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. (Read our press release here)
Please note that the stories below are all user submited and reflect individual opinions.
I think the best thing to share is the English language article on Swiss healthcare that somebody wrote and put on Wikipedia. It is comprehensive and clearly written. I suspect many Americans would prefer the Swiss blend of - mandatory personally-purchased insurance, - multiple competing private insurers, - federal oversight/regulation, - government financial help for those needing it to a straight federal single-payer system. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Healthcare_in_Switzerland Kind regards, Dan
When I transferred from NYC to Montreal in August1970, I thought it would be for a few years - just the time to complete my education and work on improving my French. That fall paperwork arrived announcing the beginning of universal healthcare. I filled it in, and received my card. I thought nothing of it; I was a healthy 24-year-old. At 25 years and 11 months, I married. At 27 years and 8 months, our son arrived. Had we not asked for a private room, there would have been no fees for my few days in the hospital post-delivery. The exorbitant bill came to all of $25. At 29 years and 7 months, our daughter arrived; same scenario, though a day or two less in hospital, and same bill. All their well-baby checkups were free of charge. As were all their vaccinations, every trip to the ER for ear-aches, fevers, colds, minor injuries, one ambulance ride and all the x-rays needed to verify that clumsy son's header into the shallow end of a pool hadn't done great damage, the collar he had to wear the rest of that summer. When I felt under the weather, it turned out I had inherited my mother's hypothyroidism. Radioactive iodine uptake test showed it was about three-quarters kaput. Lifelong followup and daily pills. OK, the pills aren't exactly free, but the cost of the prescription - even before the provincial government began its prescription plan - didn't cause me any hardship, and we were living paycheck-to-paycheck and never in the black. The testing and followups are all covered. In 1989, I was diagnosed with diabetes. All the testing and followups, all the diabetes education classes, ALL entirely covered. The children's vision and dental care was covered until age 18 (or 21? or end of post-secondary schooling? They're in their 40s now, and I don't remember when it ended.) And the absolute best part of all this carefree medical coverage is that, beyond renewing the healthcare card every four years, there is NO paperwork on the patient's end. No, it's not really FREE. The personal tax rate in Quebec isn't low by any means, but it's a price that's easily and painlessly paid. When I'd come here, I knew nothing of all this. I had fully intended returning to the US to make my life. I'll never relinquish my US citizenship, but I don't believe I'll ever be returning either. Picture this: I was visiting my mother in NYC. I helped her corral a cat that needed to be taken to the vet. Her cat was uncooperative, and sank her teeth into my hand in the process of capturing. I immediately washed and treated the puncture wounds. By the time we got to the vet, my hand had swollen up like a rubber glove; the vet told us to get me to an ER. Well, we'd already decided to do that. So, off we went to the ER of the hospital my mother usually used. After four hours sitting unseen in the waiting room, I was called. Much to my mother's distress, the hospital refused to have anyone even look at my swollen hand! There was no way they could treat me, since I wasn't my mother!!! No amount of cash could change their ruling!!! WTF!!! So across town to another ER which the first said would care for me. Another long wait. I was finally seen, treated, prescribed a course of antibiotics, and sent on my way. I haven't a clue how much my mother had to pay, but I'm betting it was at least triple digits. Had that occurred here in Montreal, ANY hospital's ER would have treated my injury without a lengthy wait - open wounds get cared for before most other cases excepting those arriving by ambulance. From arrival to exit would probably have been under an hour, and - because treated without twelve hours delay - I probably wouldn't have been off work for a week after my two-week vacation. Other seniors retire to sunny destinations. I don't even consider it, because the healthcare costs are scarily high.
As a longtime resident in Canada (I am a dual citizen, born in 1937 in NYC) I have benefitted from Canada’s medical system. It is not perfect, by any means—wait times, for example, are all too often excessive—it is much much better than the chaos that exists all over the United States. In the US, health care is difficult to comprehend, too many people are left out, and the Trump administration aims to make this worse. I think many Americans are getting fed up: that’s why Senator Sanders has attracted a significant number of Democratic members of the Senate who will support his “single payer” bill. Deborah Gorham
Now living in the UK, we never worry about having to go bankrupt due to medical bills. We never have to devote hours each month to challenging denials by insurance companies of doctor's office or hospital charges. I have seen relatives here getting top-drawer care for cancer and other diseases. In two instances, I have seen my relatives provided with the kind of compassion end-of-life care that any of us would want. Informally, I have been following the costs and benefits of the American system versus the UK system since the early 1980s. In terms of cost efficiency, the two systems have remained virtually identical in morbidity and mortality rates -- but the UK has been doing this for half the cost in terms of GDP.
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.
I think the best explanation you will find is in Denis Leary's book, where he describes what happened in London when his pregnant wife had health problems. What I found extremely worrying when I lived in America was not knowing whether or not a doctor's advice was based on his or her own financial interests.
When I lived in the US, I had medical care until I was 21 because my parents were working for the US military. After that, I had no medical coverage whatsoever until I managed to get a job with a company that was in an HMO network. Even then, I didn't want to see a doctor because of the co-pay and luckily I never had to go to the emergency room. Now, in the UK, I don't have to worry how much a doctor's visit will cost me. I can feel free to speak to a doctor about a mild pain I've had for years, or for a very bad migraine or illness. No, it's not perfect, but it's far better than what most people in the US have to deal with. Horror stories of people killing themselves because of medical bills don't exist in the UK. Cancer patients and car crash victims don't have huge bills that debilitate them for decades after surviving. Universal healthcare works!
Recycling my 30-second pro-single-payer [Canada] vid from when I was urging it on Obama 8 years ago:
#DAresists #Medicare4all Text of my 30-second vid: "I am an American in Canada. We have single-payer health care — provincial government. All I need is this card. Universal coverage. No paperwork. No premiums. No claim forms. No deductibles. No co-pay...."
If one looks at the statistics of how many people are self employed it makes the expectations of people affording private insurance really insurmountable. Add that to the fact that almost the entire Private sector now gets away with not offering Pensions, which results in hard working people paying for insurance & health care, rather than putting money away for their retirement. Its amazing that the USA still does not have universal coverage, but I suspect well benefitted and pensioned people in Congress & "civil servants" have little incentive to do anything about this as well. Melissa Crenshaw
I have had the pleasure of having free health care in Sweden and the UK. I am a native born New Yorker, so that I had good insurance through my teachers union, UFT of New York. When I expected my first child I was charged $5000 for doctor and hospital days. With my insurance I only had to pay $500. But, I moved to Sweden in 1981 and my second child cost me nothing. This included 12 days in hospital to help me nurse my child before I came home. Heath care was free then. Then I moved to England and I get free health care. Now that I am 60+, I also get free prescriptions . I do not have to pay for my medicines . My husband, had cancer and his operation was free and included free 12 days in hospital. His surgeon was excellent and now he is cancer free. I thank the NHS,the National Health Service, started in 1948, for my and my husband's piece of mind.
Living and working in Germany sincentre 2008. We pay a bit more monthly for our basic healthcare...But it's predictable. A set % of your income, maxing out around 400$/month...forever. No additional costs for emergency care. No surprise fees. Moderate to short wait times. Very happy so far compared to my American experience of surprise! high bills. We have a private dental plan and private hospital supplementary insurance on top of the basic plan. A good mix!
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.
In 1980 I was poor and in a catastrophic car crash. I have had, since then, 22 major operations, the latest one just last year, thirty-seven years later. I've had multiple CTT scans, MRI scans, and so many tests and doctors that I can't keep track. There was one extraordinary example.The accident happened in rural Ontario and I was taken to a local hospital where doctors saved my life. One night, as I was recovering there, I developed an extreme case of bleeding ulcers. The next morning a helicopter flew all the way from Toronto for no other reason than to bring medication to stop my bleeding. I cannot calculate the hundreds of thousands of dollars it has taken to keep me in good health, And it is ongoing. Do I worry about my health, yes. Do I worry about the cost, not one second. This is Canada's universal health care.
If we lived in the US prior to the ACA, we would either be bankrupt or my husband would be dead or in assisted living and in pain for the last fifteen years. He was diagnosed with an aggressive prostate cancer in 2000, herniated a disc in 2001, needed a hip replacement in 2007, and has had radiation for the cancer and multiple operations related to his knees, hips, back, and other problems. The bills would have been staggering in the US. He received all the care and treatment he needed and is still at home and as comfortable as possible at the age of 88 thanks to Alberta Home Care, who sends assistants twice a day to help with dressing and showering and an RN every two weeks to check up on him. I cannot tell you how important it is to know that his needs have been and will be looked after without the prospect of losing our life's earnings or selling our house. I also cannot believe that people in the US don't understand that they spend far more per capita even now on health care for much worse outcomes. Wait times can be long sometimes, yes, but they are determined by need, not the size of the wallet. I trust that I will get critical care immediately if necessary. And no, they don't do death panels here. That only happens in the US or third world countries when people can't afford to pay. Please, please, come to your senses, look abroad and see what has worked elsewhere. Canada's system is not perfect - I'm not sure any system can be perfect - but it is better than the US by a long shot. I sincerely hope, for the sake of most of your populace, that you are able to join the rest of the civilized world and provide basic health care to all. And it isn't just my husband. Here's my husband, a best friend who was diagnosed with brain cancer last year, and his wife with MS, all of whom have received good and compassionate care because of this health system.
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??
About 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It was suggest that I go to Princess Margret Hospital because they have the best cancer treatment in the world. I asked how much would that cost. I was told, "Nothing." It took less than six months to go from diagnoses to treatment - that was because I insisted on finishing up the school year before I went into the hospital. The doctors were great! The nurses were even better. I was treated with dignity and respect throughout my entire treatment. I was amazed by the care and treatment I was given without having to dip into our savings or refinance our home.
A few years after moving to Canada, I was diagnosed with a deviated septum and required a septoplasty. Only two months elapsed between diagnosis and surgery, a reasonable amount of time for a non-urgent procedure that wasn't causing me any physical distress. On the day of my operation, it only took a few minutes to register; reviewing and signing the consent form is all that was required. No verification of insurance coverage necessary. I remained overnight for observation, during which time I initially hesitated to ask for things like tissues, juice or a bedpan - fearing that each of these items came with a hefty price tag, as they would in the US. It was all free. And the following morning, when I was discharged there was no second battery of paperwork to complete - just a smile and "good luck" from the head nurse. Best of all, in the weeks that followed there were no itemized statements from the hospital or doctors involved. Removing financial worries from an already stressful situation is a far more civil approach to patient care. It's a key reason why I choose to continue living on the Canadian side of the border.
It was with a sense of dread that the wife and I, both American citizens, moved from New York City to Cali, Colombia, in 2009. Retired and approaching an age when medical issues begin to weigh heavily in people’s lives, we worried about pre-existing conditions and exorbitant medical expenses. Our worries turned out to be completely unfounded. A couple of months after our arrival, we purchased medical insurance for a monthly fee which is today, after eight years of annual adjustments, a bit less than $250 per month. To this we have to add about $150 or $200 in medications. Quite a few medications, I might add. We could ask for them, because they are covered by the insurance, but we choose not to in order to help the system better serve those who cannot pay anything. Colombia can teach the United States a thing or two about medical care. For those who earn an income, the country’s medical insurance has two components: a compulsory portion that all Colombians (or their employers) must purchase in a free market, and a voluntary portion, known as pre-paid medicine. There is a third type of insurance, for those with no income, entirely subsidized by the government. All users have access to superb medical care, medications included, and no one can be denied service. The only difference among these three types of insurance is that those who purchase pre-paid medicine can choose their doctors and in most cases their hospitals. The reader might be excused for thinking that less than $500 a month could not possibly buy decent medical care for two seniors. Nothing could be further from the truth: the fact is that we have access to the best doctors and medical centers in town. This year alone I underwent cataract operations in both eyes and my wife had a cornea transplanted and a malignant nodule removed from one of her breasts. She is currently undergoing radiation therapy to supplement this surgery. Meanwhile, I have undergone blood tests, x-rays and MRIs in preparation for a hernia operation. All of these tests and medical visits have only required co-payments of about $10 to $20 each. For those less fortunate they might be closer to $1 or $2, or they might be zero altogether. Yes, Colombia can teach the United States a thing or two about medical care. #DAresists #Medicare4all
Before Obama Care was passed I wrote President Obama a letter which stated I needed his help. I was an American living in the UK who was, like many I suspect, being held hostage. My captors were the USA Medical System. They were good at torture and brutality. As the healthcare battle raged I decided to apply for UK citizenship. When I received my letter welcoming me to the UK as a citizen tears welled up in my eyes. For the rest of my life I have no worries about medical care. I am the receiver of instant appointments with my GP, house-calls if I cannot get out, prescriptions - which now that I am over 60 are FREE. I have had 2 children, a number of minor procedures at no cost other than my modest monthly contribution to National Insurance (no longer paid now that I am over 60). The UK system gets a bad wrap in the US press but here we have a longer life expectancy than the USA. As an aside when my nephew visited for the 2012 Olympics he separated his shoulder. Going to the local ER he received X-Rays, and MRI, immobilising devices, painkillers, and a CD which contained all imaging and treatment information. The cost to him, as a guest in the UK, NOTHING!! Shame on the USA. Increasingly it is embarrassing to speck with my obvious American accent. God Save the Queen ...
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