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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Cancer coverage in Switzerland #DAresists #Medicare4all

Cancer sucks, but cancer in Switzerland does not bankrupt you and does not require a masters degree in Bureaucracy and Insurance Codes to get BETTER treatment than in the US. As a 2nd generation cancer person (mom had breast cancer in the US, I got it while living here) I can compare the level of care, the medicines used, and the paperwork burden (almost nonexistent here) and am planning to never return to the US system unless forced. Kay


A lifetime of perspective from Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

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


$7.00 for tonsillectomy in Canada (mid 70s!) #DAresists #Medicare4all

To Whom It May Concern in the USA— From my youngest daughter’s $7.00 tonsillectomy in the mid-70s to my recent hospital overnight sleep apnea test (“free”—covered by my taxes and an annual family insurance cost of just over $1,000 per year with no direct out of pocket expenses for the hospital stay or sophisticated testing), as a USAmerican citizen living in CANADA (and voting regularly in CO) it escapes me the resistance to universal, single payer health care coverage in the USA! R. G. Doll, BC


Singing 30 years of praises from Canada! #DAresists #Medicare4all

I can't sing the praises of universal health care enough. When I immigrated to Canada I was pregnant. I went from paying for each prenatal visit and not knowing how I'd pay for the delivery to free prenatal care both from my family doctor and the local health nurse. Free hospitalization during even during a nursing strike and free post natal care. I had complications requiring a week stay in hospital. I paid nothing. Now, over 30 years later my family and I never worry about how we are going to afford health care nor health care premiums. In my province the poor pay no premiums. And we choose a doctor of our choice (not limited to any one HMO plan). My son requires ongoing specialist care - completely free. No problem with a sub-class of service due to his lack of income (disability pension only). He sees the same specialists as everyone else. I hear from my family in the US about their worries about health care both quality and cost. I have a sister who had to refinance her home just to afford the deductible for a surgery. I have never had to worry about obtaining or affording quality health care since residing in Canada. It's a blessing beyond measure.


A 35 year perspective from Canada! #DAresists #Medicare4all

I am a US citizen living in Canada for about 35 years. For the most part, the health care system here works well. We receive universal health care and can use our own family doctor or go to community clinic as the need arises to receive free health care. I have not found it difficult to get my own family doctor. But some individuals need to spend more time. Emergency care is always available. I personally had surgery done here successfully. My wife had a series of tests that needed to be done as ordered from her doctor and were done on time, We pay higher taxes here in Canada but that is really the price paid for universal health care - it It is also a more humane and evolved way of living! Many other countries are able to accomplish this - I hope a more united congress with participation from democrats can accomplish this. Regards, James Sofia


Overarching experience in Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

I am a US citizen living in Canada. Here in Canada, everyone has excellent universal health care. Taxes here are no higher than in the US. When you need to go to the doctor or the hospital you simply go. There are no limits, copays, no concerns about particular conditions or whether you are covered. It's just like the education system, another government service paid for by your taxes. But our taxes are no worse than yours. It's just that we get something provided in exchange for paying taxes. That's what governments are for. To provide things as a group which would have been difficult to arrange as individuals. Here in Canada, we find it hard to understand why this simple obvious and important program is such an endless debate. What possible reason could there be to do anything else? Someone must have a less than honest agenda if they try to convince you otherwise. Our system is a single payer, non-profit government program, not another way for insurance companies to get rich. Thank You, Paul Peele


Great ongoing treatment for chronic condition in Germany! #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have ulcerative colitis, a chronic autoimmune disease that affects my colon. Since moving to Germany, I have had several flare-ups, including a few that have landed me in the hospital. The worst though was when I got so sick my colon was actually bleeding. I ended up in the hospital for 15 days and needed 3 blood transfusions. Because my German public health insurance is so wonderful, the entire hospital stay - blood transfusions, various medications and IV drips, food, and everything else - cost me only 150 euros. That's 10 euros a day. (At today's exchange rate, that's just under $180 for the full 15 days.) Even with insurance, lengthy hospital stays in the US cost exponentially more and can bankrupt a person. I can't imagine what this would've cost me in the US, but I'm so happy to have this kind of health insurance and that getting the treatment I needed was so affordable. It's also worth noting, I don't pay a penny for doctor appointments - it's all covered by my health insurance. If I feel myself getting sick, my doctor is happy to squeeze me in for an appointment that day or the next day, which I was never able to do in the US. I also have to take daily medication for my disease. In the US, I had to pay for those pills up front until I hit my deductible. A 3 month supply cost about $1,500 in 2011. The full price of the same medication (under a different brand) here is around $200, and because of my insurance, I only pay 10 euros for a 2 month supply. This is because Germany, like many other countries, regulates what the pharmaceutical companies can charge for drugs. They aren't allowed to jack up the price to a point where people can't afford the medicine that keeps them alive. No one should have to sacrifice their health or die because they can't afford healthcare services. Ali Garland


Things work GREAT in the UK #DAresists #Medicare4all

Less stress on Health, big benefits for society #DAresists #Medicare4all I moved to the UK over a decade ago to study music and stayed on, eventually marrying a Brit. Working in the arts comes with periods of financial uncertainty and not having to have the added worry of what would happen if I injured myself or got ill has always been a comfort. I have not had to pay for expensive private health insurance or premiums for the health concerns I've had and such savings allows me to direct my energy and income towards artistic/career decisions and continue to do good work in the arts. I think healthcare is a right and the basis of a well-functioning society. It allows space for people to fulfill their potential and contribute fully to their communities and society overall.


Great eye care support in Canada! #DAresists #Medicare4all

I support universal healthcare because I would be blind without my retinal detachment surgery or beyond broke paying for the surgery and follow up visits for my eye. In Canada, I have experienced the best my province has to offer in terms of emergency eye surgery and all I paid for was prescriptions and hospital parking. I didn't end up in debt to the hospital and doctor as surely would have been the case had I still been in Ohio when the detachment occurred. The United States needs universal healthcare for all across all States. Emergencies happen. They shouldn't ruin lives getting treated.


Great maternity support in the UK #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have had great care on the NHS during two complicated pregnancies. I would also have had great care in America -- if I could afford it. My treatment would have cost tens of thousands of dollars; in the UK, it cost nothing out of pocket -- as it should be. Healthcare is not a job perk. It is essential, and it should be available to all citizens at the point of need, fully funded through taxes.


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.


Hit by a car while rollerblading #DAresists #Medicare4all

I live in France but spend a lot of time in Austria. Ten years ago I was side-swiped by a car while rollerblading and my right arm was severely injured -- I couldn't use it for a year. The treatment involved an ambulance, emergency care followed by six hours of surgery, a two-week hospital stay in Austria, check ups by my French orthopedic surgeon upon my return to France, lots and lots of pain killers AND ten years of weekly physical therapy. My co-pay was less than €100 all together.


Having a baby in Spain #DAresists #Medicare4all

I experienced my entire pregnancy and birth in Spain. I used private insurance, but it's only 30 euro per month and 3 euro per appointment because it is subsidized. Other than that, absolutely everything has been free, from appointments with obstetricians and/or midwives at least once per month, an ultrasound offered at every appointment and a Tdap vaccine to labor, delivery and a 48-hour hospital stay. It would not have cost any more had there been complications during labor. My prenatal classes were free. My lactation consultations and baby massage courses are free. (Or, one could say I got all that for around 33 to 36 euro per month. Had I gone through the public system, it would have been totally free.) It felt strange just waltzing out of the office without stopping to pay after each appointment. My care was and is top-notch, and I'm so glad I was able to have my baby in Spain rather than in the US, which would have left me buried in debt. I have also visited two doctors, a nurse and two midwives in the public system, and have experienced minimal wait times and excellent, thorough care. Here they practice preventative medicine. Of course there are trade-offs. I pay more taxes. It takes longer to go for blood tests, and wait times for non-emergency surgeries are long. But I'd take the Spanish system over the US one, no contest.


During April 2016 I was diagnosed as having an “atrial flutter”. #DAresists #Medicare4all

My general practitioner performed an electrocardiogram in his office and determined that I should be transferred to the Aachen University Clinic for treatment. After numerous tests and pre-treatment therapy, an electrical cardioversion was performed. After two days of in-clinic observation, further tests – including a stress electrocardiogram and an MRI of my heart (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) were performed. Every day during my three-day stay in the clinic a resident cardiologist informed me of the test results. After it was determined that the treatment had been successful, I was released and all test results were forwarded to my GP. With the exception of 10 Euros for the ambulance, all costs were covered by my health insurance. I now have an annual long term and stress electrocardiogram in addition to an echocardiography carried out by a cardiologist. The health insurance that covers all of these expenses costs me approximately $290 per month.


I left the USA in 1969 and became a Canadian citizen in the '70's. #DAresists #Medicare4all

I have experience the Canadian health care system as both a patient and a physician. I have nothing but praise for Canada recognizing that health care is a right, not a privilege. As a physician I was always certain that I could provide the best care without worrying if my patient could afford my care. I am a psychiatrist and mental health care is covered just as any physical illness. As a patient I have suffered from a chronic malignant condition. I have received excellent treatment without worrying about losing my finances. The freedom from financial stress is healing in itself. Could the Canadian system be improved? Yes, of course, nothing is perfect. We need universal pharmacare, and dental care. We could better utilize our system to reduce wait times. Some elective tests, treatments are delayed, but any emergency investigation or treatment is available. Everyone is covered and we can use our medical card in any Canadian province. It even covers some benefits outside of Canada.


Universal health care story #DAresists #Medicare4all

I had a bicycle accident in April. I am 69 years old and it was quite a 'break' in my life. I still work and like anyone who has an accident, i was no prepared. I broke my leg and my elbow (still recovering!). Passers by were helpful. Called the ambulance which took me to the nearest hospital where i was treated the same as everyone else and waited my turn for a very excellent bunch of services including x-ray, CT Scan, MRI and eventually surgery on both parts of my body. Complete with titanium implants. I was then taken to an amazing rehab facility which is attached to the hospital and given really wonderful care until i was able to walk with a cane and get up the 14 steps to my second floor upon returning home. Everything from start to finish was kind, compassionate and quite proficient. Once i returned home i was given 8 sessions of physiotherapy and assistance taking showers until i could manage it myself. all the wonderful care kept me from being depressed (they also provided me with pain killers and any other things i needed, which in my case was minimal). On account of this i was highly motivated to continue my own care after returning home. If i had had to make decisions about what to spend money on or not (i am not insured with work. My care was totally OHIP covered) it would have been a much more stressful and less successful recovery. As it was it took from April 13th when i had the accident to May 6th, when i returned home to get me more or less out of the system. Follow up was good as well. the surgeon kept his eye on me until the bones were successfully knitted. I shudder to think what it would have been like without universal health care. I have watched my niece in the USA decide not to go to the hospital for stitches after cutting herself badly with glass because she couldn't really afford it. Her pensioned mother had to offer. Ridiculous. My other, less specific input is that I was a single mother with a deadbeat ex for many years. I never had to worry about medical care for myself or my daughter. one less form of humiliation not to mention security. I am deeply grateful to live in a country that offers this to all it's people.


Working in both the US and Canada as a doctor #DAresists #Medicare4all

I am both a US and a Canadian citizen. I am in the unusual position of having practiced in Canada before the development of universal government-funded health care known as Medicare, followed by practice in the US without universal health care, followed by practice back in Canada when Medicare had been established. Having experienced the worst of US medical care, I decided to never again practice in the US. I fear today for Canadian health care as it drifts toward a US-style private model. I developed and ran a three centre health care network in Rochester New York 1970-75, where I also practiced. I had good contracts with Blue Cross for the employed of Kodak, Xerox and American Optical, and I had a good reimbursement rate for those who were destitute on Medicaid. In the middle we tried to care for the marginal poor or sometimes employed. It can’t be done. What I faced as an administrator in trying to be fair to those who cannot pay eventually put the system in jeopardy. This loomed large in my decision to return to Canada, where I ran a similar system in Montreal from 1975-1993. There I no longer worried about providing cost effective care. Our Canadian health care system has not had a major overhaul since its inception in the 1970s, but we need to work on fixing those problems through comprehensive health care reform, without destroying a system that most Canadians feel is an expression of the highest values in our society. Those who see an increase in private care as the main way to fix the system seem unable to separate their own financial benefit from the needs of the nation. While I looked in the US for a warm place where my wife Bonnie, who is handicapped, could be independent, in the end I was so distressed with the US private-for-profit system that permeated everything from how poor people were cared for to the educational system that seemed blind to what was happening around them, that I felt that I had no choice but to return to Canada. It is useful to think about how Bonnie was flown without charge from Quebec to Ontario on a specialized intensive care jet to receive landmark surgery unavailable in Quebec, how the costs of her many months in hospital were the price of room TV. Or when I required back treatments then unavailable in Canada, Quebec paid for me to receive care in Minneapolis. Unlike what many in the US believe, there are no restrictions in Canada on choice of physician, assuming availability. In fact, our system is largely entrepreneurial and uncontrolled, unless the doctor is on salary, which is still rare. Some would say that ours is not a health care system at all but a system of paying doctors and hospitals for providing services according to a schedule of payments. And we are unique among comparable Western societies because we do not fund essential drug costs for the patient. I am astonished, though I ought not be, that many Americans, who are one disease short of being destitute, believe that single payer health care is bad for them. Part of the US population’s refusal to embrace the obvious is achieved by scaring them with terms like “socialism” and the spectre of a Canadian system where people cannot choose their own doctor and they will not receive the care that they need. Canadians of course can see their own doctor, and as many times as they need, without cost to them, just by showing their Medicare card. Lies about the Canadian health care system are willfully propagated by US private insurance interests, and ignorant legislators in the pocket of lobbyists are believed by a naïve and unsophisticated public. While there are undeniable problems in the Canadian health care system, compared to the US we are in much better shape, and we can fix our problems, within the existing system-- if we put our minds and pockets to it.


Health Care #DAresists #Medicare4all

Hi, I am a Senior and have very little to live on. I have to pay for Medicare, but that still has a deducible, which is a lot of money to me. If I get extremely ill, I will not have the funds to pay for health care. I would hope you would think of your Seniors when forming a health care bill. Most of the Seniors today are still working, I am,because we cannot afford the minimal cost of living and health care. Thank you,


Health Care in Canada: #DAresists #Medicare4all

I moved to Canada in 1975 just after I married. At 28 and having been very healthy all of my life, I was quite naïve about the cost of healthcare in the US, and fell very easily into Canada’s single payer system. I bore and raised two children under it, never paying a single penny for healthcare, including maternity care, emergency stitches, tonsillectomies, and allergy specialists. Indeed, having to pay to give birth would have shocked me, I think. Regarding our family health, everything went quite smoothly until 1996 when my husband and I were involved in a car accident which left me a quadriplegic. We lived in Halifax but the accident occurred in New Brunswick and we were taken to the Moncton City Hospital where I spent a month in intensive care. I have nothing but the highest praise for the care I received in that facility, for which I never paid a single penny. At the end of the month I was moved to Halifax where I spent two more weeks in hospital care and then moved on to the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre. I spent 10 months in this wonderful facility, again not paying a single penny. I had to learn how to live all over again down to the basics of going to the bathroom, feeding myself, and finding the best way to read a book. I was helped to regain my strength and taught mobility necessities like how to transfer from the wheelchair to a bed. I met others with mobility issues and became comfortable with the idea that this wasn't the end of my world. At the rehab, my husband and I were counselled on how to best modify our home for my wheelchair needs and compromised hand mobility. We were helped to navigate government bureaucracies and insurance companies for continuing care and future financial needs. My time at rehab was invaluable and my gains could not have been accomplished within the six week time period that I understood US insurance companies allowed for rehab, at least back in 1996. Again, I paid nothing for the care I received in that facility. This past summer, because of severe osteoporosis from sitting in a wheelchair for 21 years, I broke both of my legs at different times. I received immediate care in emergency including same day admission to the hospital. Surgery was planned for the following day until the doctors and I together decided that it would do more harm than good. When deemed necessary, my doctors have been able to secure diagnostic tests for me within a couple of days – x-rays, colonoscopies and ultrasounds. My son was diagnosed with MS at the age of 24 and again has had only positive experiences with healthcare. NS pays for his very expensive drugs. In either of these cases, our family would have been met with catastrophic health care costs, if not then forced to sell our home or possibly go into bankruptcy, were it not for Canada's easy to access single-payer healthcare system.


My health care story #DAresists #Medicare4all

It's wonderful to have the chance to talk about the health care system in Canada, my adopted home for the past nearly 30 years. There are so many misunderstandings STILL among our American friends and even some family members. Some still can't wrap their minds around the concept of universal health care and free choice. "But do you pick your own doctors?" we still get asked by dubious Americans. Yes, and yes again. Do we sometimes have to wait to get to see specialists? Yes, but my experience in LA, where I lived for over 40 years before immigrating to Montreal and then later, to Hamilton, Ontario, also involved waits and limited choices. I am now 70, and though in basically pretty fit shape, monitor nearly a dozen, different chronic conditions, from fibromyalgia to benign positional vertigo. Most are at best inconvenient, others periodically limit my activities, Only one -- melanoma in situ, is life threatening. At nearly 50 my husband and I adopted a baby girl from the Republic of Georgia, who, as it turned out has cerebral palsy, hearing loss, ADHD and mild anxiety. She's nearly 22 now and quite high functioning. Still, we are both frequent users of our health care system, with numerous specialists supporting my daughter's health. Would we have had all this care available had we stayed in Los Angeles? Possibly, though I doubt that I could have afforded all of it. To go into a doctor's office with my OHIP card and know that I will be cared for simply because I am a citizen of Canada, a resident of Ontario, is a privilege I hope I never take for granted. My Canadian friends -- who tend to complain about doctors, wait times, etc -- can't believe that health care is not a basic, human, universal RIGHT in the United States. Here in Canada it is our birthright. More recently, I helped usher my elderly parents through cancer surgery and treatment in Los Angeles. The hassles with insurance, finding specialists who accepted Medicare, etc was the bane of my mother's existence in her last years. Dying of melanoma, she opted for a geriatric specialist who was part of a consortium of doctors who charged a membership fee of $1,200 and something like $150 for each subsequent visit. The office did not accept Medicare. The contrast between the Canadian system and what is being proposed this week to the U.S. Senate is beyond stark. It's care versus cruelty, life versus profit. Thanks for listening.