ill. No cap on lifetime costs, no medical situations that are exempt – if I fall and break an arm, if I get cancer, if my pregnancy is complicated, if I need physical therapy, if my child is born prematurely or with serious health issues, if I need to adjust my insulin dosage – you name it – quality health care is a given. Since it is in the county’s best interests to keep medical costs down, preventive procedures are easy to prioritize – that can save not only money but suffering and future ill health. Such large groups of patients mean great leverage when it comes to negotiating costs for medicine. It creates incentives to streamline complex and relatively uncommon procedures and treatments, which can result in higher quality specialized care for more people. While no system is perfect, and Sweden’s is certainly no exception, the advantages of a single-payer health care system are huge – both on a national scale and on an individual basis. It makes economic as well as medical sense and it is humane. Sweden is a rich country whose success is firmly grounded in private enterprise and ownership coupled with a compassionate and pragmatic social agenda. While Sweden’s health care is basically a single-payer system, private and non-profit providers play an important roll alongside the public sector. The US is an immensely rich country but it is squandering the potential for both harnessing huge economical savings and providing exceptional health care to millions of Americans by not creating a more effective system of health care than the unequal and insufficient hodgepodge we have today. I hope that our congressional leaders can get past polarizing partisan politics and take steps to create a truly excellent health care system that is worthy of our great country and benefits its citizens better.
During a routine physical my GP turned up some concerns which prompted him to send me for lab work. This in turn turned up some blood in my stool, which resulted in an order for a colonoscopy. The procedure was preceded by an info session held at the local hospital, where the procedure was to be done. When the day came, everything went off like clock work. They removed a polyp which was sent for testing. About a week later I got the "all clear", much to my relief. The cost for all of this: GP visit, lab work, seminar, procedure: $0. Shortly after I spoke with a friend who lives in the U.S. and asked him if he'd had a colonoscopy yet, as everyone here in Canada of a certain age gets one. He said he hasn't because he can't afford it. That gave me pause to think about freedom. True freedom is freedom from worry- for your health, for your loved one's health, for your financial security. There is no such thing as medical bankruptcy here. As they say: "mic drop"
The easy accessible free birth control here in Sweden is great. It promotes a healthy outlook on sex, especially amongst young people like myself. Apart from the obvious benefits of reduced unwanted pregnancies it helps young women deeling with menstrual issues such as extensive pain. There is also a follow up on side effects which help you find what is right for you and your body. And it's completely free resulting in no one being excluded from this much needed but not always prioritized care.
We moved from the US to the UK around 15 years ago. Britain's National Health Service is a taxpayer-funded universal health service, run by the government and available to all citizens and legal residents and free at the point of use. These are its founding principles and the NHS has broad public support which crosses all party lines. I suppose the NHS is probably one of the purest examples of "socialised medicine." My daughter was diagnosed with thyroid cancer as a young adult. Once the diagnosis was made she was operated on within weeks. The surgeon was very skilled, the nurses very attentive and the hospital was white-glove spotless. Once she had sufficiently recovered from the surgery she was again hospitalised for the radiation treatment. Five years later she is now cancer-free. She has yearly followup visits with the oncologist, and has to take thyroxine for the rest of her life. At the time, my daughter was a student and part-time coffee shop barista. She paid not a penny out of pocket for her treatment, and gets her ongoing prescriptions at no cost. The Brits view healthcare as a human right and the National Health Service as a mark of a civilized society. Americans certainly deserve no less.
My daughter was born at 28 weeks weighing one and a quarter pounds and was 11 inches long. She was in the neonatal unit for just under four months. My husband and I were provided with accomodation at the hospital just down the corridor from the neonatal unit. My daughter received excellent care andas parents we were very well supported. This was an extremely stressful time and I am grateful that we didn't have the added stress of having to finance the medical care my daughter received, not only when she was an inpatient but as an outpatient for monitoring and follow up for many years. It makes a real difference to be able to access healthcare without worrying that you will not be able to afford the care you need. It is tragic that in the USA many people end up neglecting their health and the health of their families because of cost and easy access to services. It is nothing short of criminal to deny people the health care that everyone needs and deserves.
I am a dual US/Canadian citizen resident in Canada since 1978. Over those almost 40 years, I have experienced almost every aspect of universal health care, from moving provinces to GP checkups to minor surgery to emergency assessment for a mini-stroke. In every case I received prompt, caring service from our medical professionals, with no significant wait times. I can't speak highly enough of the experience, and I did not pay a single penny out of pocket. Alan Crook Kawartha Lakes, Ontario
Before Obama Care was passed I wrote President Obama a letter which stated I needed his help. I was an American living in the UK who was, like many I suspect, being held hostage. My captors were the USA Medical System. They were good at torture and brutality. As the healthcare battle raged I decided to apply for UK citizenship. When I received my letter welcoming me to the UK as a citizen tears welled up in my eyes. For the rest of my life I have no worries about medical care. I am the receiver of instant appointments with my GP, house-calls if I cannot get out, prescriptions - which now that I am over 60 are FREE. I have had 2 children, a number of minor procedures at no cost other than my modest monthly contribution to National Insurance (no longer paid now that I am over 60). The UK system gets a bad wrap in the US press but here we have a longer life expectancy than the USA. As an aside when my nephew visited for the 2012 Olympics he separated his shoulder. Going to the local ER he received X-Rays, and MRI, immobilising devices, painkillers, and a CD which contained all imaging and treatment information. The cost to him, as a guest in the UK, NOTHING!! Shame on the USA. Increasingly it is embarrassing to speck with my obvious American accent. God Save the Queen ...
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.
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.
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.