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

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I had to quit my job in northern California... #DAresists #Medicare4all

I had to quit my job in northern California to bring my husband to Mexico for dementia care. There was no way we could afford care in the U.S. I had to leave my family and friends to come down here and oversee his care. I gave up my Plan F supplemental health insurance because of the cost and the fact that it does me little good down here in Mexico. I may get a high-deductible supplement to Medicare and use medical flight insurance but that only works if I can be stabilized and then sent home by plan in the event of illness or accident. That won’t work for my husband because a trip for him is next to impossible at his stage of dementia. I fail to understand why our insurance carriers will not pay for care in a country where medical care is much less expensive than at home. I suspect they have agreements with health care providers in the U.S. and gain some financial advantage since it’s always about money in that industry. There was a time when I believed in free enterprise in the health care system but judging the behaviors of drug manufacturers (who charge more to all Americans than to residents of other countries) and by the exorbitant costs of health care that will break the bank of all but the richest Americans, I have begun to consider the philosophy that health care should be a right rather than a privilege. This is from someone who traditionally has paid out of pocket for much of my health care and that of my family; not because we didn’t have insurance, but because we chose to use alternative medicine, which is seldom covered by insurance policies but which serve us well.


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.


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.


Mexico Health Care #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have for 10 years been under the care of an ENT(Ear,Nose&Throat) specialist in Texas. I receive a Medrol injection every 8-12 weeks for Reactive Airway Disease. This cost $40.00 once my United Health Care Insurance Deductable has been met. When I moved to Yucatán I had to seek this routine injection from the Physicians that are located at the Ahorro Pharmacies. The Physicians are rotating Physicians, who are usually young and new in the field and I presume are fulfilling their residency or intern educational needs. They do an assessment and provide a Prescription that I hand carry next door to the Pharmacy and fill. I then return to the attached clinic next door and the physicians then administer the injection absolutely free of charge. I just pay for the medication and syringe. This is very cost saving as there are Ahorro Pharmacies all around the city, Merida. I have to drive one hour in Texas to access my ENT Specialist.


Overseas and Homesick #DAresists #Medicare4all

My health care story is simple. We came to Israel in 2011, before there was an ACA, because after his retirement from the USPO, my husband no longer had health care. He was covered under Medicare, but I wasn't, and we just could not afford health care insurance as well as the medicines I needed for my COPD and other illnesses. We moved to Israel, and it's a country where I just don't fit in, but going home isn't possible. My husband has advanced Parkinson's Disease, so we're stuck in a country I hate.


Luxembourg's Universal Healthcare Cannot Be Beat #DAresists #Medicare4all

We have universal healthcare here in Luxembourg. The first time I went to the doctor with my son it cost €30 ($35) and all but €3 was reimbursed two weeks later. When I went to the pharmacy for his antibiotics it cost just €1.73. When I went to get a check up at my GP for my thyroid again it cost €3. When I went for my blood tests, which would have cost at least $2,000 in the US, they charged me €0. Both my children are getting orthodontic treatment which when I left Seattle two years ago would have cost about $20,000 per child if we were lucky. Here it will cost less than €1,000 out-of-pocket by the time we are done. We don't have insurance premiums, we don't have insurance cards with co-pays and different levels of service. Everyone is treated the same here. That my friends is what universal healthcare is like in Luxembourg.


I never have to worry alone #DAresists #Medicare4all

I'm an American living in the UK. My story is simple. Whenever a health problem arises - or I start worrying about a strange ache, I don't have to worry. And we all know worrying makes your health worse. I go to the doctor and most of the time, I'm ok. Sometimes I need a blood test. It's all free. I pay for this through my national insurance - and so does everyone in this country. Because we don't pay and indebt ourselves, we go to the doctor at the right time and we prevent conditions from worsening. It makes sense and it's what right. 'Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' - but only if you're rich? America, time to grow up.


Positive experience with National Health Services in Spain #DAresists #Medicare4all

My name is Kate Seley and I was married to a Spanish national who passed away on January 20 2017 - doubly horrible day for me. I have lived in Spain for over 40 years and have 3 adult children who I gave birth to here with the national health care system with a minimum of pain and maximum of joy and supportive care. I want to clarify that in European countries with a National Health Care Service, it is NOT considered "socialized medicine". Conservative PM's or presidents, i.e., Cameron in the UK, Sarkozy in France and Rajoy here in Spain have never thought of repealing and replacing. They may increase copayments a bit as they're more austerity- oriented but that's it. It's too popular and they don't see it as it socialism! The GOP seems unique. To return to my family's and my own experience: In this long period we have all been in national health care hospital, my daughter for a bad case of salmonella over 20 years ago and my younger son for a complicated broken wrist and leg.. I myself have undergone a lumpectomy and a titanium bar implant to repair broken humerus, both with with totally satisfactory results. But perhaps the most dramatic case is my husband's. He eventually passed away but he had 4 different types types of cancer -prostate, bone colon and throat as well as chronic congestive heart failure. They managed to defeat the odds and keep him alive almost 4 years, during which he received excellent and sensitive supporting care. Sometimes, during the final year, I used to think that he preferred staying at the public health hospital to being at home cause he felt more secure there. There are no limited visiting hours anda loved one can sleep there in an armchair that opens up into a bed, rather like 1st class airlines seats.. On some floors, you could actually feel positive vibes.. The cancer facilities and especially the Coronary intensive care unit are very state of the art. The Gps in the local clinics or "ambulatorios" are in general competent and caring and medication has only a relatively small copay. 


Welcome to Canada! #DAresists #Medicare4all

My wife and I met in Colorado in 1976. She is Canadian by birth and in the mid-80's we decided to relocate to Canada. She arrived before me to get an apartment and look for work. I stayed in Colorado until my immigration papers came through, then I followed her to Canada. While driving to the border, I developed a nasty and persistent cough. I'd never experienced anything like it before or since. On arriving at my Canadian destination, my wife arranged for me to be seen on an expedited basis by a family physician she had obtained. Since I was new to the city, my wife drove me to the appointment and accompanied me. The doctor, a pleasant fellow, examined me, diagnosed a bacterial infection and gave me a prescription for an antibiotic. At the conclusion of the appointment, I thought I would do the polite thing and ask the doctor how much I owed for the visit. It was apparent that my question caught him by surprise. He and my wife exchanged a humored look. "Don't worry about it", he said. Until that moment I had not truly understood one of the greatest things about the country I had come to. The provincial health care system meant that I didn't have to pay to see a doctor if I became sick. Welcome to Canada! Since my arrival, I have benefited enormously from the health care system. About 15 years ago, I developed arrhythmia (a heart condition) which eventually led to two short hospital stays for radio frequency ablation procedures. Thankfully, I now have a normal heart rhythm due to these procedures. I also have a wonderful family physician who I see on a regular basis for my slightly elevated cholesterol and mild thyroid problem. All of this has been fully covered by my provincial health plan.


Emergency lifesaving treatment as a student in Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

When I was 18 during my freshman year at UofT, I started to have really strong, constant stomach pain and vomiting. It was really frightening, and for two days the doctors didn't know what was wrong with me as it worsened and worsened. It turned out my appendix had exploded, but because they couldn't see my appendix on their instruments they hadn't known what was wrong. I spent a week in hospital, had life-saving surgery, and was readmitted once when there was residual infection from the pus that had filled my abdomen. And even outside of the in-hospital procedures, there was one post-surgery medication that cost almost $1000 per bottle; if I lived in the United States, I would have had to pay for that out of pocket. And I couldn't have paid for it out of pocket. If I didn't live in Canada, I might not have been able to afford to be alive. And my whole extended family is full of stories of life-threatening situations that are treated simply and at no cost; from cancer and thyroid problems, to autoimmune diseases and mental illness. As a dual citizen of both Canada and the US, I can really see the difference between the two countries. Ill health comes for everyone, and a country that takes care of its people is one that provides health care for all. I would like my American family to be cared for just like I am here. Love, Miranda Alksnis


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


An holistic, comparative perspective from Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

As a Canadian born US citizen who has spent time living and working in Europe I can comment from experience on life under four different systems -- one universal single payer (Canada), two universal multi payer (Holland and the UK) and on non-universal (USA). I would say, and international studies agree, that the universal multi payer option systems far out perform the others. Canada consistently ranks second last, and the USA last in rankings of healthcare outcomes in advanced nations and it's time we both stopped using each other as "the alternative" and looked further afield. Both our systems ration availibility, either through resource scarcity as a cost management measure or by effectively denying coverage to a large portion of the population. The universal coverage mixed payer systems offer both choice broad access. The NHS co-exists with private, at cost system and the Dutch systems mandates that all residents have coverage either through the government system or private coverage. Both operate as a smaller percentage of GNP than Canada's 12% or the US's 16% and deliver broader coverage. That said, let's review the Canadian health care journey to single-payer to make sure we understand it's evolution and current reality: 1) It is NOT a national system, it's a network of Provincial (State) systems that adher to certain national standards -- primarily -- universality, portability and (it's achilies heel) no additional patient fees -- in exchange for BLOCK GRANTS from the Federal level. (Constitutionally health Care is a Provincial, not a Federal responsibility) Most of the funding comes from the Provincial not Federal level (it's the largest Provincial budget item for most) and the decision on coverage is made Provincially not nationally. About 70% of all healthcare costs are government funded, the rest from private citizens directly or through insurance (I believe in US about 60% already government funded) 2) Costs are a major issue to provinces and smaller ones already require extra federal funding. Aging populations risk bankrupting the system unless costs are curtailed (governments are already fighting Drs over salary levels) or the obsession with a "one tier" program with no private coverage options and no co-payment is eliminated. 3) It took nearly 50 years to get to it's current state: - it was first introduced in Albert in the 1935 but scrapped the next year with a change in government (sound familiar?). It was introduced in 1936 in BC but pulled over opposition by Drs. - it was first successfully introduced in Saskatchewan in 1947 but not federally funded until 1957 and by 1961 all provinces had a program similar to Medicare Part A. - in 1962 Saskatchewan introduced the equivilant of Medicare Part B and there was a bitter strike by physicians. - but by 1966 federal funds were made available physician cost as well. Almost 2 decades of turmoil followed with issue like Drs. leaving the country, opting out of the program and billing privately or extra-billing in the system. - in 1984 the current "universal single payer system" was introduced. 4) Despite all the above, the difference between my aging Canadian friends, and my aging US friends, all of whom are getting new knees or a stent or managing diabetes is that the Canadians all have the peace of mind to know where and how they will get the treatment they need. Whether measured in longer lifespans or lower infant mortality rates, or just the minimization of iatrogenic bankruptcy, there is a measurable quality of life increment from universal access. So it's worth the battle. But it's a long complex road so here are some insights from the Canadian experience: - it's an incremental evolution, not a massive one shot reshaping of "one sixth of the economy" - focus has to be on addressing costs not just on "insurance" and access - long term sustainability means exploiting both government and private funding options - and the scale and complexity mean it needs to be State focused within national guidelines (which is why lthe current loss of Democratic stature at a State level is so dangerous) While the ACA was not perfect, I saw it as an important first step on the journey. Constant revision from the ACA core is the right way to go and setting the expectation that it's is a work in progress not the end in itself Loosing issue leadership to Bernie Saunders with an out of left field, scarey-to-many "single payer proposal" is a dangerous step backwards when, when the PR is spinning right, the voter middle ground is quite comfortable with an evolutionary ACA. While the GOP flounders with repeal and replace, the crime is that an active viable ACA v2 hasn't been visiably championed by party leadership. My two cents worth, Robert Thompson


Great coverage for a pre-existing condition in Canada! #DAresists #Medicare4all

Hi, there. I just thought I would offer my experience using the Universal Healthcare system in Canada. At about the time I moved to Canada, I was diagnosed with Mixed Connective Tissue Disorder (MCTD)---while still living in Atlanta., Georgia I remember anxiously waiting while the insurance company approved the tests my doctor said I required as well as the medications to relieve my pain. When I moved to Canada, I had not signed up for the Medical Services Plan (MSP) ($!08/month for my entire family), so I had to get some meds and tests and pay out of pocket. I was stunned at how much less the same treatments costs in Canada! After signing on to the MSP, all of my healthcare needs are covered, with the exception of prescriptions--although there is a Pharmacare system that adjusts the cost of prescriptions according to your income. I have been in Canada now for 15 years and love how my doctor can order a test and it is done. I don't have to wait for procedures, with the exception of surgeries. The surgery wait times are always being addressed and improved. The queue is organized in a triage-like fashion. If I have a life threatening situation, I am in surgery immediately and others are bumped. I don't mind being bumped because the other person is helped and the system is providing high-quality care in a timely fashion, based on patient need. As I understand it, many physicians left Canada when the country first changed to universal healthcare amid cries of Canada becoming a socialist or communist state....the usual epithets hurled when folks get nervous about a change. I can honestly tell you that I wouldn't want any other kind of healthcare and, returning to the US would make me quite nervous in terms of what would be covered and approved by folks sitting at a computer with a checklist rather than the doctor who knows my personal situation. My MCTD morphed into Rheumatoid Arthritis, as it often can. It is a very serious condition that requires close monitoring, which I get from a specialist, just as I would in America--only I am referred and it happens....No one can tell me I can't have a procedure done. My doctors and I are in charge of my healthcare decisions, not profit-making businesses. With this focus on healthcare, I find that my doctors give me extraordinary amounts of consultation time. Patients get 15 minutes with a doctor here. FIFTEEN MINUTES! I was lucky to even see the doctor in the States and if I did, it would only be for about 3 minutes. Please don't believe the fear-mongering of folks that stand to profit from continuing the American healthcare system the way it has been done. Singe-payer is the way to go. Cheers, Jack Dr. J. Lucius Edwards Victoria Conservatory of Music


Lifesaving cancer treatment in Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

My husband, Leonard Kosiec, was diagnosed with esophagus cancer in October of 2011. He was admitted to the Foot Hills hospital in Calgary in December, 2011 and had his esophagus removed. The Canadian system was timely and the doctors and other health professionals excellent. In March of 2012, he was admitted to the Kelowna Cancer Centre for chemo and radiation. There he received both excellent personal and professional treatment. We were hopeful that he had made a full recovery. However, in October of 2012, there was signs that the caner was returning. From this time until he passed away in December of 2012, the Canadian system gave him excellent attention and care both with local doctors and at the hospital. We had not doubt but what he had the best research and care available. During this time, we had no personal medical expenses. This would not have happened in the United States. We would have lost our home and been in heavy debt. The Canadian system works in an efficient and ethical manner. The United States should adopt the model. Barbara McFarlin-Kosiec, Ph. D., Leadership


Overall satisfaction in Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

I live in Canada which has a single payer universal healthcare system. While it has its problems with regard to aging infrastructure, wait times for some elective surgery and doctor shortages in some areas, I am very satisfied with the system overall. The general population in Canada is healthier because visits to doctors and treatments don't cost anything except in taxes. This makes preventative as well as curative health care available and accessible to all. Within Canada healthcare varies somewhat from province to province because of the funding structure. I think some European countries have done it better, and I would encourage those designing a new system for the US to take the best of several systems, but public funding and universality are fundamental. Catherine Kingston


$30,000 in U.S. vice 10 Euros in Germany -- and the 10 Euros goes further! #DAresists #Medicare4all

While I was in college Ohio, I had a severe staph infection and had to be hospitalizd for nearly a month. When I returned home, I still needed outpatient care for about 3 weeks. I had a Student Healthcare plan, but the insurance company denied payment b/c of pre-existing conditions. (I suffer from extreme neurodermitis since birth, and the staph infection is a common secondary effect). I wound up owing the hospital nearly 30,000 dollars. Fast forward 3 years. I am laying in a hospital in Germany for a month, and have only been insured for 10 months. I paid but 10 Euros (roughly the same in dollars) a day for care and treatment rivaling that which I received in the US. I also suffer from allergies, asthma, and Keratoconus, and require constant medical aid, which is only affordable through Universal Health Care. In the US, I constantly lost or had to give up jobs b/c of my condition. Thanks to Germanys fair and stable Universal Health Care system, I can work steadily and enjoy life with my family. -- Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach, for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and have all of them ready on your lips. - Proverbs 22:17-18


A helpful roundup from Costa Rica #DAresists #Medicare4all

Regarding Costa Rica's public health care system, I have belonged to the CAJA for 19 years. The cost based on income is affordable. I pay on a voluntary basis. I pay per month. I receive all medical treatment and prescriptions without additional cost. However I supplement CAJA care with private specialists such as my dentist and ophthalmologist. I pay for eyeglasses myself. These services are available through the CAJA but I prefer having my choice of providers in these cases. Lynda Page


Simply happy to have coverage in Canada! #DAresists #Medicare4all

When I got my residency in Canada I was told I was covered by their healthcare system which is single payer, universal care. To my surprise I felt liberated and safe in a way I never felt in the US. I was no longer chained to an expensive, unforgiving insurance company whose primary purpose was not the health of Americans but their own profit margin. I remain a happy resident and citizen of Canada, and receive excellent if not perfect healthcare. Rachel Ps: no copay