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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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!


A Tale of Two Nations: Struggles with Crohn's Disease #DAresists #Medicare4all

I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at the end of my sophomore year of college, in 1998. The disease has no cure, and while it can be managed, it is at times excruciating --- both due to the physical manifestations and symptoms, but also for the mental anguish involved. It takes a toll, especially on youth. I had never given a thought to insurance or deductibles, never given a thought to chronic illness or preexisiting conditions. Health insurance was a nightmare. I will never forget my doctor telling me after I was diagnosed that I would have to find a job after college with a corporation or somewhere with a large coverage pool. In essence, Insurance would determine my fate. My fate and freedom were tethered to health insurance. It would tell me when I had to leave graduate school, where I could work ---that I had to, because of a malfunctioning protein, find a job, indeed career, almost solely based on health insurance.

I'm fortunate I had parents who had the resources and wherewithal to do things like hire attorneys and file complaints with the state insurance commissioner every time I was denied medication and treatment – what happened to the folks pre-ACA who couldn't do these things? At one point, when my doctor prescribed an expensive miracle drug fresh off FDA approval, he was forced into sending pleading faxes to the insurance company, lobbying on my behalf. The profiteers and money makers were clearly in charge --- telling the doctors what they could and could not do and prescribe. Like some sort of modern iteration of the greek gods, I can only think the insurance bureaucrats must have enjoyed the trials and tribulations they insouciantly and nonchalantly doled out, all to maximize profits for their corporate shareholders. There was the time I had fasted for 24 hours in preparation for a test, only to get to the hospital and have the nurse tell me that when she tried to run a pre-approval, insurance wasn't going to pay for the test. There was the time I had my expensive infusion of medicine at the hospital and insurance had changed the rules about where they would pay for patients to have it done. There are dozens more of these „There was the time“ tales. Every time I got something in the mail from insurance it meant I would be out a few hundred or thousand dollars or have to make fraught phone calls. It was stress on top of stress. And I had the best, most expensive, most premium, top tier insurance offered by my employer.

In 2007 I quit my teaching job and moved to Germany, my (German) fiancee/soon-to-be-husband and I agreeing that things would likely be better for me here, both for a saner and slower pace of life as well for the universal healthcare. After getting into the insurance system upon marriage( for which my husband pays a small percentage of his salary that is matched by his employer) I was almost immediately able to visit a leading university specialist through a call from my then-new General Practitioner (with whom I have ALWAYS, without exception, gotten a same day appointment, likely within an hour of when I call, for matters both minute and more serious)The specialist put me on a similar (exceedingly costly) medical regime to what I had back in Kentucky except that instead of insurance rigamarole like EOBs and copays and deductibles I get, every two months, a 10 euro invoice from the clinic pharmacy. I pay 60 euros a year for infusions that total approximately 42,000 euros each year. I recently paid just 5 euros for antibiotics, and my three year old son, like all children under 18 in Germany, gets all of his medication for free. All his appointments are free. Furthermore, I think back to my pregnancy --- a time when I have never felt more supported and cared for by a medical system. Me --- a foreigner whose German is pretty dubious at times --- getting better, more reliable care than I had ever had in my native country with seemingly the best of everything.  I had a midwife I saw with no out of pocket costs from 12 weeks of pregnancy to three months after delivery, as well as two Ob/GYNs (my regular one and a specialist for potential complications). There were never bills in the mail for any of these services (I suppose they were simply sent straight to insurance and because the health insurance industry is so heavily regulated in Germany and not dependent on turning a profit, they just pay for things. No quibbles, no arguing).  Our almost weeklong hospital visit for our son's birth consisted of free buffets 3 times a day and sharing a room with my new baby and husband. At the end of the 6 days we went to the hospital discharge area and paid 60 euros for everything and we even had free parking at the hospital. That was it. And that's the beauty of healthcare here in Germany --- that really is it. There are no hidden charges anywhere, no traps set by bureaucrats, no bankruptcies looming for a devastating illness that could come out of nowhere. You start to feel safe with this kind of system.  

To this day, though, when I receive mail from our insurance company here, I still shudder and open it nervously, expecting denial of coverage or trickery and an obscure reason why they don't want to cover something. It always ends up being a customer satisfaction survey, a free stress-reduction massage, or a reminder about free prevention programs. I am a refugee of the American Healthcare system, pre ACA. I don't say that to denigrate the experiences of true refugees from war torn countries who are in imminent daily danger of death, and I am fully aware of the privileges afforded to me as a white middle class American --- namely, I am considered an expat, as opposed to an immigrant or a refugee --- someone who moved to Germany voluntarily. But I felt as if my well-being and life were in danger under the old health insurance system and it seems it would be doubly so now. It struck me as a good idea to move here in 2007, but it's a necessity to stay here now. I'd never get insurance again. It bears saying again: I am a refugee of the American Healthcare system.


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!


A TALE of TWO SISTERS #DAresists #Medicare4all

I live in Canada and my sister lives in the USA. I moved to Canada in 1974 and whenever I go to the doctor or hospital all I do is show my "Health Card". In 43 years, I have had two surgeries, including removal of a benign lump and all costs were covered, including medical tests. Contrast this with my sister in the States. Her husband passed away at age 60 leaving her with a bill of $7 MILLION. She had to sell her good car and her home of 40 years (5 bedrooms, 3 bath) and moved into a one-bedroom at the end of a dirt road. Can you believe that 60% of bankruptcies in the US are from medical bills?? My ancestors came over on the Mayflower in 1620 and my family has lived in New England for FOUR HUNDRED years and I can't even afford to move back home to the US! It's crazy, isn't it??


A comparative story from Australia #DAresists #Medicare4all

Hi there, I’m a NC voter living in Australia and working for Bupa, a UK-based health insurer and care partner. Long before I had up-close experience with a functioning healthcare system and a private insurer who genuinely cares for its customers, I grew up in rural North Carolina with a chronically ill mother. Suffering from Lupus, cancer, and a wide range of related issues, my mom was often in and out of the hospital. Despite working gruelling hours, my dad always found it difficult to make ends meet. Any child who grew up with a seriously ill parent knows all too well the anguish of seeing a loved one in pain, the pitying head pats from Sunday school teachers, and the stomach-dropping discovery that someone you care about had to be rushed to the ER again. My time abroad has taught me that many Australians can commiserate with experiences like these. But most can’t understand the constant battle my parents waged just to make sure my mom could have health insurance. With so many pre-existing problems, it was always hard for my mom to secure a plan that could account for her many needs. The ramifications of poor health are acute enough; children don’t need to overhear their parents crying because they aren’t sure how to pay their medical bills. Thank goodness most Australians already understand this. While no system is perfect, Australia’s public/private hybrid allows consumers extra choice and extra comforts if they can afford them, while supplying basic care for those who can’t. This likely contributes to the comparable cleanliness, safety, and overall better quality of life that Australians tend to enjoy. President Obama took on great political risk to try and fix our own broken system. He did this by selecting a bipartisan compromise: a market-based solution that originated from the Heritage Foundation. While the ACA is definitely flawed, I know that it helped other little girls avoid at least some of the pain I felt. I am repulsed by the moral failure of politicians who have decided that cynical machinations are more pressing than fixing the ACA’s flaws. Their disregard for American lives is alarming. Other countries have recognised that investing in their citizens’ well-being pays dividends; I pray that one day America will wake up to the value of a similar investment. 


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


Mother of 2 speaks out from Ireland #DAresists #Medicare4all

When I was in my 20’s I almost died because we didn’t have health insurance and left going to the doctor to long. I ended up in the emergency room at a county hospital. I was quickly seen and released because of the amount of people waiting to be seen. An exam by the emergency room doctor showed I had a kidney infection. I was put on antibiotics and told to rest. What the exam didn’t show was that I also had a blockage in one of my fallopian tubes. The combination of antibiotics and pain meds made me very sick, causing dehydration and a hernia from throwing up. Another trip to an emergency clinic the following morning for dehydration lasted 6 hours, because we couldn’t afford to go back to the hospital. I was fortunate that my husband was from Ireland and we went across when I was well enough to have surgery. After, we returned my in-laws paid for our health insurance for a year; my Irish in-laws paid for US health insurance, ironic to say the least. As a mother of two daughters under the age of 25, I am so grateful that they can stay on my husbands health insurance until they start their careers and get insurance of their own. No, American citizen should have to sacrifice their health, or the health of their loved ones for lack of ability to pay. Our hospital emergency rooms, should be for the use of TRUE emergencies, not doctor visits for the poor and uninsured.


Ex-pat Health Care in Hungary #DAresists #Medicare4all

I moved to Hungary 4 years ago and my husband and I decided to sign up for the TAJ (Hungarian Health Care). We have paid an average of $200 per month each as we are required to pay into their social security system for the first five years. In 2018 our cost will be reduced to $40 per month as we will have our permanent residence cards then. There are no co-pays or deductibles. In January this year I broke my elbow when I slipped on some ice. We went to the emergency room as it was 13:00. I went it and was registered right away. I was seen, xrayed and casted in less than one hour. Everyone was professional and helpful and it didn't cost one dime more. I had numerous folliw up visits and, again I was not charged anything. In the US I would have waited for at least 3 to 6 hours and, with insurance, it would have cost me a minimum of $500 out of pocket costs. Before Obamacare I was hospitalized twice, once for a heart attack and once for a serious food poisoning. Both times a weeks stay in the hospital and doctor expenses cost me over $12k.


Universal coverage works in the UK! #DAresists #Medicare4all

Thank goodness for the NHS - this is something that my husband and I, and our friends and colleagues, say all the time. Not only are our preventative and day-to-day medical needs meet with a minimum of expense and bureaucracy, but we do not have to worry about what would happen if one of us had an accident or developed a serious illness. A few years ago my husband had a life-threatening asthma attack and needed to go to the emergency room in an ambulance. Thanks to the NHS his life was saved and the only expense we faced was the cab fare back home when he was discharged before the Tube started running. I have had broken bones and athletic injuries that I didn't have to worry about causing permanent disability, and friends have recovered from cancer and other dangerous illnesses without going broke. All because we had prompt and affordable treatment on the NHS. Universal healthcare works - it's good for individuals, families, businesses, and the economy.


First time mom in Italy #DAresists #Medicare4all

I moved to Italy after my Italian husband and I married; we considered starting in the US but the cost of healthcare was too prohibitive. My line of work is usually contract only which does not offer health coverage. After moving to Italy I received a health card almost immediately and felt like it was such a gift; though in retrospect it shouldn’t feel like that, it should be the norm. A few months later I was pregnant and all tests and checkups and emergency visits were covered. With the exception of an early (still in trial phase so not covered) genetic prescreening because of age, I paid next to €0 during pregnancy. Hospital stay, labor and delivery, all care was covered. When speaking with family in the US they were amazed that I didn’t have to worry about bills, I could invest all my time and thought to my child.


4 Things Senator Saunders needs to learn from Canadian healthcare system #DAresists #Medicare4all

1. It relies on federal block grants (antithima to Dems) because even in a country as small a Canada, a national program would be too unwieldly and unresponsive (imagine DVA healthcare for all). Dems oppose state level programs because we are so shockingly thin in state government. This needs to be a co-priority in healthcare reform 2. Its not an instant process. Canada took 35 years from first provincial program to the current legal framework. So the US clock started running in 2006 with RomneyCare in Mass. The interim period for Canada featured intense political wrangling, industry push-back (Drs. Strikes, opting out, practitioners leaving the country) and constant tweeking and tuning. So US may be on or even ahead if course 3. Universal healthcare is not synonymous with affordable healthcare as all funding levels in Canada are acutely aware. 4. Finally and probably most importantly, since universal health care, universal health insurance and single payer healthcare are not synonymous he should look for a role model from amongst the dozen or so countries whose mixed funding universal systems regularly outscore Canada (and US) on both costs and health outcomes. We Americans equate choice with quality and choice and universality are not incompatible. Robert Thompson Kanata ON


Healthcare in Alberta Pt. 1 #DAresists #Medicare4all

My family moved to Canada May 29,1975, due to my husband’s work. We thought we’d be here 10 years, it’s now 42 years and counting! Several things helped to keep us here besides my husband’s job. The most important influence was the healthcare program. We were a family of 6, with 2 boys, and 2 girls. Immediately prior to moving to Canada we had formally adopted our second daughter. That very summer we discovered that Beth, (2nd daughter), wasn’t hearing us as well as our older children. We took her to the hospital and the doctor determined Beth needed tubes put into her eardrums to release pressure buildup on the inside of the ear. This happened twice. Well, that was a new experience! NO CHARGE! That floored us. We paid for every little and big thing medically in the USA. Every quarter we paid, as a family, about $130.00 for Healthcare. My hysterectomy cost me $5.00 for the paperwork! Both girls had tonsil/adenoid-ectomies - No Charge! I was lying in a hospital bed recovering from surgery to my right shoulder, (arthritis), when my oldest son, in high school, walked into my room to tell me he, too, was in the hospital recovering from an emergency appendectomy! He had driven himself to the hospital due to the pain!! No Charge for either of us. Not to be outdone, our second son eventually had arthroscopic knee surgery twice, but several years apart. No Charge. My turn to have a total right knee replacement due to arthritis. No Charge! Physic was also covered by Alberta Health


The cost of doing business #DAresists #Medicare4all

About eight years ago, my husband left his own company and started his own business in London. It was a bit risky with three children still at home and university fees looming, but one thing we did not have to worry about was private health insurance, which would have been crazily expensive for a family of five in the US. We have had great experiences with the NHS. My husband created many new jobs in this company and his next one, and we didn't have to worry about high premiums or deductibles at a time of financial risk. Simply put, the US insurance-based system is terrible for the economy and job growth, as well as people. On the other side of the pond, my sister, who just lost her job, pays hundreds a month for a policy with a $5,000 deductible. She's decided to put off preventive care because she just can't afford it. . #DAresists #Medicare4all


​My dual-national healthcare story #DAresists #Medicare4all

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?


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


My wife and I are seniors and have Medicare, but have never used it. #DAresists #Medicare4all

This is not because we have no need for it, but because Medicare does not work outside US borders. So we have paid 'out of pocket' for four (4) operations for my wife and four (4) for me. We did not realize, when we went to live abroad, that we would lose this insurance, even though we both are fully vested in it, So now, even living in Mexico - as we do - which is a little cheaper than at home, we have to be very careful with our income from Social Security. Now we are facing another operation (for my wife's meningioma, but we have been postponing it because Medicare does not pay. Going back for the operation to the States is impractical and expense, even with Medicare because then we face the 'out of pocket' expenses Medicare demands, plus travel for us both, and lodging and food for me. I do not know if, and how many, other countries do that to their citizens, but it stinks. A single payer system would cut out the profit motivation in healthcare within the US, and probably would allow Medicare to pay out whereever US citizens are and/or live.


#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.


#DAresists #Medicare4all

I'm a Michigan expat who moved to Sweden 16 years ago. Within one week of arriving in Sweden, I was registered with my "person number" (S.S.#), soon after which I was invited to my local medical center for a thorough physical check-up, including a pap smear and a mammogram, to establish a medical database for myself in Sweden. Sweden's "one-payer" national healthcare system is amazing for several reasons. First, there's none of that American pre-exsisting condition nonsense to worry about. One-payer systems work by the principal of "many hands make light work". I'm happy and proud to pay a little extra in taxes so that every man, woman, and child is covered, because caring for every citizen is one of the things that makes a country civilized. Plus, there is a ceiling for dental and healthcare costs for those which chronic or congenital illnesses and conditions. I love Sweden for more reasons than just its amazing healthcare system, and I pity Americans who have to fight tooth and nail to get basic human services. Living in Sweden has taught me that countries should be run like non-profit organizations. Sure, it's o.k. to make a profit, but turn it back into the country and its citizens for the benefit of everyone.  


Universal healthcare makes life with chronic illness just a bit easier #DAresists #Medicare4all

I am writing this story not to place blame, but to share my story of how an inadequate health care system has had a negative impact on my life. I am only a single example of how a bad system can destroy a potentially strong link, and I would prefer that such things do not happen en masse due to the proposed health care bill. I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus at the age of 7, in 1977. At that time, it was almost a death sentence. People died from the disease, and my pediatrician did all he could to keep me alive. Facing potential kidney failure, he put me on a dosage of steroids (Prednisone) higher than even an adult should have taken. This daily dose was part of my medical regime for a year, and while it may indeed have saved my life, it has also - to some extent - ruined it, which is the purpose of telling you my story today. The high dosage of steroids marched through my body like a determined soldier, affecting my body in various ways. Stunted growth, delayed development, Cushing’s syndrome, mood swings, and the worst – softening of the bones. Unfortunately, there was little warning about these symptoms, and when I was well enough I still wanted to be a child – to run, play, climb trees, ride bikes, take dance classes, ice skating, roller skating – and by the time a new pediatrician did warn me of the dangers, it was too late. At age 11, several verterbrae in my upper spine collapsed, just from sitting at the piano. Then, it was discovered that my hip joints were already beginning to disintegrate – avascular necrosis of the hips at age 12. I was too young and too sick for a hip replacement at that time. After age 18, it was decided to monitor my condition, as hip replacements did not last very long, and the longer we could wait, the better it would be, so as not to have the risk of more surgeries than necessary in my lifetime. I persevered. I did well in college, then started a Master’s. I worked full-time. But I had to decline a scholarship to go to law school because the pain had made day to day life more difficult. By the time I was in my mid-20’s the pain was severe. I had to normalize the pain and keep going, as I was someone who refused to “lie down” in the face of my illness, but I went to the orthopedist to inquire if it was indeed time for my surgery. This doctor told me no, because insurance wouldn’t pay for it, as it would be considered “elective” surgery, since I could still walk. Stunned, I left his office in tears. My only choice was to keep going, and endure. At that time I was living in Tennessee. Slowly, my ability to function normally worsened. I couldn’t work as many hours. I couldn’t be active. Yet still, I could walk, so the surgery wasn’t available to me. Yet I got lucky. I got married and moved abroad. We settled in Germany, and within a couple of months of moving to Germany I could no longer walk without the support of crutches. The pain had gotten unbearable, and so I consulted an orthopedist here. The look of shock and pity on his face when he first saw my X-ray told me how bad it was, and I proceeded to see this look many times as I consulted surgeons and planned my surgery. The damage was so extensive to my left hip that the bone had not developed properly – it was smaller than the average implant, and a custom implant had to be made. My pelvis had tilted 6cm in an effort to protect the left hip, which had broken several times. When the doctor asked why I hadn’t had the surgery in the U.S., I told him it was because they said it was elective surgery. The look of disgust and anger on his face was palpable. I was told that damage so bad took decades to occur, and it was likely that surgery would have been necessary when I was 18. In fact, had I lived in Germany, it would have happened at 18, despite any risks, because it is considered a quality of life issue. Imagine that: a health care system where proper treatment is based on improving a patient’s quality of life. Unfortunately, the successful hip replacement surgery (both sides – I make quite the buzz at airport security) is not the happy ending to my woeful tale. It has been three years since the operation on my left hip, and I am still experiencing severe pain. My range of motion is improved, my stamina is better, and the pelvis is almost back to normal (1cm difference). Yet I can’t sit for more than an hour without feeling discomfort, I can’t stand in one position for more than a couple of minutes without a lot of pain, and often I can’t even rest comfortably in bed. I walk and exercise as much as I can, but obviously I must be careful. I see a physical therapist twice a week, which helps as well. I must take pain medication on a regular basis. All other possibilities have been ruled out, and my orthopedist has concluded that the pain is the result of so many years of degeneration and the terrible condition of my hip, and the pain is possibly chronic. In essence, by refusing to make a small investment in my health care, my potential was squandered: including years of work, academic achievement, and productive contribution to society. I am facing the reality that I may never know a life without pain. It is a small thing, compared to a lot of other people. Still, after 40 years of pain, the end result of my successful hip replacement surgeries was expected to be no more pain, or at the very least, very little pain – and knowing that I face more pain, with no confirmation that it will end, is daunting to me. I won’t give up. I have no reason to. I live in a country with a health care system that takes exceptionally good care of me. The U.S. should perhaps look into the German system, if Congress is having trouble trying to “fix” ACA. I know there are also a lot of good ideas out there, from some Democrats and Republicans. The citizens of the United States of America deserve a good health care plan. People are more productive and happy and spend more money when they don’t have to worry about what happens if they get sick, and these are all crucial requirements for a successful economy. Alas, I digress, my story is told, and you know what you have to do.


Great experience in Ireland #DAresists #Medicare4all

I live in Ireland and have access to low-cost universal universal healthcare. Ireland is a little different as we are on a two-tiered system - public and private - and the public option isn't free (unless you have a medical card) but it is very cheap. If I go to the doctor, it cost me €50. If my doctor refers me to a specialist on the public option, it is free. Same for emergency room. I once had to go to the emergency room and have X-rays - that cost me only €60 total. We also have a prescription scheme here that caps the amount you pay for prescriptions at a certain amount each month. Once you hit that amount, if you need to fill more prescriptions within that month, you don't have to pay for them. This is useful for expensive birth control and other types of medication. I hope this helps! Hilary Gray