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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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. 

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Suggestion from Panama #DAresists #Medicare4all

I am a dual citizen, born in Panama to American parents, so I qualify for Panama's public health care system. My late brother, who was born in the USA, was living in Panama as a non-citizen and when he came down with liver disease he had to return to the USA to be treated. He was dying and would have preferred to die in Panama. Those last six months in the USA cost Uncle Sam a LOT of money. Had there been a Medicare arrangement with Panama's public health system (the rapacious private hospitals are another matter), the US government could have paid the cost in Panama plus a mark-up and still saved a lot of money. So as the Medicare for All proposal gestates and progresses, will you consider coverage to Americans living abroad, for treatment abroad? Eric Jackson

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A cancer DX in France means 100% coverage #DAresists #Medicare4all

I am an American who has been living and working in France since 1991. Even as far back as my first days here I had access to healthcare through my boyfriend's (now husband) policy. Some 20+ years later, following a routine mammogram (some costs covered by National healthcare the remaining costs covered by my private additional insurance) I was diagnosed with an early stage breast cancer. During this frightening time, one thing I never had to worry about was how I was going to pay for treatments. In France, a cancer diagnosis means that your National healthcare coverage goes automatically up to 100% for all treatment related to this diagnosis. Two operations, radiation therapy and a 5 year daily chemotherapy regime have all been covered. My only out-of-pocket expense was a bone density scan, 39€, which my private health care policy reimbursed. I am cancer free now but live with the lingering back of the mind fear that the cancer could come back, but I never have to worry that this "pre-existing" condition will stop me from reaching for and obtaining my professional and personal goals. Since my diagnosis and treatment, I have changed jobs and during a pre-hire medical check-up I was able to freely talk about my medical history without fear that would block me from getting hired....I'm year into my new job and loving it!

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A nation's choice... #DAresists #Medicare4all

I'm a US citizen living in Canada since 1983. Since the U.S. evokes God under whom it exists, a confidence that runs deep, I wish to contrast the U.S. and Canada in terms of bottomline... I too am a religious/spiritual person. The bottomline is this...which God does the U.S. of A choose to live under; the God of compassion or the god of mammon. You either reign in the health care industry gorging itself on profits - essentially profits wrapped in body bags or you apply universal compassion that undermines obscene profits where everyone has coverage - it's either one or the other. From what I know, both country's have waiting lines, my US friends like to point fingers...the difference is people up here wait in line to see a doctor, down there people wait to die. I love my country, my heart swells when I hear the anthem, but I am sickened by the lack of backbone of political leaders who continually sell their souls out to the "in god we trust" on a dollar bill. To my country, go the distance to be universally compassionate...

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Dear American Cousin, Having ALS in Canada is Not What You Think #DAresists #Medicare4all

Actually, because of our "socialized medicine" here, our various contacts with the rehab center (wheelchairs primarily) have been set up for us by our local health complex. Tom and I didn't have to "reach out to them". We have an occupational therapist from this local health care center who communicates also with the ALS clinic at the neurological hospital, which is also fully staffed with an ALS physical therapist, another OT specific to ALS, a respiratory specialist, ALS nurse, nutritionist, psychiatrist, social worker and chaplain. On that communication circuit are also our local Victorian Order of Nurses (NOVA) who come to do foot care and provide trained caregivers (for a minimal cost, part of which is covered by government, but also partly recoverable by tax deductions) from 9:30 to 3:30 every day now. We have a 10,000$ electric wheelchair, custom made for Tom, on loan from that rehab center and all the OT equipment one could possibly need. Our house was remodeled -- doors widened, ramps and elevators added, bathroom made larger for the wheelchair -- all with government grants. We live in Quebec, which is reputedly the best province for health care. Mind you our taxes are substantial, but we pay them with incredible gratitude for this care which is available to EVERY resident citizen. Our NOVA organization also has a monthly group for the primary caregivers (usually spouses) of ALS patients. We are WELL cared for. At times like this, Tom literally cannot reach out. That's the thing with illness.

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My health story as a Golden Ager #DAresists #Medicare4all

I married a Canadian, became a landed immigrant at the border and after 3 months had my medical care at a reasonable price. Now that I am older, my income is below the poverty line and dont pay health insurance. My doctors visits are free (more or Less), no hospital expenses except medications and 10 partly paid visits to physiotherapists, registered massage therapist, podiatrist, chiropractor, natuorpathic doctor, each year. For many years, I wanted to go home to the United States., but now I am lucky and blessed to be in Canada, where the health of people is taken care of. Ireta Cowall Fisher

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Universal Health Care is a necessity #DAresists #Medicare4all

I moved to Canada from Pennsylvania in 2000. My wife is Canadian, and one of the main reasons we decided to live in Canada was the health care system. She was petrified at the horror stories she saw about health care bills. In 2005, I was a permanent resident, not yet a citizen, and I was diagnosed with Leukemia. If you've ever seen the joke about what Breaking Bad in Canada would be like, ("Mr White, you have cancer. Treatment starts next week." End credits.) that was my exact situation. I was diagnosed on a Friday, and chemo started the following Monday. I went through 4 rounds of chemo, spent 28 days inpatient, had numerous ER visits, and went through a course of extremely expensive medication to treat fungal pneumonia. All of this was FREE. The treatment I received was both immediate and impeccable. Without universal health care, I'd be dead, or bankrupt. I certainly wouldn't be able to afford a home, or enjoy the life I fought cancer for.

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Universal Health Care is a necessity #DAresists #Medicare4all

I moved to Canada from Pennsylvania in 2000. My wife is Canadian, and one of the main reasons we decided to live in Canada was the health care system. She was petrified at the horror stories she saw about health care bills. In 2005, I was a permanent resident, not yet a citizen, and I was diagnosed with Leukemia. If you've ever seen the joke about what Breaking Bad in Canada would be like, ("Mr White, you have cancer. Treatment starts next week." End credits.) that was my exact situation. I was diagnosed on a Friday, and chemo started the following Monday. I went through 4 rounds of chemo, spent 28 days inpatient, had numerous ER visits, and went through a course of extremely expensive medication to treat fungal pneumonia. All of this was FREE. The treatment I received was both immediate and impeccable. Without universal health care, I'd be dead, or bankrupt. I certainly wouldn't be able to afford a home, or enjoy the life I fought cancer for.

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Brain Surgery NO BILL #DAresists #Medicare4all

Read it and weep USA citizens. My close relative had a headache that wouldn't go away. After a few weeks of trying to figure out what was going on she was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma. The surgery was done by one of the best neurosurgeons on the planet. Mark Bernstein(Toronto). You might want to look him up. This in spite of the fact that as far as neurosurgery goes this was a relatively simple operation. The operation was scheduled VERY soon after diagnosis was made. (reports of wait times are B.S. as serious problems get triaged, and are expedited). The patient was in a great hospital, for about 4-5 days. I hate to think what this whole thing would have cost us in the USA. We however, because we live in a country with a heart, saw NO BILL. Parking cost more than any of the medical work. I am a self employed jazz musician, and I feel for all the great musicians all over the USA who depend on charity to get decent healthcare coverage. Come on USA, grow up, provide your citizens, ALL of them with SINGLE PAYER health insurance. The word socialism has NOTHING to do with this. Stop being so fearful. You are so behind the times. Do something! Made a full #DAresists #Medicare4all

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One foot on each side of the border #DAresists #Medicare4all

So MANY stories! I moved to Canada almost thirty years ago, married a Canadian. But I live in a border town, work in the US, own property in both countries, pay income tax, property tax, sales tax, etc in both countries. I would not be able to move back to the US side, even though it would make life more practical for me, due to the cost of health insurance. Ontario spends about $3,300 per capita per annum, and I'd be paying that in just a few months in the US! Before the ACA I wasn't able to move back at any cost, as Crohn's and Melanoma are the two likeliest things to kill me. I was a single parent in grad school in Virginia before moving north. Many years later my little girl adopted in Canada was struck with a potentially fatal illness at age five. We could focus just on her recovery, no insurance forms, no co-pays, no deductibles, no pre-existing conditions for the rest of her life. She got better. I shudder to think what would have happened if the same thing had happened to my son in Virginia. On a vacation in Mexico a few years ago, I cut my finger rather badly. Found a clinic, was treated very nicely, given a local anesthetic and antiseptic treatment and four stitches. When I asked where to pay for the treatment, they looked at me astonished. Eventually they figured out how to give me a bill, and I paid it in cash in local currency without damaging my vacation budget. It was eleven dollars. On a vacation and work trip to Thailand, my little girl caught a cold, which proceeded to pneumonia. She was seen by the head pediatrician in the outpatient clinic at the hospital, given blood tests and x-rays, percussion therapy, antibiotics, a follow up visit and more percussion. Total cost: under $200. My mechanic has his own small shop in Canada, his lifelong dream. He employs seven people, mechanics, apprentices, office clerks. It's a sole proprietorship, and I know he takes very little for his own pay out of the company, trying to make it work. If he had to cover his employees' health care premiums he would have to close his shop. This health care fiasco in the US is hindering economic growth. Would-be entrepreneurs with great ideas cannot afford to leave jobs that provide health care coverage, and new entrepreneurs cannot afford to add staff. It's a real drag on the US economy!

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Not One Dollar Out of Pocket for Two Major Surgeries in a Year: O Canada! #DAresists #Medicare4all

First, there was 2016's surgery for cancer; then a total hip replacement in spring of 2017. There was no "co-pay," outrageous hospital bills, or other financially distressing charges: just first-rate medical care throughout both procedures: O Canada!

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Can't Move Back Home #DAresists #Medicare4all

I was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism caused by a blood clot in my leg which developed while traveling from Tucson to Italy, where I'd been to visit my family over Christmas. It was such a scary thing to have to go through and I live in Italy by myself with no family of my own. Since then I have really wanted to move back to the States to be closer to my family. It is such a horrible and sad thought that I can't do that because I now have a pre-existing condition and am not insurable. If anything happens to me, I will be alone here in Italy unable to be close to my family when I would need it the most. This has to change. I am a US citizen and should have the right to move back to the country I love without worrying about bankrupting my family if anything happens to me. PLEASE MAKE THIS RIGHT! Universal health care for all!

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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!

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Health Care refugees in Germany #DAresists #Medicare4all

With health care under attack in the United States, we are now having to come to grips with Americans living abroad becoming health care exiles, not only because of pre-existing conditions, but because of quality and cost of health care overall. Jim and Jane P. are both health care exiles. They moved to Germany for work twenty years ago (while in their 50’s) and decided to retire here. However, like many Americans, most of their assets are in the United States as well as their home. While they are proud Americans, they cannot live there. Four years after retiring, Jane was diagnosed with Castleman’s Disease, a rare autoimmune disease affecting the lymph system. They were informed that there were just 2 specialists in the world who could help, one being a German-trained Dutch doctor in Little Rock, Arkansas. The German health care law states that if they cannot treat a disease in Germany, they have to send you where it can be treated. The German system paid for both to go to the U.S. (flight and accommodation) and Medicare paid for the 3-month hospital stay. According to U.S. regulations, Jane could not stay more than 3 months in the hospital as her treatment could technically be done as out-patient. While the cost of the experimental drug was $10, the cost of administering was $10,000 (due to profit and malpractice insurance) per treatment. Jim and Jane would have had to pay this out-of-pocket had they stayed in the U.S. after the 3 months. They returned to Germany where Jane went through two years of chemotherapy (total out-of-pocket excluding monthly insurance premiums was around €3,000 as opposed to an estimated $100-200K in the U.S.) Jane has been cancer-free for the past four years. Jim had a heart attack last year and needed a triple by-pass. His total out-of-pocket cost was €310 for ten days in hospital and three weeks in rehab. Prescription drugs for blood pressure are limited to €10 for a 3-month refill. Their monthly insurance premiums are 15.7% of their gross income with a cap in Germany of €700 per month. Jim is actively lobbying the Senate with his proposal for fully-funded healthcare. The response so far has been null, which means that we all need to step up our efforts to help our Congressmen and Senators understand that this is the “art of the possible” not a pipe dream.

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A Life Saved #DAresists #Medicare4all

In the fall of 2012 I was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer. This is a very rare form of breast cancer that is extremely aggressive and has a terrible prognosis. My disease was so advanced my surgical oncologist believed that I would not survive for very long. I am a longtime permanent resident of Canada and have never had US healthcare. Nevertheless, because of the extent and severity of my disease, I did a lot of research and found out that there were several places in the US that specialize in this type of cancer. But I never once considered visiting any of these specialists. I put my faith in the Canadian healthcare system. The hospital that attended me was actually one of the smaller ones in Toronto, but they provided me exactly the same kind of treatment I would have received anywhere in the US. My treatment was prompt, aggressive, and thorough and based on the very latest protocols. Every aspect of treatment was covered financially. If I had issues during treatment, I received a prompt attention from my physicians. Inflammatory Breast Cancer has a terrible prognosis, however five years later I am still here, with no evidence of disease. I’m going to be followed by my oncologist for an additional 10 years over the 5 I’ve already heen followed. I get annual tests and scans all at no cost to myself. I feel blessed to have been able to receive the treatment I received, and not have to pay any additional costs. Yes my treatment cost the Canadian taxpayer a lot, but I am alive and remain a Canadian taxpayer myself and I am glad to keep contributing to the system that provides such excellent care to its residents.

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I strongly support universal health care #DAresists #Medicare4all

I love universal healthcare because ... as a American citizen firstly studying abroad and now, having earned my PhD, working as a university lecturer in the UK, I have zero health care in the US. In the UK, I was seen twice at Moorfields Eye Hospital and more than seven times in hospital under the NHS (including once by the xray department) without a single co-pay charge. This meant that I didn't have to worry about how I was going to pay for my treatment as well as worrying about an ongoing condition itself.

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Universal health care experience living in 5 other countries #DAresists #Medicare4all

I grew up in California but left the US with my New Zealand husband in 1992 for a 'few years' overseas. I have since lived in Germany, the UK, New Zealand, France and now Australia. Two of our three sons have a serious chronic illness which means we have a need for excellent, reliable and accessible health care. Fellow Americans have often asked me when I have returned for visits why we haven't moved back to the US, given our kids' significant health issues. The inaccessible and non-patient friendly US health care system has been one of the major disincentives for us when we have considered a move back to America. The rhetoric about long waiting times and poorer quality health care overseas has not been something we have experienced. I can't help but think that when Americans finally get a proper, universally available and affordable health system they will realise that they have suffered without this for far too long. The rest of the world understands this. Health care is a human right. It enables everyone to have a chance at a full and healthy life. We need this type of health care system in the US. There is nothing to fear!

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federal worker still in Mexico after 57 years #DAresists #Medicare4all

I first came to Mexico in 1959 for a six week art course at the Institute Allende in San Miguel--and here I still am. I was out of Mexico for seven years once living and wo

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#RightToHealthcare #DAresists #Medicare4all

I showed up in the UK on a Friday. Owing to the fact that Europe is the birthplace of the black death, the following Thursday I got sick. I got really sick. Like 104 degree fever shaking uncontrollably for hours sick. Like, better go to a hospital sick. As we all know Britain has a National Health Service, and as we also all know it's a hellish nightmare of bureaucracy and care-rationing that produces sub-standard results after long delays. Except that's complete BS. I hadn't even been in the country for a week before I needed the NHS. I didn't have a National Insurance Number yet, I didn't have my supplemental insurance through my employer set up, I was just some random foreigner coming in off the street saying "I don't feel good" and hoping for the best. It started with a phone call to a 24 hour number set up as a sort of remote triage. Report your symptoms, get some suggestions from a trained nurse. In my case they said "yikes, you need to see a doctor right away. Your nearest GP is just a few blocks away. All you need is your passport and they'll get you set up." At least I think they said that. My ability to understand Scottish was pretty terrible for the first 6 months we lived here. Anyway, I showed up with nothing but a passport and a fever and sure enough, within 2 hours I had been seen by a doctor, prescribed medication, had my prescription filled, and took my first round of antibiotics all for a grand total of zero dollars. Zero. I did not pay a single cent. Or pence. Whatever. "But you did pay, in the form of taxes" to which my response is, our effective tax rate is almost identical here to what it was back home. Like, within 2%. And because my wife and I both have complicated medical histories (she had cancer and I had renal failure, both in our teens) our cost of living is actually dramatically lower than back home since we're not paying outrageous sums of money for healthcare. I don't understand why so many Americans accept as canon that Single Payer is a byword for bureaucratic dysfunction. The reality is that the NHS, though undoubtedly bureaucratic, is an absolute marvel. We could have this. We could also live in country where sick people visit a doctor and get better because of course they do. Single-payer is legit, you guys. The NHS is the real deal. And remember, the NHS is carrying around a half century of accumulated legislative baggage, not to mention complications from devolution and EU membership. If America set up its own single-payer system we could do an even more amazing job. This is the great fight of our time. Health care is a right. And anyone who tries to reduce this argument to some weird take about "so you're going to enslave doctors?" is a dishonest jerk. Ask doctors in the UK if they're slaves. Ask doctors in Canada, or Australia, or France, or Sweden. Anyone who tries to make any argument involving the words "free market" is either a complete moron, or else they're lying to you because they think you are. Health care is your right as a human being. America is smart enough, wealthy enough, and compassionate enough to figure out a way to guarantee that right for all our citizens.

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I still have cancer, but no payment worries #DAresists #Medicare4all

My residence is in Switzerland, where I was diagnosed several years ago with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, for which I've gotten superb care at what is probably the best hospital and with some of the best doctors in a country with sky-high medical standards. I've had lots of tests; antibody treatment; surgery; many scans and X-rays; and radiation treatment. All this isn't cheap. It's the first time in my adult life I've needed sustained medical care. And my perfectly ordinary, basic Swiss health insurance has paid for almost all of it without a fuss. Wait -- there was one fuss: my wife and I spend considerable time in France, but my Swiss insurer at first didn't want to pay for my regular treatments there, which would have either trapped us in Switzerland or cost me a serious amount, more than just pennies. But with a little help we discovered that Swiss law requires them to pay for those treatments in France (where, incidentally, they're a lot cheaper!), so we weren't trapped in Switzerland. I know that my care is covered by my basic insurance, and I can switch insurers if I want, so although I still have the problem of cancer (along with some other things related to being a mature age, like cataracts -- now solved by the standard surgery), I don't have the problem of worrying whether I can afford to pay. My insurance, by the way, costs $435 per month, and luckily I can afford that. Just for your information: my antibody treatments cost about $3400 each in Switzerland; the identical treatments about $960 each in France; and in the USA a few years ago, $11,000-$18,000 depending on where. Same brand-name medicine, same method. What's the lesson here? I never cease being aware of the injustice when others can't afford care, or may not even be able to get to it. I'm damned lucky. I'm still alive. And my T-shirt says so.

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