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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.
I first came to Mexico in 1959 for a six week art course at the Institute Allende in San Miguel--and here I still am. I was out of Mexico for seven years once living and wo
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!
As a Type 1 diabetic, living in Italy has been good fortune. All my health care needs are met, and I pay very little for that care. Taxes are steep, but they are predictable, and I don't worry about a medical emergency bankrupting my family. Sadly, the prospect of returning to the US feels fraught with the "pre-existing conditions" provision, which has to be one of the most cynical and immoral policies in a civilized society. How odd that as someone born and raised in the US, and for 30 years a taxpayer there, I may be a medical exile from my homeland.
In 2014 I had to have back surgery to remove a severely herniated disc. Leading up to the surgery I had an X-ray, two MRIs, two non-effective cortisone injections and ultimately a referral to the top spinal surgeon in Paris. I had to stop working because I could not stand, lay, walk or sit in comfort. I was given many medications over the period leading up to eventually necessary surgery. In France, this type of surgery requires multiple nights in the hospital. I checked in on Friday afternoon for my surgery later that day. I checked out Monday afternoon after the surgeon and the orthopedist had both performed further examinations and made sure I could walk properly. After 6 more weeks off of work, I went back to my job having continued to earn 70% full salary over the 3 months off of work. I can't even imagine having had my surgery in the US. I paid a total of €150 out of pocket for doctors visits, medications, treatment and diagnosis leading up to and including back surgery and a three night stay in the hospital. And that 150 was to pay for my mom to have a bed in my room and three meals a day with me. In the US I'd be bankrupt. It's a government's duty to protect its citizens. It should not be the party responsible for doing its citizens harm.
Thanks to exceptional healthcare in the Netherlands, my husband and I were able to start the family we always wanted. After learning that it would be difficult for us to conceive a child naturally, doctors suggested that IVF treatments were our best option. We were able to take advantage of our time abroad and go through the IVF process from start to finish- doctors visits, prescriptions, countless ultrasounds, embryo transfer- all completely covered by our insurance. We paid next to nothing out of pocket compared to the astronomical sum (tens of thousands of dollars) for this treatment in the USA.
Very quickly I was seen by a cancer specialist. I had a tumour removed and received radiation treatment and was placed on a daily medication. About 10 years later, during my annual checkup, which included a mammogram, cancer was again found in the same breast. The next day!! I was given appointments in the same week to see the same cancer specialist and the same cancer surgeon from 10 years ago. I would have been operated on in that same week, but there was a week's delay because there wasn't a slot in the operating rooms. I received follow up care at home and also post op treatments. There were also treatment medications to take and some that were used daily for many years. I had the peace of mind that I needed to help me heal because ALL OF THIS WAS AT NO COST TO ME!! This also includes my annual checkups, not only for the cancer, but preventative injections for flu, shingles, etc. Two years ago, my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He also received timely topnotch care with the most up to date treatments and medications and continued follow-up. Again there was no cost to him!! We are grateful for our Canadian health c
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.
After 6 and a half years in Australia, I cannot imagine going back to the US system of healthcare. Although there is optional private insurance Down Under, everyone is covered under the federal Medicare scheme where the burden of monthly healthcare costs are non-existent. I have only had a minor scare involving several x-rays and a CT scan, of which was completely levied in taxes - speaking of, that are no different to what I was paying in US on a comparable salary. When my daughter was born, the largest bill paid for the entire birth was a $ 36.00 per day for the underground parking. It is unthinkable now to imagine paying for what should be a fundamental human right, guaranteed and accessible to all citizens regardless of income, situation or pre-existing health condition. While it isn't perfect here, it is vastly better than the US system where the majority of people are placed under enormous stress to afford their health coverage. I urge the US to adopt a Medicare-for-All model similar to Australia.
It breaks my heart every time I see a health-related GoFundMe campaign, particularly for CHILDREN. Having lived 14 years in Europe, I finally get it. Little by little, the heavy burden of healthcare was lifted from my body and mind as I adjusted to the reality that healthcare would always be there for me, no matter what. My colonoscopy was 100% free. And also for my daughter: when she was in the hospital, I worried about her, not about her bills. We never got a bill. From a distance, I now see health care in the US as an albatross, along with credit card debt and school loans, dragging anyone not wealthy down and chaining them to the US and to jobs they may hate or situations they cannot escape. I know it's hard to believe, Americans, but it IS possible. The money IS there. They find trillions for defense, and they can find the funds for this. Don't believe the hype that it's "not possible here" or "too expensive" or "poor quality". Those are all lies. I wouldn't have believed it myself until I left the USA for long enough to really experience healthcare in two other developed countries. It can be done - but you have to believe it or it will never become a reality!
but fortunately, because I live in Germany and am covered by public health insurance, I did not have to worry about the costs. On March 16, 2016 I had a routine examination (Mammiogram paid fully by a public Health insurance, the Hanseatische Ersatz Krankenkasse). One week later I received a letter, stating there were some irregularities and I should come in to the office for further testing. Beginning March 30th I had further testing (ultrasound and punch biopsy) and immediately upon the same day the diagnosis of cancer was confirmed. At that point I very gratefully found myself being accompanied by a very competent network of medical professionals (Radiologische Allianz). As soon as the diagnosis was confirmed, I checked around with friends and professionals to find a top notch hospital specializing in breast cancer in Hamburg and was operated on (breast conserving surgery) at the hospital of my choice on April 14th. I remained in the hospital for three days. The Radiologische Allianz guided and accompanied me throughout the entire process (further pretesting - MRI - as well as the post radiological treatment and testing). The only costs, which I personally had to pay was € 10,00 a day during my hospital stay, because I asked to be put up in a single room. Taxi costs for the 30 days of local irradiation was partially reimbursed by the health insurance. The health insurance also paid full travel costs and most of the costs at the 3-week rehabilitation center on the island of Föhr (North Sea), where I had to pay only € 10,00 per day. The cancer medication, which I need to take for 5 years following radiation, costs me only € 5,00 per prescription. If I had lived and worked in the USA at that time, I am sure that I would have been bankrupt by now. During my working years my health insurance (which also covered my children) cost monthly ca. € 600,00, half of which was paid by my employer, leaving me with a monthly health insurance of € 300,00. I realize that this might sound high, but this covers all health issues from giving birth to dying. The health care and rehabilitation services I have received have always been top notch - and I usually get an appointment at the doctor's office within 2-3 weeks. I feel extremely fortunate paying for and receiving the services of socialized medicine. I am a firm believer that quality health care should be a right and not a privilege for each and every citizen.
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!
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.
I am now a dual French-US citizenship after moving to France 22 years ago. I have benefited from only quality care in France for myself and my family and have never had to worry about the cost. What I've seen and experienced in the US during these years has made me very grateful to live in France. During one vacation in the US, I got a terrible ear infection in the evening and was in unbearable pain. The only option at that time of day was to go to the emergency room, but I knew how much that would cost, so I accepted my father's offer of some very strong prescription pain medication that he was taking for his back. The pain went away instantly and I was high as a kite! The next day, I went to a clinic and ended up spending $150 for the visit, antibiotics and decongestants. This would have cost a quarter of that sum in France, IF I'd had to pay everything out of pocket, and I would not have had to weigh the risk of taking medication that was not prescribed to me against the financial strain of an emergency room visit. As a family, we had several other experiences during US vacations where we did not seek medical attention due to the cost. My son had a boating accident that ripped open the palm of his hand. We certainly would have taken him to get stitches in France, but decided to take care of it ourselves (luckily my sister is a registered nurse). My husband once had heart attack symptoms, and my sister again came to the rescue and snuck him into a back door of her office to give him an EKG, after we had gone to the hospital and were greeted with a price list detailing what we would have to pay for any treatment he got. Now we take out extra insurance when we go to the US, but the cost of what we would have to pay if anything happened is still a concern. I don't think anyone in the US goes to the emergency room without worrying about the cost. Here in France, my health comes first. Not having to worry about how to afford health treatment should not be a luxury, but unfortunately it is for many Americans. How can people pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness if they can't afford the medical care they need to stay healthy?
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
Last year in Iceland, we welcomed our first children, a beautiful baby boy. We arrived at the hospital with the birth plan of having a natural birth, but open to invention if we should need it. Everything was going well, but about 8 hours after we arrived, I had stopped dialating and labor has moved to a glacial pace. In order to try and get things going again, my water was broken and I was given an IV to help things moving. By this point, the pain was becoming very difficult and, with no near end in sight, I got an epidural. It was also during this time that I started becoming very cold and shivering, so I was given a second IV with antibiotics. Soon followed a catheter and constant surveillance by obstetricians, nurses, and midwives, as my baby's heartbeat was also taking unexplainable dips for no apparent reason. After the dilation had stopped completely, the obstetrician was monitoring his wellbeing and found that he was becoming distressed. I was then prepared for an emergency C-section and after 20 minutes, I finally had my beautiful baby boy in my arms. The day after his birth, while recovering from my C-section, the pediatric doctor took my baby to the NICU, as he was breathing way too fast and wasn't eating that well. It was discovered that he had water in his lungs, and while it would go away on his own most likely, he needed a feeding tube while it resolved itself and we had an extra 3 day stay in the hospital. Four days after we arrived at the hospital, my husband, my son and I were finally ready to go home, but we had to settle our bill first. I didn't know what to expect, but then we found out it was $35 - $35!! And that is only because my husband stayed at the hospital with me and was basically a bill for the meals that he ate while there with me. After all that - IV antibiotics, extra doctors, epidural, emergency C-section, and a 3 day stay at the NICU, plus countless procedures while he was there - that was our bill. I am so grateful for the Icelandic healthcare that helped me bring home a healthy baby and didn't leave my family with piles of bills to pay. Our first day's as new parents were spent falling absolutely in love with our new bundle of joy and not in a panic attack about how to pay for some ungodly bills.
I was disabled after a car accident and I have to be very careful with money as I am now on a pension. But I never have to worry about my doctors fees, my doctor bulk bills my account so it has no cost to me, my prescriptions are supported by the government so they only cost about $6, and any scans I need, like for a breast lump I felt last year, are covered under Medicare so I don't need to choose between eating and getting treatment as needed. Luckily for me, my tests came back negative, but others are not so lucky and catching something early is the best way to fix it. Imagine being too scared of the costs to go in and treat something before it becomes a problem?
I want to take some time to talk about usual discussions comparing different healthcare systems: Most comparisons in the US are between the US system and nationalized systems (in Canada, UK, Germany, Australia, Sweden, France...etc); often times such comparisons talk about waiting times of elective procedures. (1) Talking about Elective Procedures is the wrong measure/yardstick! Just because a country has a national healthcare system does not mean it has no private healthcare -- all the countries (Canada, UK, Germany, France..) have private healthcare and citizens can choose to have private in addition to their nationalized systems (talk about CHOICE). (2) Talking about waiting times for procedures (elective or non) is also the wrong yardstick: Waiting times in nationalized systems are related to the amount of funding (or lack thereof) in the system; in the UK, funding cuts in the last several years have led to increased waiting times -- if cuts did not happen (especially in highly populated areas), wait times would not have increased. Same as MN having better bridges if the capital spend had been approved. (3) Competition reduces costs and improves products/services: While competition is good in general, it is better to reserve the competition for more complex/elective needs while offering a universal healthcare for at least the basic health services (level to be defined). This way, one can have the benefits of competition AND have the citizenry access basic healthcare. Current not-for-profit hospitals are not a low cost delivery method of healthcare, certainly not basic care. Not-for-profit hospitals employ large finance teams, issue and refinance bonds almost annually, hoard billions of dollars of cash reserves (2x level of debt) in order to get favorable Moodys and S&P credit ratings so they can issue bonds, therefore hire other finance teams and asset managers and consultants to manage those cash reserves, etc -- in essence everything but "basic and essential care". All these points have something in common -- dialogues in US comparing the systems appear to be all-or-nothing-at-all (black-or-white) while there are several shades of grey (I have heard the number 50 thrown around). It does not need to be only-private or only-national. Let us get our American can-do attitude and solve this elegantly. US systems in general appear to be very complicated (128% of Federal poverty level -- who comes up with numbers and tables like that) and complexity adds costs to any system. Just as the Government is trying to simplify and overhaul our tax system, we should also consider removing complexity from our healthcare system.
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
When I lived in the US I only went to the doctor when the malady was super serious because I was afraid of the cost. Living in Canada I am able to go to the doctor before the malady is super serious. I've always been able to chose my doctor and have never had to wait an unreasonable length of time for an appointment, even when referred to a specialist.
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.
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