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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Having a baby in Spain #DAresists #Medicare4all

I experienced my entire pregnancy and birth in Spain. I used private insurance, but it's only 30 euro per month and 3 euro per appointment because it is subsidized. Other than that, absolutely everything has been free, from appointments with obstetricians and/or midwives at least once per month, an ultrasound offered at every appointment and a Tdap vaccine to labor, delivery and a 48-hour hospital stay. It would not have cost any more had there been complications during labor. My prenatal classes were free. My lactation consultations and baby massage courses are free. (Or, one could say I got all that for around 33 to 36 euro per month. Had I gone through the public system, it would have been totally free.) It felt strange just waltzing out of the office without stopping to pay after each appointment. My care was and is top-notch, and I'm so glad I was able to have my baby in Spain rather than in the US, which would have left me buried in debt. I have also visited two doctors, a nurse and two midwives in the public system, and have experienced minimal wait times and excellent, thorough care. Here they practice preventative medicine. Of course there are trade-offs. I pay more taxes. It takes longer to go for blood tests, and wait times for non-emergency surgeries are long. But I'd take the Spanish system over the US one, no contest.


Universal Coverage Works in Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

The purpose of Canada’s universal health care system is to provide ALL residents with equal access to quality medical care. I’ve had a few episodes requiring major surgery and had quick access to all the services I needed. The universal system also provides constant ease-of-mind; we know we have the medical coverage we need.


#DAresists #Medicare4all I'd rather be in Canada where healthcare is concerned

We live in Canada and are so lucky to have the health care we enjoy. It isn't free as we've paid for it on a weekly basis throughout our working lives. We are retired now and can still visit the doctor as needed. My husband recently made such a visit as he was experiencing periodic pains in his chest. He was scheduled for a cardiac stress test almost immediately at no cost to us. I dropped him off and picked him up 3 hours later. When he got home he looked this test up as he was curious as to what it might cost in the US and found that it would be $3-5,000 or more depending on where in the US he was. I have no idea if any health plan in the US would cover this test or what the co-pay would be if it did and I'm glad to be here where I don't have to worry about the cost when testing is needed.


Anecdote from Sweden #DAresists #Medicare4all

I live in Sweden. Last month my dad had an infection and spent 17 days in the hospital. Total cost: SEK 1700 (USD 213). Thank goodness for guaranteed, affordable health care. Not only that, on the doctor's recommendation, he was entitled to one month of paid sick leave to recuperate. Why anyone would oppose single-payer, universal health care is beyond me. I care deeply about this issue because my family and friends live stateside. I wish the same peace of mind for them that we have here.


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.



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


Birth Control, Eye Infections, Severe Strep Throat #DAresists #Medicare4all

I arrived to my new Edinburgh, UK home on December 29th. By the 10th of January, my tonsils had swollen up so much I couldn't eat, couldn't talk, couldn't swallow. What to do in a country with a completely foreign-to-me health care system? I hadn't even been set up with a GP (your local doctor you sign up with) yet! I found that I could go to A & E (Accidents and Emergencies) and be seen there. After hearing lots of American right-wing paranoia about socialized healthcare, I expected to arrive at this A&E hospital and experience rushed service, long wait times, and bare minimum care. Couldn't have been farther from the truth. I was seen within 20 minutes of arriving, my nurse was extremely thorough and gentle, and I was given antibiotics on the spot ( and for free since I had paid my yearly NHS surcharge as an American student). Fast forward to Spring. I've been signed up with my local GP for months now. It's a 5 minute walk from my house. I've seen several doctors at this location, and they are all friendly, thorough, and knowledgable. I've woken up one day with a severe eye infection; my eye has swollen shut. I call at 8am for an appointment with the doctor, and they see me a few hours later. I'm given a prescription for medicated eye drops and I walk one block from the doctors to the pharmacy. Within 15 minutes, I'm given my eye drops without any money being exchanged. Fast forward to Summer. I'm in my first serious relationship in many years. I've never had birth control in the States; the added cost had convinced me not to use it unless necessary. I decide to now research my birth control options and choose one to use in the here and now, in the UK, administered under the NHS. I made an appointment with a lovely, confident, knowledgable doctor at my Bruntsfield Medical Practice, and within 30 minutes had the BC implant inserted into my arm. I'm in awe and gratitude every time I experience the health system here in the UK. I've watched a fellow American friend here discover a diagnosis with skin cancer and be fully tested, treated, and cared for, with as many visits and procedures administered as needed to improve and manage her health. I've never felt more safe, secure, confident in being able to control my health and happiness because of the National Health Service here in the UK. Healthcare is not a privilege. Health care is a human right. Healthcare is not a privilege. Health care is a human right. Healthcare is not a privilege. Health care is a human right. Healthcare is not a privilege. Health care is a human right. Healthcare is not a privilege. Health care is a human right.


Health care should not be a choice between life and bankruptcy #DAresists #Medicare4all

If we lived in the US prior to the ACA, we would either be bankrupt or my husband would be dead or in assisted living and in pain for the last fifteen years. He was diagnosed with an aggressive prostate cancer in 2000, herniated a disc in 2001, needed a hip replacement in 2007, and has had radiation for the cancer and multiple operations related to his knees, hips, back, and other problems. The bills would have been staggering in the US. He received all the care and treatment he needed and is still at home and as comfortable as possible at the age of 88 thanks to Alberta Home Care, who sends assistants twice a day to help with dressing and showering and an RN every two weeks to check up on him. I cannot tell you how important it is to know that his needs have been and will be looked after without the prospect of losing our life's earnings or selling our house. I also cannot believe that people in the US don't understand that they spend far more per capita even now on health care for much worse outcomes. Wait times can be long sometimes, yes, but they are determined by need, not the size of the wallet. I trust that I will get critical care immediately if necessary. And no, they don't do death panels here. That only happens in the US or third world countries when people can't afford to pay. Please, please, come to your senses, look abroad and see what has worked elsewhere. Canada's system is not perfect - I'm not sure any system can be perfect - but it is better than the US by a long shot. I sincerely hope, for the sake of most of your populace, that you are able to join the rest of the civilized world and provide basic health care to all. And it isn't just my husband. Here's my husband, a best friend who was diagnosed with brain cancer last year, and his wife with MS, all of whom have received good and compassionate care because of this health system.


A New Kidney Thanks to Canadian Healthcare #DAresists #Medicare4all

Four years ago, I was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease and was told that I would need dialysis/transplant within 1-2 years. My renal failure occurred two years ago, requiring dialysis. For the first few months it was necessary to go to the hospital for those treatments. Eventually I started training for home hemodialysis. When I was ready, a machine was installed in my home, saving 90 minutes round trip travel time. It also afforded me the ability to time my treatments to suit my lifestyle. These treatments cost about $10000 per month, all of which was paid for by my provincial health plan. The story doesn't end there. Several months ago, I had a kidney transplant with my wife as the donor. Again, this was paid for in its entirety by the provincial health system. I will now require medications costing about $3000 per month for the rest of my life. Our employer health plans cover those costs costs for now. In 3 years I will be 65. At that time the provincial health system will assume those drug payments. A nation's healthcare system is a strong indicator of how its government values and cares for its citizens. Shame on the US for placing insurance companies and their cronies before its people. Long live single payer universal healthcare!


Luxembourg's Universal Healthcare Cannot Be Beat #DAresists #Medicare4all

We have universal healthcare here in Luxembourg. The first time I went to the doctor with my son it cost €30 ($35) and all but €3 was reimbursed two weeks later. When I went to the pharmacy for his antibiotics it cost just €1.73. When I went to get a check up at my GP for my thyroid again it cost €3. When I went for my blood tests, which would have cost at least $2,000 in the US, they charged me €0. Both my children are getting orthodontic treatment which when I left Seattle two years ago would have cost about $20,000 per child if we were lucky. Here it will cost less than €1,000 out-of-pocket by the time we are done. We don't have insurance premiums, we don't have insurance cards with co-pays and different levels of service. Everyone is treated the same here. That my friends is what universal healthcare is like in Luxembourg.


No Need to Fear the Ambulance #DAresists #Medicare4all

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.


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.


Swedish health care system is great! #DAresists #Medicare4all

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.


Incalculable Reassuring Comfort #DAresists #Medicare4all

I am a U.S. Citizen living abroad in Canada for almost two decades. Over that time I have developed a tremendous appreciation for the Canadian Healthcare system. I am deeply grateful that when I am ill, or a family member has been ill, the first thought has always been to get the appropriate, necessary treatment. When I lived in the States I lived through many periods of time with little or no healthcare. I would suffer unnecessarily to avoid the cost of care. Like so many Americans I thought I had to "be stoic" to avoid going into debt as "just a part of life." I no longer live with this fear in Canada. I have witnessed elderly friends admitted to very good nursing home facilities they could never afford in the States that are completely covered by the Canadian government. I have witnessed people treated with dignity regardless of their ability to pay. I have experienced recuperating from illness and injury without the fear and dread of the many "surprise" bills that will soon arrive in the mail. So my "healthcare story" is this: the Canadian Healthcare system - just by its very existence - has brought incalculable reassuring comfort and peace for my future into my life. Thank you


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

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


A nation's choice... #DAresists #Medicare4all

I'm a US citizen living in Canada since 1983. Since the U.S. evokes God under whom it exists, a confidence that runs deep, I wish to contrast the U.S. and Canada in terms of bottomline... I too am a religious/spiritual person. The bottomline is this...which God does the U.S. of A choose to live under; the God of compassion or the god of mammon. You either reign in the health care industry gorging itself on profits - essentially profits wrapped in body bags or you apply universal compassion that undermines obscene profits where everyone has coverage - it's either one or the other. From what I know, both country's have waiting lines, my US friends like to point fingers...the difference is people up here wait in line to see a doctor, down there people wait to die. I love my country, my heart swells when I hear the anthem, but I am sickened by the lack of backbone of political leaders who continually sell their souls out to the "in god we trust" on a dollar bill. To my country, go the distance to be universally compassionate...


A Comparative Perspective From Australia #DAresists #Medicare4all

This is a rather long story, but I will try to give the short version. I started buying health insurance when I was about 21 and became more independent of my parents. I lived in California and for most of the years, I was "covered" by Blue Shield. By the time I was in my late 50s and into my 60s, I was paying more than $1000 a month for a crappy $10,000 deductible policy that was really only in place to protect me from some true catastrophe. This policy had a $10,000 deductible for every calendar year. Then I found out a company called IMG (International Medical Group). The insurance was designed for ex-pats that lived abroad and was less expensive because hospital costs and doctors fees abroad are much cheaper than the costs in the US. About two years into coverage with IMG, it was discovered that I had a small cancerous tumor in my kidney that needed to be removed. IMG refused to pay for this operation, calling it a pre-existing condition. They cited a clause on page 25 of the 25-page contract with them that defined pre-existing condition as any condition or disease regardless of whether it had ever been symptomatic or diagnosed. Well, as you can well understand, it is EXACTLY why we have insurance to cover us for conditions that have never been diagnosed or symptomatic. I had to bring a lawsuit against them to ultimately get my compensation, but had to pay $25,000 in advance for my operation and wait two years to win the lawsuit. This was the last straw for me. The following year, I officially became a resident of Austria. It was one of the best things I ever did. The health care has been brilliant. Everything is paid for. There is no bureaucracy. Every time I am at the hospital or the doctor's office, I give them my healthcare card for 30 seconds, and I am done. Great doctors, great service, top hospitals and equipment, and virtually free pharmaceuticals as well. I need to wait five more years to become a citizen of Austria, and I hope to do that as well. Best Regards, Jimmy Petterson


HELD HOSTAGE in the UK ... PLEASE HELP!! #DAresists #Medicare4all

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 ...


US citizen living in Canada since 1983... #DAresists #Medicare4all

Health care is never free, someone pays for it. My experience in Canada is everyone pays a little more in taxes so that everyone has coverage. What do I mean by coverage...anyone who needs heart surgery, visits a family doctor, or is referred to a specialist, needs an MRI, or is diagnosed with cancer and needs chemo treatment, or have a stay in a hospital...these are just examples...what you do is present your CardCare that has a number to admissions, they record the necessary have your appointment...that's bill comes in the mail ever! Also, I have complete freedom to choose the doctor I want. This is what I know to be true!


I have zero health insurance... #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have zero health insurance and returning to the USA would be of no help.