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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Germany: the best health coverage I've ever had #DAresists #Medicare4all

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 confirm that I strongly support universal health care. #DAresists #Medicare4all

The answer to the question if every American has the right to Health Care is self-evident. It is clear that the our government is in the pockets of the pharmaceutical and insurance lobbies. The question we need to be addressing is why every everything to do with health care in the US is priced exponentially more than in other countries. We may not be able to get to this question, however, until we address the issue of campaign finance reform.


More than 20 years of satisfying coverage in Canada! #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have lived in the UK since 1995. I’ve had 2 children here. They’re both fully vaccinated. My husband and daughter have both had emergency appendectomies. Both children have had braces. I’ve broken a tooth. My daughter has worn glasses for ten years. We’ve had a run-in with Lyme disease. I’ve had cervical cysts removed twice. The list goes on and on. My maternity care included pre-natal classes and follow-up visits after the children were born; my 8-year-old daughter’s appendectomy included a place for me to stay with her in the hospital for most of a week. The care we’ve received has been first rate. I can get an appointment on the same day for non-emergency care. Yes, I pay for this service in my taxes. No, it is not an unreasonable cost. I can visit any country in the European Union and expect the same level of care there. For all the flaws in the system, it is a fantastic system. I am privileged to be covered by it and extremely grateful. My husband, daughter and son have all LITERALLY had their lives saved by the NHS: I would be a childless widow without their expertise. And there has never been a bill for any of it. I am self-employed. As I approach retirement age, I have to face the hard reality that I will never be able to move back to the United States because I will not be able to afford the health care. Please, please help fix this broken system for all the generations to come. Elizabeth Gatland


Universal Health Care in UK #DAresists #Medicare4all

I support universal health care. I and everyone I know in the UK have benefitted from it. I had one child in an NHS hospital and benefitted enormously from the in-home aftercare the NHS provided. I had a home birth with my second child and again, fantastic aftercare which I know my sister in the US with her two expensive caesareans did not have. I've had operations on the NHS, my children have their vaccines, etc etc. I've got friends who've had cancer and don't have to worry that if it comes back they won't be 'covered' for further treatment. How cruel and heartless would that be? In a civilised country, taxes should pay to take care of the population as a whole - access to health care should be a right, not a privilege. A society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens. Jennifer Grigg


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!


A lifetime of perspective from Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have lived in Canada virtually my whole life. I have been privileged to have had access to the Canadian universal health system. It is true for elective assistance, one is in a queue , but for emergencies, the system can't be beat . Widely known that the Canadian per capita expenditure on health care is approximately 50% of the US expenditure and that includes the whole population. My doctor friends are supportive because when a patient appears at their door, they are all treated the same without regard to ability to pay. Hard to believe, as was pointed out in the most recent presidential campaign,the US is the only country in the developed world that does not have universal health care for its citizens. There does not seem to be the same hang-up about government assistance to the victims of hurricanes! Stephen Freedhoff


mandatory health insurance changed my life #Medicare4all #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have Crohn's disease and am currently enjoying my first unmedicated remission (2 years so far!) since being ill for 20 years. My husband recently expressed his fear that my health might get that bad again. When I shared his fear with my doctor, the response "you'll likely never be that ill again" took me by surprise and my response was incredibly emotional. When I first became ill, I didn't have health insurance. I was being raised by a single mum and I hid my illness as long as I could until it became emergent. My father lived in a nearby state and put me on his insurance so that I was able to get care, stay in hospital for a month and have 3 life-saving surgeries in 9 months. That was me sorted until I aged out of my father's insurance, which resulted in my ignoring my illness until it got too bad, going to the ER, being admitted to hospital and given temporary medication and having medical bills too high to pay and signing on to state aid to pay the bills. Flaring that often and that hard as well as not having a relationship with one caregiver meant that my body was irrevocably damaged. A little over 2 years ago, I had a major surgery to remove the damage and outfit me with a permanent ostomy. This means that I can no longer move back to the US, as I need a regular supply of ostomy products, which can easily be covered with health insurance, but which would quickly become costly without. I know that my quality of life and care were only possible with insurance and a relationship with one doctor monitoring my health. This is what I tell my representatives when I call them from here in Zürich, Switzerland.


Thank God For My German Health Insurance #DAresists #Medicare4all

I've lived in Germany since 1999. In 2006 I was working in Miami for business when I was diagnosed with pericarditis and had to have a surprise heart surgery. I was 36 at the time and thought I had a bad cold. I was at the hospital almost a week and the costs were over $100,000.00. I repeatedly called my German insurance company, and they insured me that I was covered for up to 3 months outside of Germany. I was instructed to provide all of the hospital bills and informed that I'd be reimbursed, but that I'd be responsible for paying the hospital back. I returned to Germany, submitted the reams of bills and sure enough over 80k EUR was in my checking account(!) 3 weeks later. That was the easy part. It took me over 6 weeks to actually pay the bills. The process was byzantine and there was very little transparency or logic to all of the charges. Collections agencies were calling me, and when I snapped back, clearly not intimidated and irritated that TRYING TO PAY had become a full time job, they dropped their bullying schtick. It really made my heart to go out to those who couldn't afford care. An Illness like the one I had is terrifying and life changing, how cruel to have to suffer a personal financial catastrophe on top of such an experience. FIX THIS!


The right to health care is written into the Costa Rican constitution #DAresists #Medicare4all

Costa Rica has a government health care system, for which I pay only about $20 per month, which covers everything, doctor's visits, labs, meds, etc. ; and a private health care system that is a whole lot cheaper than in the USA. The gov. system or "Caja" is excellent for life-threatening situations, but for non-life-threatening situations there are long waits. For a hip replacement, for example, you'd probably have to wait 5 years. Many people use both gov. and private health care, for faster service such as doctor's visit or an X-ray, if they can afford it. The gov. system is under threat of privatization, unfortunately. I tell Ticos to protect the "Caja".


My health care story #DAresists #Medicare4all

I never had health care coverage while working in the in the USA. With degrees in many technologies said to be in high demand, and no job possibilities in the USA, I left the USA in order to survive. I acquired universal health coverage. Nearly all expenses are covered. This permitted me to have a family. Where is this coverage? Mexico.


Drug coverage in Ireland #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have a history of very early preterm labor. With an injection from 16 to 36 weeks, that risk of early labor and premature birth is minimized. When I was in the US a few years ago, this drug cost $1,500 per shot (so $30,000, before insurance). It was a big deal for me to find insurance that would cover it, and it involved possibly moving states--in the middle of a high-risk pregnancy. The same drug here in Ireland...I walked out of the pharmacy with all 20 doses for about $80. This drug helped me reach full term for two pregnancies. I hate to think about the parents in the US facing another NICU stay or loss of a child because this drug is prohibitively expensive. (It used to cost $10/dose in the US before the drug company hiked the price a few years ago.) -Jennie Sutton, Dublin, Ireland


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

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


Healthcare in Czechia -- Putting Children and Families First #DAresists #Medicare4all

I've been living in the Czech Republic for almost 15 years and gave birth to both of my daughters here. Infant and maternal mortality here is lower than in the United States, in large part due to access to high-quality prenatal care through a government health care system. Last year, my younger daughter was hospitalized with meningitis and spent 10 days in the hospital, with 5 of those in the pediatric ICU. We were terrified, but she received excellent care that was in line with international good practice, and we were able to focus on her medical care without having to worry about our medical bills -- everything was covered by our national insurance. Yes, everything: the neurologist, follow-up appointments, the ICU stay...everything! I'm self-employed, and I can't imagine how we could have managed this emergency in the U.S. I sleep better at night knowing that my family is covered here, but all Americans deserve peace of mind and access to high-quality healthcare for their families!


The price of health should not be stress and debt #DAresists #Medicare4all

I am an America who has lived in a number of different countries (now in the UK). I gave birth to my daughter in France. Due to complications, I ended up in hospital for 4 weeks before she was born, prematurely, by C-section. After another 2 weeks in the hospital in a special unit for premature babies and their mothers, we left the hospital together, both healthy. My costs for all this? A small fee for the hospital meals I had eaten, in the final week in which I was discharged but allowed to remain with my baby. That's it. A very stressful time was not made more stressful by fears of mounting hospital bills, and there was no question that we would not get the care we needed. We moved to Norway, did not pay any supplemental health insurance, but were taken care of wonderfully by the state. Now I live in the UK, where our health care is likewise available without massive stress and worry and cost. It saddens me to visit my family and friends in America, and hear stories of their struggles to pay for the care they need or worse, to go into debt or to go without and suffer, as they cannot finance it. It is to me, by far more sensible, and by far more civilised, to make universal health care a right, not something that anyone should have to worry about having access to. Health care should be affordable and accessible; much of the world has realised this. Isn't it time that America woke up to the fact that capitalism can be compassionate? It does not have to mean brutal survival of the fittest/richest (i.e. those able to earn enough to afford the "luxury" of health). We need to be a society that recognises basic human dignity and needs; a healthy and secure society is a happy and productive society.


Universal Health Care=Freedom. #DAresists #Medicare4all

Many patriotic Americans see "freedom" as a core American value, but privatized health care severely limits one's freedom. As an American living in Canada, I have been free to make many important choices in my life without being constrained by health care needs. I made the choice about when to start a family because of universal healthcare. Shortly after attaining Canadian residency, my husband and I moved to Canada when I was 7 months pregnant with my first child. As we had both been completing our masters degrees abroad, we did not yet have jobs. I was provided the highest quality care in my pregnancy and childbirth, and throughout it all paid only $10 to park at the hospital. Following the birth there was support from public health nurses, midwives and doctors who called or visited my home to monitor me and my baby. A few years later I made the gut-wrenching decision to terminate a pregnancy with a fetus that faced severe life-long health issues. Nobody judged me, protested me, or forced me to jump through hoops. I was provided with sensitive and efficient care free of cost. When I made the decision to try again I was gently guided through my next pregnancy by health care workers sensitive to my previous traumatic situation, and delivered a healthy baby. And most recently, I have made the decision to leave a job I didn't love and start my own business doing work I was passionate about. I did not have to worry about the loss of healthcare benefits. While the universal health care system in Canada is not cost free (we pay some premiums, prescription drug costs, and excluded services like dental and optometry) and it is not prefect (there can be waits as patients are seen in order of urgency) I have found in my experience that it is equal to or better than the care my family receives in the US. And, universal health care gives me the freedom to make choices in my life that are best for me and my family. Meanwhile, I have observed my family in the US having restricted freedom because of lack of maternity leave, high health insurance costs, and general lack of affordability in their lives. Universal healthcare provides a privilege everyone deserves: freedom.


When Government & Healthcare Work Together #DAresists #Medicare4all

I'm an American, and now Canadian, working as a professor at a Canadian university. Moving to my new home country was one of the best and most serendipitous decisions my family and I have ever made. A few years ago, I was diagnosed and treated for a significantly large aortic aneurysm. While recovering in hospital, I was told that I had a large mass (cancer) on my kidney. This single-payer healthcare system saved my life twice so that I can continue to be a father, husband, and researcher/educator. My doctors routinely monitor me via scans, etc. The only things that I have been required to provide in return is my name, birthdate, and positive attitude. Great healthcare does exist beyond US borders.


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.


Great experience in UK #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have a history of very early preterm labor. With an injection from 16 to 36 weeks, that risk of early labor and premature birth is minimized. When I was in the US a few years ago, this drug cost $1,500 per shot (so $30,000, before insurance). It was a big deal for me to find insurance that would cover it, and it involved possibly moving states--in the middle of a high-risk pregnancy. The same drug here in Ireland...I walked out of the pharmacy with all 20 doses for about $80. This drug helped me reach full term for two pregnancies. I hate to think about the parents in the US facing another NICU stay or loss of a child because this drug is prohibitively expensive. (It used to cost $10/dose in the US before the drug company hiked the price a few years ago.)


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.


Lesson from Abroad: Americans are getting shafted #DAresists #Medicare4all

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.