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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Breast Cancer #DAresists #Medicare4all

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003....I am an American expat who lives in Canada....I am now a dual citizen...but believe me, I Vote!!! When I had cancer, the tests, mamms, ultra sounds, and a bunch more...all of my treatment and surgery and medications were paid for....Everything! I feel that in such stressful times, and some are ongoing and never ending, All Americans, old and young, rich and less rich, pre-existing condition or not....All have and deserve the right to Universal Health Care.... Please do not let anyone decide who should live or die or suffer...we can afford it....who is brave enough to donate those campaign donations to create and Implement this oh so important subject....history will remember!!

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Heart - and Mind Restored #DAresists #Medicare4all

My Story with some highlights: Since 1996 I have had 3 heart catheter treatments which were fully covered by my health insurance. Only expenses were 10€ per day for hospital stay (incl. meals!) 2007 I was diagnosed with severe despression. I was treated as an in-patient at psychosomatic clinic for 18 weeks. Following this I had 240 hours - over about 3.5 years - of psychoanalytic therapy at an external psychoanalysist. Over the time of about 7 years I had my daily supply of antidepressants. With the exeption of a hospital fee of 10€ per day - which is limited to a maximum of 280€ per calendar year - and some minor prescription fees everything was covered. As I found out from the psychoanalyst I would have had to pay 45€ per session, which would add up to 10.800 €, plus 3 digit medication costs per quarter. Since 2008 - at which I needed to retire due to my health problem - I pay around 130 € per month for health coverage - as a retiree. The 3 heart catheter treatments cost all-in-all about 51.000 € plus accomodation at the hospital. I have listed here some prominent examples, not mentioning my daily medication plus regular checks with different doctors over the years to date. For me it is not understandable why a system similar to Germany - which no question may have some flaws - could not work in the U.S., and Germany is definitely not the only country with a functioning Heath Care System.

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My grandson's treatment #DAresists #Medicare4all

My grandson, who is now 11 years old and living in Montreal, was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was 1 year old. This particular tumor does not metastasize, but it is life-threatening because as it grows in the brain it destroys other brain tissue. Especially in a child’s brain, it can be quite damaging. My grandson has been in active treatment for about six of his eleven years and under observation and monitoring for four years. Active treatment has included several kinds of chemotherapy and a 12-hour surgery to reduce the size of the tumor. Monitoring includes weekly appointments at the pediatric hospital for assessments including regular MRIs to track the tumor’s size, checks on his physical and cognitive development to assess the impact of the tumor on his brain, nutritional consultation given the impact of the chemotherapy on his appetite, etc. He has therefore had regular treatment by a large team of pediatric specialists. Total cost to his parents: nothing. Both his parents are musicians and could not have afforded private insurance that would have paid for this treatment. Throughout this, and except for the regular hospital visits, he has led a normal life. He is a charming and active young person with a very positive outlook on life, even though the tumor has affected his vision and his physical coordination. Early in this process, we checked with some medical contacts at major hospitals in the United States. They confirmed that the treatment he was receiving was exactly the same as he would have had at the best hospitals in the United States. In short, the Canadian health care system has provided excellent care over a long period at no direct cost his parents, in a case where he would have died long ago without treatment. I don’t know how much this would have cost in the US if the parents had paid directly, but I can’t imagine it would have been less than a million dollars.

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To the HEART of the matter #DAresists #Medicare4all

Soon after the birth of our son, he was diagnosed with Tetrology of Fallot. At age 3 he had surgery to provide a shunt for temporary relief. At age 4 he had open heart surgery. All of this was done with no cost to us, other than the income tax we happily paid. These life saving surgeries were done at Montreal Children's Hospital. Since then he has lived a productive, healthy life. Then, this year, as a 54 year old, he underwent open heart surgery again, in order to repair his original value problem, this time in Toronto. Again, at no cost to him, and a positive outcome. I personally have had a number of surgeries, e.g., gall bladder surgery and prostrate surgery. The most significant surgery, however, was in 2013, when I suffered a heart attack and had open heart surgery to deal with an aneurysm and a seriously blocked aorta. That surgery was performed in Hamilton General Hospital in Hamilton Ontario. To sum up, both my son and I have had our lives saved by heart surgery. This has been cost free under Canada's Universal healthcare. Sure, we sometimes have long waits to see our doctors for routine aches and pains. But when it came to life threatening heart problems, help was immediately at hand. The only expenses associated with were for television and, for visitors, parking fees. And, of course, taxes, which spread the cost to all, sick and well, to support such a significant healthcare system. As an American abroad, I thank the gods for Canada's healthcare. Here, healthcare is a right, not a privilege. It pains me to see what turmoil American healthcare is in, and how politicized the issue is. For my fellow citizens 'south of the border,' I wish you 'well' and hope for better healthcare soon.

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We're having a baby #DAresists #Medicare4all

Thanks to exceptional healthcare in the Netherlands, my husband and I were able to start the family we always wanted. After learning that it would be difficult for us to conceive a child naturally, doctors suggested that IVF treatments were our best option. We were able to take advantage of our time abroad and go through the IVF process from start to finish- doctors visits, prescriptions, countless ultrasounds, embryo transfer- all completely covered by our insurance. We paid next to nothing out of pocket compared to the astronomical sum (tens of thousands of dollars) for this treatment in the USA.

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Motherhood at any income #DAresists #Medicare4all

My story is about my two daughters. The first was born when I was just finishing my graduate degree and my husband was working full time. I had no maternity leave - not even the statutory benefits given in Canada - because I was self-employed and a student so I had not paid enough into employment insurance to receive any assistance. I relied on my husband's income to get us through. We had an amazing experience with a dedicated ob-gyn doctor and a hospital stay with lovely nursing staff. I was referred by my family physician to my ob-gyn and was never stressed about the cost. Cost was simply non-existent. I focused on having a healthy pregnancy at every stage, a gorgeous daughter was born. My second daughter was born when I had just started a new job and after my husband had been let go during the 2007-2008 economic downturn. He had been looking for a job for nearly a year. I did not qualify for my workplace's maternity leave as I had not worked there long enough prior to needing leave, but I did have the statutory benefits of government maternity leave. It wasn't great timing. We didn't have a lot of savings if things went wrong. But my experience did not change one bit. In fact, I was at higher risk so I received more attention than during my first pregnancy. I had the same ob-gyn, the same hospital, and the same lovely experience. I was not stressed about cost. Cost was simply non-existent. I focused on having a healthy pregnancy, and a bright, gorgeous daughter was born. To imagine that one of the most precious moments in a mother's life could be overshadowed by the stress of needing to make hospital bill payments is daunting. How could it effect my child's health? Would I have made decisions to compromise my care while pregnant? Should any mother be put in that position because of her economic status? Healthcare for all is about living through change and knowing you will be ok, knowing you will be well. It means our children will be born as healthy, contributing citizens with a legacy of care - literally. Should motherhood be a health risk? Just ask your mother!

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A Veteran and Cancer Suvivor #DAresists #Medicare4all

I am an Amry Veteran who moved to my Wife in Sweden following the completion of my service. It was while living here, that I was diagnosed with cancer. Recently uneployed and with an infant at home the news was initially devistating. However the Swedish medical system not only treated me with incredible care and expediency, they did so completely without cost to myself. I am now three years cancer free and well into my five year treatment plan. I have had many MANY MRI’s, CAT Scans and other diagonistic treatments that would have likely been prohibitively expensive in the states. I have often reflected as to what would have happened had I faced the same situation in the States. Unemployed with a Cancer Diagnosis. I honestly cant think of a way that it wouldn’t have bankrupted my family. Setting us back years if not permanently keeping us in poverty. However because I had the fortune to be treated in a country with Universal Healthy Care I am now happy and healthy. I am Currently pursuing a degree (free of charge) and my family is in a good way. Because the country I live decided to invest in people and not insurance corporations I have been given the opportunity not only survive but thrive. I urge every member of congress to invest in the American people and to serve them like I did during my 8 years of military service. Please, this is more important than politics and more important than money, this is peoples lives. Please vote down the draconian healthcare reforms being pushed right now and stand with the American people and help ensure to no American is forced to choose between healthy care and being able to provide for their families. #DAresists #Medicare4all

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Thanks to universal healthcare my son avoided a tracheostomy #DAresists #Medicare4all

There isn't a day that goes by that I am not grateful that my son was born in Japan, where we enjoy universal healthcare. My husband, son and I pay $500 - 650/month depending on our income the previous year, which covers 70% of my husband and my medical expenses and 100% of our son's. My son is now a healthy vibrant 7-year-old, but I can say with almost complete certainty that he would be much less verbal than he is - if he would be speaking at all - had he been born in the United States. Theo was born with Down syndrome and with some of the medical issues that most newborns with Down syndrome have. In his case, this was a complete AVSD requiring open heart surgery and esophageal atresia (his esophagus not connected to his stomach). He spent his first 9 months in the hospital and required six surgeries in total. After his second operation, it was discovered that he had tracheal malaise (which meant that the cartilage was not strong enough to keep his trachea sufficiently open). The doctors had two options: (1) move his open heart surgery up and include a secondary procedure that would tie his trachea to his aorta and keep it open enough until his cartilage was strong enough to keep his trachea open on its own or (2) a tracheostomy. Here in Japan, there are no insurance companies to approve or reject a doctor's recommendation, and my son's doctors were able to decide their course of treatment on their own, with our approval. They opted for heart surgery with the secondary procedure, even though it was not guaranteed to work and it would require an extra two weeks in the ICU. Thankfully, they did, because in my son's case the secondary procedure did work and he is now in first grade at the local elementary school - a healthy, active, happy boy. In the US, insurance company-driven protocol requires that patients who cannot be extubated within 10 days receive a tracheostomy. The only other option would be out-of-pocket payment for an extended ICU stay. We would have been bankrupted (most likely way before this with the initial surgeries required), and my son would've had a tracheostomy that would've stayed in place until he was 4 or 5 years old. His speech would've been delayed, as would his physical development. The subsequent therapies, not to mention the ongoing care for the tracheostomy itself, would've generated a great deal in additional expenses. In our case, thanks to universal healthcare, we paid $100 - 200/month (in addition to our monthly insurance bill) while he was in the hospital to cover diapers, food, and a cot for his parents to sleep next to him at night. Not a day goes by that I don't reflect on how very lucky we are.

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US citizen living in Canada since 1983... #DAresists #Medicare4all

Health care is never free, someone pays for it. My experience in Canada is everyone pays a little more in taxes so that everyone has coverage. What do I mean by coverage...anyone who needs heart surgery, visits a family doctor, or is referred to a specialist, needs an MRI, or is diagnosed with cancer and needs chemo treatment, or have a stay in a hospital...these are just examples...what you do is present your CardCare that has a number to admissions, they record the necessary data...you have your appointment...that's it...no bill comes in the mail ever! Also, I have complete freedom to choose the doctor I want. This is what I know to be true!

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When Government & Healthcare Work Together #DAresists #Medicare4all

I'm an American, and now Canadian, working as a professor at a Canadian university. Moving to my new home country was one of the best and most serendipitous decisions my family and I have ever made. A few years ago, I was diagnosed and treated for a significantly large aortic aneurysm. While recovering in hospital, I was told that I had a large mass (cancer) on my kidney. This single-payer healthcare system saved my life twice so that I can continue to be a father, husband, and researcher/educator. My doctors routinely monitor me via scans, etc. The only things that I have been required to provide in return is my name, birthdate, and positive attitude. Great healthcare does exist beyond US borders.

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Healthcare in Czechia -- Putting Children and Families First #DAresists #Medicare4all

I've been living in the Czech Republic for almost 15 years and gave birth to both of my daughters here. Infant and maternal mortality here is lower than in the United States, in large part due to access to high-quality prenatal care through a government health care system. Last year, my younger daughter was hospitalized with meningitis and spent 10 days in the hospital, with 5 of those in the pediatric ICU. We were terrified, but she received excellent care that was in line with international good practice, and we were able to focus on her medical care without having to worry about our medical bills -- everything was covered by our national insurance. Yes, everything: the neurologist, follow-up appointments, the ICU stay...everything! I'm self-employed, and I can't imagine how we could have managed this emergency in the U.S. I sleep better at night knowing that my family is covered here, but all Americans deserve peace of mind and access to high-quality healthcare for their families!

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Operation fully covered by government healthcare #DAresists #Medicare4all

I live in France. Four years ago I had a major operation requiring three nights stay in a hospital. I could choose the hospital and doctor that I wanted. I checked out the American Hospital and a public hospital recommended by my French doctor. The American Hospital would have been covered by the supplemental insurance I receive from my employer and the public hospital completely covered by the French insurance. The public hospital looked so much more clean and modern -- I took that option and had great care. The only thing I paid for was wifi access in my room. Everything else was covered directly with no cash out required for me. After 26 years in France, I am a firm supporter of universal healthcare.

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Healthcare in Taiwan #DAresists #Medicare4all

I've lived in Hsinchu, Taiwan since August, 2014 working as an English teacher. I've enjoyed the benefits of single-payer healthcare ever since. With only a monthly payment of roughly $25 USD, I have access to a whole range of benefits that, were I to remain in the United States uninsured, would probably be prohibitively expensive. For example, I pay only $2-3 out-of-pocket per visit to any health clinic, and dental work, such as teeth whitening, are priced similarly at $2-3. However, Taiwan's healthcare system is certainly not without its flaws. A quick search on Wikipedia will tell you its current challenges. The system doesn't take in the same amount as the value of the services it delivers, so it must borrow from banks. Also, there are few doctors per capita, so wait times can be long, and consultations with doctors themselves are often kept to a maximum of 2-5 minutes in most clinics. To alleviate these problems, the likely solution is to raise premiums on payroll taxes, but the government is reluctant to do so for fear of losing votes. That being said, I truly believe this is superior than the alternative. I think Taiwan's system is exemplary and has the ability to re-calibrate itself. Time will tell if the system here can endure, but it in my opinion, it functions pretty well for now.

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Ernie lived 12 additional years. But what about our children? #DAresists #Medicare4all

Ernie was a loving husband, father and grandfather, the president and COO of his company and a tireless volunteer. He was a US citizen living in Toronto, Canada. In the year 2002, at the age of 68, he was diagnosed with Prolymphocytic Leukemia (PLL). According to medical estimates, he had 6 months to live. With the care of the best doctors and the Canadian universal health system he lived 6 more years! -- until his Canadian doctors told him he needed a medical treatment they were not able to give him at that time. Because he was eligible for US Medicare we were able to go to Chicago, where superb doctors gave him the treatments he needed. -- and he lived an additional 6 years! -- a vital productive life. Our primary expense was the cost of travel between Toronto and Chicago. But the actual cost of the medicine for just one treatment was $8,000.00 -- plus the cost of fees for medical personnel and the cost of the facilities and equipment where the treatments were given. We could barely afford one treatment; he had hundreds. Because Medicare paid the costs, we were able to have him with us for an additional 6 years. But without universal medical care, how will 40- 50- and 60-year olds be able to receive the life-giving treatments now available for leukemia and other cancer patients?

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The price of health should not be stress and debt #DAresists #Medicare4all

I am an America who has lived in a number of different countries (now in the UK). I gave birth to my daughter in France. Due to complications, I ended up in hospital for 4 weeks before she was born, prematurely, by C-section. After another 2 weeks in the hospital in a special unit for premature babies and their mothers, we left the hospital together, both healthy. My costs for all this? A small fee for the hospital meals I had eaten, in the final week in which I was discharged but allowed to remain with my baby. That's it. A very stressful time was not made more stressful by fears of mounting hospital bills, and there was no question that we would not get the care we needed. We moved to Norway, did not pay any supplemental health insurance, but were taken care of wonderfully by the state. Now I live in the UK, where our health care is likewise available without massive stress and worry and cost. It saddens me to visit my family and friends in America, and hear stories of their struggles to pay for the care they need or worse, to go into debt or to go without and suffer, as they cannot finance it. It is to me, by far more sensible, and by far more civilised, to make universal health care a right, not something that anyone should have to worry about having access to. Health care should be affordable and accessible; much of the world has realised this. Isn't it time that America woke up to the fact that capitalism can be compassionate? It does not have to mean brutal survival of the fittest/richest (i.e. those able to earn enough to afford the "luxury" of health). We need to be a society that recognises basic human dignity and needs; a healthy and secure society is a happy and productive society.

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I left Tennessee and moved to Canada so I could access healthcare. #DAresists #Medicare4all

I chose to come and live in Canada so I could access affordable and high-quality healthcare, something I was not provided as a US citizen and resident of Tennessee. I was born with a genetic disorder and I have several autoimmune issues. But thankfully I was able to live a pretty good and happy life in Tennessee. However, several months before graduating from Middle Tennessee State University I received a letter from my parents' health insurance (Blue Cross Blue Shield) saying that I was being kicked off because of my pre-existing conditions. I also received a letter from my school loan company saying my payments were going to begin soon. I had just graduated from college, I was unemployed, and it was the peak of the recession. Receiving these letters was a cold and cruel wake-up call for me. Needless to say my family struggled for the next years to find me access to healthcare. I was on COBRA payments for a while, which cost $320 a month just for me. At certain points I was uninsured and doctors told me to fund the surgeries I needed by applying for charity. Charity. Me, born, raised, and a faithful taxpayer in the US should apply for charity to pay for medical needs. At that moment I decided to leave the US. I now live and work in Canada and I have been able to access all the care I need. The healthcare here in Canada is high quality and most importantly, I do not have to worry about being denied care, nor do I worry about how I will afford to pay rent and food, and also pay for healthcare bills. Because here my care has been publically funded. And yes, sometimes I wait two months to see a specialist (when it's not an emergency), but I waited years upon years to see doctors in the US and I was denied each time (all before Obamacare). I want to one day return to the US, but until some sort of universal coverage is passed, I'm too afraid. I feel too secure and safe here in Canada.

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I left Tennessee and move to Canada so I could access healthcare. #DAresists #Medicare4all

I chose to come and live in Canada so I could access affordable and high-quality healthcare, something I was not provided as a US citizen and resident of Tennessee. I was born with a genetic disorder and I have several autoimmune issues. But thankfully I was able to live a pretty good and happy life in Tennessee. However, several months before graduating from Middle Tennessee State University I received a letter from my parents' health insurance (Blue Cross Blue Shield) saying that I was being kicked off because of my pre-existing conditions. I also received a letter from my school loan company saying my payments were going to begin soon. I had just graduated from college, I was unemployed, and it was the peak of the recession. Receiving these letters was a cold and cruel wake-up call for me. Needless to say my family struggled for the next years to find me access to healthcare. I was on COBRA payments for a while, which cost $320 a month just for me. At certain points I was uninsured and doctors told me to fund the surgeries I needed by applying for charity. Charity. Me, born, raised, and a faithful taxpayer in the US should apply for charity to pay for medical needs. At that moment I decided to leave the US. I now live in Canada and I have been able to access all the care I need. The healthcare here in Canada is high quality and most importantly, I do not have to worry about being denied care, nor do I worry about how I will afford to pay rent and food, and also pay for healthcare bills. Because here my care has been publically funded. And yes, sometimes I wait two months to see a specialist (when it's not an emergency), but I waited years upon years to see doctors in the US and I was denied each time (all before Obamacare). I want to one day return to the US, but until some sort of universal coverage is passed, I'm too afraid. I feel too secure and safe here in Canada.

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Healthcare is a human right #DAresists #Medicare4all

I'm an American living in Canada. In September 2017 I was diagnosed with stage III gestational trophoblastic neoplasia. GTN is a rare cancer that develops after a woman has a baby or a miscarriage. I lost my baby at 13weeks earlier this summer, underwent 2 surgical procedures, a post-op infection, and was ultimately diagnosed with cancer. Having health coverage in Canada, I have not received a single bill for the tests/procedures/specialists I have required. The last three months have been devastating- from the heartbreak of losing my baby to now facing the scary realities of chemo, I am so fortunate to be supported by a health system that does not increase my stress with a financial burden. I am a 37 yr old healthy woman with a dream of having a family- and now I have a pre-existing condition. If AHA is repealed, and coverage of pre-existing conditions is no longer mandated, women like me would suffer. I would not be able to consider even moving back to the US. Healthcare is a human right, and the question Congress should be asking is not IF but HOW to make the system work for all US residents.

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A New Lease on Life #DAresists #Medicare4all

At my heaviest, I weighed over 310 lbs. I was dealing with diabetes, with high blood pressure, with all sorts of chronic illnesses. Even walking a city block left me out of breath. Life, put simply, sucked.

I had been recommended for weight loss surgery while living in the U.S., but it would have cost nearly $30,000. And my laundry list of ailments meant I would have never found health coverage on the private markets before the Affordable Care Act came into force.

In the interim, I moved to Canada, where even though I waited a while, I did end up having the surgery at a hospital in Montreal.

The cost? US$60. And that's because I wanted a private room.

Since my surgery, I've lost almost 110 lbs. I can run and walk without pain. Climbing stairs is no longer an impossible task. My ailments have mostly resolved themselves. I have a new lease on life. And all this without having to seek bankruptcy.

Universal healthcare has restored my hope for a future. The time has come to ensure that all Americans are able to access the healthcare they need, without having to leave the United States. Full stop.

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From Canada #DAresists #Medicare4all

My wife is from the US and I am a UK citizen; we are living in Canada at present. Four years ago I developed Stage III melanoma and went through all the usual scans, surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and months of home care nursing. The single biggest expense? Hospital parking!

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