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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Please note that the stories below are all user submited and reflect individual opinions. 

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From France #DAresists #Medicare4all

"A little over a year ago I had a colonoscopy and thanks to the French healthcare system, it cost me less than the price of a nice meal. I was only worried about my health. Last week my doctor sent me to the emergency room for tests and thanks to the French healthcare system, it cost me nothing. I was only worried about my health. I don't have any major health problems but I go to a doctor the minute I have any symptoms because, thanks to the French healthcare system, I only have to worry about my health and not how much my healthcare will cost." Thank you for all the work you do. All the best, David Lewis

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Great Coverage in Italy #DAresists #Medicare4all

Italy has never failed me when I've needed health care. I broke my foot, got immediate care, an operation and post operative care without spending anything out of my own pocket. My husband had multiple health issues, many weeks of the year in hospital or in rehab, and there was no cost to us. It's a scandal that the United States, which is unspeakably richer than Italy, cannot offer universal health care, cannot relieve the anxiety that every citizen there is subject to.

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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

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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

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Great Cancer Care Coverage in Hong Kong #DAresists #Medicare4all

Member of DA Abroad for over 20 years. Born in Milwaukee, WI - 1940 Last residency in USA = Bucks County, PA - 1975 Since then I have resided in Hong Kong, with a 6 year + residency in Ho Chi Minh City until 3 years ago - now retired in Hong Kong living on USA Social Security plus various hourly teaching sessions at both HK Gov & Private schools. Totally dependent upon HK Gov Medical services My story: The Gov Medical series here are patterned upon the UK National Health Service (NHS). Everything is based upon our HK ID cards, which contain a photo and ‘smart chip’ containing our fingerprints along with other data. We must always carry our ID’s and present it at every clinic / hospital visit. All fees are in USD Dollars, based upon an exchange rate of $1.00 USD = $7.80 HKD. It costs $6.50 to see a General Practitioner at a clinic. EVERYTHING is computerised and when one visits a doctor, he or she will take a moment to review one’s medical records. This is so efficient that if one has been scheduled to see a specialist just AFTER taking a FREE scheduled X-Ray, it will be available for viewing by the Doctor within minutes. A specialist Doctor (Oncologist, Urologist, Ophthalmologist, etc. costs $17.30 for the first visit and if he/she suggests a follow up visit, the ensuing visits will costs $10.25. The vast majority of prescribed drugs are FREE or a small token fee of $1.25. I was diagnosed as having Prostate Cancer a year & a half ago. It began with a GP suggesting that I have my prostate checked. (I was 75 years-old at the time.) The first GP visit cost $6.50. The urologist (manual exam) cost $17.50. A further exam (Ultra sound plus tissue samples) cost $17.50. I was given the choice of surgery or Radiology; I chose the latter. I was told that I would have three tiny gold dots placed into the Prostate to provide an exact target for the Radiology treatment. That cost $19.50 INCLUDING an overnight stay in the hospital. I was then booked for an MRI, CT Scan and later a Bone Scan. All of these were FREE. I then began a series of 38 daily Radiology treatment; Monday to Friday, not on weekends at $10.25 each. The Radiology equipment was state-of-the -art, from the USA. At the end of the treatment, I saw both an Urologist ($10.25) and Oncologist ($10.25), as these were follow-up visits. My cancer condition, based upon (FREE) blood tests went from 14.8 to 1.6, which the Oncologist considers as ‘cured’. So this quality medical experience only cost a total of $470.00!

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Perspective from UK #DAresists #Medicare4all

I support universal healthcare because it saves lives. Living in England and enjoying the ability to receive healthcare when it is needed, has shown me the importance of providing help without the need to go into debt; help when it is needed rather than when it can be afforded. When I was living in the US and found myself in extreme pain from appendicitis, I went into the hospital and was operated on as a welfare case because I had no insurance. After the surgery I could no longer work during my period of recovery, which left in on the verge of homelessness. Without health insurance we are susceptible to financial ruin, which takes us out of the workplace and into poverty. Additionally, many people with health insurance find themselves in the same position if they have a catastrophic illness or accident. Proper healthcare can be the difference between working and not working, early diagnosis of illness and spiralling debt. Universal healthcare saves lives.

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If It Can Happen to Me, It Can Happen to Anyone #DAresists #Medicare4all

American society has made life easy for me because I am male, white, and straight, and I don't have any disabilities. So you would think that I would never have to go without my basic, Human needs being met by my society. Such as basic healthcare. But life is complicated, and in 2004, my basic needs DID go unmet by my society. I was between jobs, had to go to the emergency room for heat exhaustion, and ended up with a $2800 bill, which I didn't have the money for. I was scared. I wrote to the hospital and told them this, and they forgave almost all of the bill. But is that the way it's supposed to be in such a rich country? A citizen who supposedly is everything the society idealizes, no longer all that ideal when he suddenly needs healthcare? If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. And it does. Please give all Americans affordable health care. #DAresists #Medicare4all

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20 Years of Coverage in the UK #DAresists #Medicare4all

(This was printed in my local paper – Montrose Daily Press- earlier this year.) Dear Editor, I was raised in Montrose, Colorado from the age of 5-18. I moved to London, UK directly after college and have been here ever since (going on almost 20 years now!) Universal health care is all I have known for the duration of my adult life. I have never had to worry if I could afford insurance or if I qualified for insurance even though I have some pre-existing conditions. When I lost my job , I didn’t have to worry if I would still be covered. When my husband changed jobs or when he decided to work for himself, the health coverage of our family was never in jeopardy. Breaking Bad is one of my favourite shows but it could never happen in the UK. If you get lung cancer, you don’t have to become a drug dealer in order to pay your medical bills and feed your family without going bankrupt! We are human beings. And our bodies break. And I can’t tell you how comforting it is to know that with or without money, my family’s healthcare is taken care of -- and I look at my own country in disbelief. The idea that some Americans get the finest medical care on earth, while tens of thousands of others are left to die for lack of care -- doesn’t sit well with me. British health care isn’t always perfect - but it allows me to sleep at night without worrying that one I might have to choose between healthcare for my daughter and a roof over our heads. I so wish my fellow Americans had the same freedom. Yours Sincerely, Ms Jerramy Fine

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Peace of Mind in France #DAresists #Medicare4all

Single Payer works in France. Top notch care, no waiting, and no cost. #Medicare4all I cannot express the peace of mind that comes from having access to the French healthcare system. The care is excellent and I have never had to wait for an appointment with a specialist or a generalist. When you get sick in France, you go see the doctor. You don't wait for two weeks to see if you really HAVE to see the doctor, you just go. You get the diagnosis and medicine you need immediately, and for virtually no cost. In addition to these visits and normal screenings, I have given birth to two children, had an emergency appendectomy, and had MRIs, X-rays and CAT Scans related to various injuries. I didn't have to pay anything, and never gave a thought to the cost of any of these procedures. The only issue at hand was the health of my babies and myself. This is how healthcare should work. Quality care for everyone, regardless of ability to pay, since it is a public service. I was recently in the US, where I caught strep throat. The out-of-pocket cost of the visit to the doctor, the strep test, and the antibiotics was over 200 dollars. The same process in France would have cost "the system" approximately 50 dollars, and my out of pocket would have been 2 dollars. It is true that taxes are high in France, and that part of this is related to the health care system, and it is clear that there is some abuse in the system, but all in all, the per-capita cost of healthcare in France is significantly less than that in the US, with outcomes that are just as good, if not better. The French system can be improved upon, but single payer works!!

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Great Pregnancy Coverage in York, England #DAresists #Medicare4all

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

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Great Endorsement of Universal Coverage from the UK #DAresists #Medicare4all

Dear Democrats Abroad, I'll gladly tell you what it means to have The National Health Service, free for all and a small charge for non EU"s. First, it's a load off your mind, phew. Secondly, although the buildings may not look swish, although some do, there is nothing you can't be treated for. I have had a heart valve replacement, and also Non Hogkins Lymphoma, needing surgery and radiotherapy. I paid not a penny and had excellent treatment throughout. The NHS is the Britain's finest achievement. The measure of a county's greatness is not in the size of it's armies and weapons, but in it's education of children, and it's care of the sick and elderly. I so hate ithe idea that many Americans just don't 'get' this. Shirlee Matthews

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Great Experiences in Portugal #DAresists #Medicare4all

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

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crash / heal #DAresists #Medicare4all

This summer I had a mountain bike accident and broke both wrists, my collarbone, and two ribs. I was transported to the hospital by a helicopter in a difficult rescue and treated in the emergency room, immediately. The accident has thus far involved three hospital stays of 3 to 4 days each and two operations under full anaesthesia. Everything was covered including all future expenses for physical therapy and elective surgery to have plates removed. I come from Massachusetts and have always experienced good medical care. The difference is that here in Austria I work freelance but have state insurance that covers me for all medical needs at a minimal cost with little or no deductible. I can focus on healing and feel safe to just rest and wait till my injuries recover to go back to work. Although it feels unreal, it is an amazing and true privilege of life in a country where healthcare is a right, not a luxury.

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Great long term peace of mind in the UK #DAresists #Medicare4all

The NHS has been my sole health care provider for the last 17 years. Whilst I am in good health I have spent virtually no money on my healthcare except through taxes. I am able to get an appointment with my GP when required within a reasonable timeframe and am sent on the specialists when required. I personally have not had to wait very long for an appointment. When my son was born both he and my wife needed to spend an extra week in the hospital because of a minor complication. Again, the extra stay did not incur any expenses to us. I find staff at the NHS to quite competent. Having the NHS is very reassuring. I never have to think about whether I am covered and whether I can afford medical services. While perhaps not perfect, it is awesome to have, especially when compared to the millions living in the US whose healthcare is precarious. Long live some sort of version of publicly funded medicine!!! David Wasserberg, US citizen, London, England

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Observations from Turkey #DAresists #Medicare4all

RE: What can Turkey teach the US about healthcare I would love universal healthcare for US citizens. Under the current Medicare for All proposals by Senator Sanders, it won’t cover US citizens living overseas. I would hope that Medicare would allow recipients to receive benefits while living or traveling overseas. Currently I need to buy a policy as part of my Turkish residency permit. I have a private insurance policy with a Turkish/international company. However good it is, the Turkish government makes me buy a worthless policy for about $1000 in addition to the excellent policy I buy. The required government policy is just another corruption to give money to the governing party’s friends. Saying that, Turkey has an excellent universal insurance for its citizens (SGK) in which some private hospitals participate. It’s not rocket science to give such a system for all US citizens, whether they live inside the US or overseas. The mentality of the Republicans is that healthcare is a privilege. Until they see it as a basic human right for all Americans, we are doomed. Universal coverage for all Americans can be affordable if we control prices, especially from the pharma sector. Thank you for hearing my voice. Andrew Barrer Istanbul, Turkey

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Great experience with orthopedic care in the UK #DAresists #Medicare4all

I am proud to pay taxes that support healthcare. At the moment, I am on a low income (having been in the second-highest - 40% - tax bracket for many years). I injured my knee a few weeks ago and have now had two visits with my local 'GP' (family doctor), an x-ray to rule out a floating bone fragment and have now got an appointment with a physiotherapist and soft-tissue scan in the pipeline. How much have I paid? Nothing, apart from my taxes. On my current income, my knee would go untreated if I had to pay. I'm proud of the NHS, and I am proud that I have contributed to paying for it. And I am grateful that when I need it, regardless of my income, it's there. #DAresists #Medicare4all

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1 in 10 Women suffer with with #Endometriosis in the USA #DAresists #Medicare4all

My name is Karen McMahon. I'm from Los Angeles and have been in the UK for almost 17 years. Within a couple of years of living here, I was diagnosed with Endometriosis. Its a painful and crippling condition that is now recognized as disability in the UK. When I first started to feel the effects of endometriosis, I hadn't been here for very long and I didn't know how the NHS worked. So I suffered in silence. I then met a friend’s father who was a GP and he reassured me that if I was resident in the UK, then I was eligible for care regardless of what my needs were. That was it. I registered at my local doctor's office, saw a GP and I was never made to feel like I had to consider anything else than my health. Unfortunately it did mean that I had to have several operations, trying various medications during my care, but never once did I feel like I had to worry about anything other than my wellbeing. The surgeries were sometimes long and complicated, Involving several surgeons. I can't imagine the astronomical costs I would have incurred in the US. My care has always been excellent and I'm so very grateful for the NHS. I don't think some British people know how good they have it, but I do. I think everyone should be entitled to universal healthcare. My husband is also a haemophiliac and has been under the care of a doctor since he was a baby. The only time we ever worry about cost of healthcare is when we travel to the US on vacation and then we make sure we are well insured. Why should anyone ever have to worry about being sick? It’s not something I brought on myself. I'm happy to pay higher taxes and know that this is one thing I'll never have to worry about. Others will benefit when they're in need. Do on to others, right? #DAresists #Medicare4all

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Great Experiences in Norway! #DAresists #Medicare4all

I live in Norway. Children up to 18 years old do not pay for Medical or dental assistance. Last year I had heart pain and went to the emergency room, I had an EKG and they kept me all night for observation, all free of charge, never received a bill. I have also birthed 2 children and had an appendectomy. All these were also performed with no co-pay. We do have co-pay for doctors visits and if you reach your income class limit you do not have to pay for the rest of the year. The limit is set based on income ranges. Best regards, Celeste

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Compelling story from Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

If I didn't have access to free health care in Canada, I might have died from ovarian cancer.

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Survival is not a Pre-existing Condition #DAresists #Medicare4all

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.

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