Thank you to everyone who has sent in their universal health care story. As you can see from the very many stories in the pages below, many Americans living abroad feel strongly about this issue. We believe that our stories will make a difference by showing the many sides of universal healthcare - from an average check up, to a hospital stay, to stories about our lives being saved thanks to universal health care.
Would you like to add your story? It's not too late, here's how: Take a selfie with our selfie card (or draw your own!), then add your picture and story in the texbox. You can also make a video and send in the url (just add the link in the textbox).
We'll share these stories with Congress to help in their fight for affordable healthcare for all Americans. (Read our press release here)
Please note that the stories below are all user submited and reflect individual opinions.
but fortunately, because I live in Germany and am covered by public health insurance, I did not have to worry about the costs. On March 16, 2016 I had a routine examination (Mammiogram paid fully by a public Health insurance, the Hanseatische Ersatz Krankenkasse). One week later I received a letter, stating there were some irregularities and I should come in to the office for further testing. Beginning March 30th I had further testing (ultrasound and punch biopsy) and immediately upon the same day the diagnosis of cancer was confirmed. At that point I very gratefully found myself being accompanied by a very competent network of medical professionals (Radiologische Allianz). As soon as the diagnosis was confirmed, I checked around with friends and professionals to find a top notch hospital specializing in breast cancer in Hamburg and was operated on (breast conserving surgery) at the hospital of my choice on April 14th. I remained in the hospital for three days. The Radiologische Allianz guided and accompanied me throughout the entire process (further pretesting - MRI - as well as the post radiological treatment and testing). The only costs, which I personally had to pay was € 10,00 a day during my hospital stay, because I asked to be put up in a single room. Taxi costs for the 30 days of local irradiation was partially reimbursed by the health insurance. The health insurance also paid full travel costs and most of the costs at the 3-week rehabilitation center on the island of Föhr (North Sea), where I had to pay only € 10,00 per day. The cancer medication, which I need to take for 5 years following radiation, costs me only € 5,00 per prescription. If I had lived and worked in the USA at that time, I am sure that I would have been bankrupt by now. During my working years my health insurance (which also covered my children) cost monthly ca. € 600,00, half of which was paid by my employer, leaving me with a monthly health insurance of € 300,00. I realize that this might sound high, but this covers all health issues from giving birth to dying. The health care and rehabilitation services I have received have always been top notch - and I usually get an appointment at the doctor's office within 2-3 weeks. I feel extremely fortunate paying for and receiving the services of socialized medicine. I am a firm believer that quality health care should be a right and not a privilege for each and every citizen.
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.
My story isn't about a life-saving operation or being able to afford that medication that changed everything. This is about you - average everyday person. I know so many Americans who will not go to the doctor for a sniffle or an ache because they don't want to pay (or co-pay) for a visit. I can't count the times I have heard stories of people going broke trying to diagnose an illness: those co-pays for each visit really add up! Here, in Germany, I go to the doctor whenever I don't feel well. For every ache and pain. And sometimes, there is no real problem and I go home with some herbal tea. But sometimes I get an MRI and a CAT scan and some blood work and they find the problem . . . and I don't pay a single penny for this care because I already have paid with my taxes. It doesn't hurt my pocket book and my work allows me to go to these visits without penalty because that is how the system works. What is better: Getting sicker and sicker trying to avoid co-pays until it is too serious or too far along to fix? OR Pay a bit of tax out of your paycheck, bosses who understand the benefit of preventive care and stay healthy by regularly getting checked up with our the great of going broke over what might be just a simple cough. What if it's not just a simple cough - why take the risk? You are worth it!
I was disabled after a car accident and I have to be very careful with money as I am now on a pension. But I never have to worry about my doctors fees, my doctor bulk bills my account so it has no cost to me, my prescriptions are supported by the government so they only cost about $6, and any scans I need, like for a breast lump I felt last year, are covered under Medicare so I don't need to choose between eating and getting treatment as needed. Luckily for me, my tests came back negative, but others are not so lucky and catching something early is the best way to fix it. Imagine being too scared of the costs to go in and treat something before it becomes a problem?
I'm a dual citizen. In my old job, I used to travel a lot for work. One time, I was taking antibiotics, and got to my destination interstate to realise I'd left the box on the counter at home. I asked the local office manager to make an appointment with the nearest local clinic for late in the day. At 4:30, I walked in to that clinic, and at 4:40 I had a new prescription -- no cost to me for the visit. No bs about who is in or out of my plan, no worry about out-of-state treatment, no hassle. That said, any legislation introduced here without costings or funding would be laughed out of parliament. Bernie's bill is not serious. Rep Conyers' bill, introduced in the House every year for over a decade, is the one to support..
I'm a Michigan expat who moved to Sweden 16 years ago. Within one week of arriving in Sweden, I was registered with my "person number" (S.S.#), soon after which I was invited to my local medical center for a thorough physical check-up, including a pap smear and a mammogram, to establish a medical database for myself in Sweden. Sweden's "one-payer" national healthcare system is amazing for several reasons. First, there's none of that American pre-exsisting condition nonsense to worry about. One-payer systems work by the principal of "many hands make light work". I'm happy and proud to pay a little extra in taxes so that every man, woman, and child is covered, because caring for every citizen is one of the things that makes a country civilized. Plus, there is a ceiling for dental and healthcare costs for those which chronic or congenital illnesses and conditions. I love Sweden for more reasons than just its amazing healthcare system, and I pity Americans who have to fight tooth and nail to get basic human services. Living in Sweden has taught me that countries should be run like non-profit organizations. Sure, it's o.k. to make a profit, but turn it back into the country and its citizens for the benefit of everyone.
In April this year, I had a papsmear screening which showed that I had cervical dysplasia (CIN3). I was told that I would need to have surgery to prevent cervical cancer. This was a huge shock as I have always been healthy. Thanks to Medicare in Australia all my doctors visits including surgery was free. I was able to have this procedure knowing that I didn’t have to give up a choice of paying for rent or eating. I support health care for all so that we all have an opportunity to prevent deadly diseases without struggling to afford cost of living.
After 6 and a half years in Australia, I cannot imagine going back to the US system of healthcare. Although there is optional private insurance Down Under, everyone is covered under the federal Medicare scheme where the burden of monthly healthcare costs are non-existent. I have only had a minor scare involving several x-rays and a CT scan, of which was completely levied in taxes - speaking of, that are no different to what I was paying in US on a comparable salary. When my daughter was born, the largest bill paid for the entire birth was a $ 36.00 per day for the underground parking. It is unthinkable now to imagine paying for what should be a fundamental human right, guaranteed and accessible to all citizens regardless of income, situation or pre-existing health condition. While it isn't perfect here, it is vastly better than the US system where the majority of people are placed under enormous stress to afford their health coverage. I urge the US to adopt a Medicare-for-All model similar to Australia.
In December of 2000, two months before my due date, I had an emergency c-section to deliver my daughter because I had developed HELLP Syndrome. My daughter weighed less than 3 lbs. and required a respirator. We weren't able to bring her home from the hospital until her original due date, 2 months later. Both in the hospital and afterwards, my daughter and I both received excellent care. During follow-up visits it was discovered that my daughter is deaf. She has received speech therapy, hearing aids, and routine hearing tests for the past 17 years. My hospitalization, surgery and follow-up care entailed zero out-of-pocket costs, as did my daughter's care. We have contributed to the cost of more sophisticated hearing aids, but medical exams, speech therapy and tutors have been without charge. Another important aspect of this system is the emphasis on preventative medicine and early diagnostics. Two years ago during a routine exam my doctor found a suspicious mole on my back. It was removed, and turned out to be melanoma, caught in the early stages. Had I been unable to afford the original doctor's visit, or the follow-up surgery and treatment, it might have grown and spread, eventually resulting in much more expensive and invasive procedures, or even killing me. When I talk about the health care system here I don't say 'free' because we pay taxes and thus our money goes into the system that provided for these competely unexpected events, and for our other health needs, as well as those of everyone else in Italy, where we live. I am grateful every day to Italy and its National Health Service, and I only wish to see the friends and family I still have in America benefit from a similiar level of truly affordable, life-saving care.
In 2011, I moved to Rome, Italy, to finish my Bachelor's degree. I have since remained in the country with my Italian partner. Over the past six years, I’ve had the opportunity to experience what it’s like to live in a country that considers health care to be a fundamental right to all its citizens and legal residents. Thanks to Italy’s National Healthcare System, visits to my general practitioner and the emergency room cost nothing, trips to the pharmacy don’t require insurance coverage and never empty my wallet or bank account, and going to specialists and getting lab tests are either free or cost a small fraction of what they do in the US. But my gratitude goes far beyond these standard health care services. In fact, I owe my life to socialized medicine. In 2012, I was diagnosed with HIV. Living with this disease has been a struggle and has undoubtedly changed my life, but never at any point have I had to worry about how to pay for expensive antiretroviral (ARV) treatment. My life-saving medication and periodic check-ups at the hospital are guaranteed to me as a human right! Being a full-time student at the time of diagnosis, I don't know what I would have done if this had happened to me while living in the United States. Perhaps I would have been obliged to abandon my studies and find a job to pay for treatment. One of my greatest hesitations about moving back to the United States is my fear of not being able to afford ARV treatment or the periodic blood analyses I receive here in Italy. Common arguments against public health care systems like that of Italy are that they increase taxes unnecessarily or that the quality of such health care is poor, but I can tell you from first-hand experience that this is not true. Yes, there are issues, such as long waiting periods for specialists or occasional frustrations with bureaucracy, but the benefits far outweigh these costs. What’s more, I can always opt for a private hospital or doctor if I so choose. It's time for the United States join the vast majority of high-income countries in the world by providing truly universal healthcare through a single-payer system. (Note: Posted by Moderator, Anonymous Author)
I am writing this story not to place blame, but to share my story of how an inadequate health care system has had a negative impact on my life. I am only a single example of how a bad system can destroy a potentially strong link, and I would prefer that such things do not happen en masse due to the proposed health care bill. I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus at the age of 7, in 1977. At that time, it was almost a death sentence. People died from the disease, and my pediatrician did all he could to keep me alive. Facing potential kidney failure, he put me on a dosage of steroids (Prednisone) higher than even an adult should have taken. This daily dose was part of my medical regime for a year, and while it may indeed have saved my life, it has also - to some extent - ruined it, which is the purpose of telling you my story today. The high dosage of steroids marched through my body like a determined soldier, affecting my body in various ways. Stunted growth, delayed development, Cushing’s syndrome, mood swings, and the worst – softening of the bones. Unfortunately, there was little warning about these symptoms, and when I was well enough I still wanted to be a child – to run, play, climb trees, ride bikes, take dance classes, ice skating, roller skating – and by the time a new pediatrician did warn me of the dangers, it was too late. At age 11, several verterbrae in my upper spine collapsed, just from sitting at the piano. Then, it was discovered that my hip joints were already beginning to disintegrate – avascular necrosis of the hips at age 12. I was too young and too sick for a hip replacement at that time. After age 18, it was decided to monitor my condition, as hip replacements did not last very long, and the longer we could wait, the better it would be, so as not to have the risk of more surgeries than necessary in my lifetime. I persevered. I did well in college, then started a Master’s. I worked full-time. But I had to decline a scholarship to go to law school because the pain had made day to day life more difficult. By the time I was in my mid-20’s the pain was severe. I had to normalize the pain and keep going, as I was someone who refused to “lie down” in the face of my illness, but I went to the orthopedist to inquire if it was indeed time for my surgery. This doctor told me no, because insurance wouldn’t pay for it, as it would be considered “elective” surgery, since I could still walk. Stunned, I left his office in tears. My only choice was to keep going, and endure. At that time I was living in Tennessee. Slowly, my ability to function normally worsened. I couldn’t work as many hours. I couldn’t be active. Yet still, I could walk, so the surgery wasn’t available to me. Yet I got lucky. I got married and moved abroad. We settled in Germany, and within a couple of months of moving to Germany I could no longer walk without the support of crutches. The pain had gotten unbearable, and so I consulted an orthopedist here. The look of shock and pity on his face when he first saw my X-ray told me how bad it was, and I proceeded to see this look many times as I consulted surgeons and planned my surgery. The damage was so extensive to my left hip that the bone had not developed properly – it was smaller than the average implant, and a custom implant had to be made. My pelvis had tilted 6cm in an effort to protect the left hip, which had broken several times. When the doctor asked why I hadn’t had the surgery in the U.S., I told him it was because they said it was elective surgery. The look of disgust and anger on his face was palpable. I was told that damage so bad took decades to occur, and it was likely that surgery would have been necessary when I was 18. In fact, had I lived in Germany, it would have happened at 18, despite any risks, because it is considered a quality of life issue. Imagine that: a health care system where proper treatment is based on improving a patient’s quality of life. Unfortunately, the successful hip replacement surgery (both sides – I make quite the buzz at airport security) is not the happy ending to my woeful tale. It has been three years since the operation on my left hip, and I am still experiencing severe pain. My range of motion is improved, my stamina is better, and the pelvis is almost back to normal (1cm difference). Yet I can’t sit for more than an hour without feeling discomfort, I can’t stand in one position for more than a couple of minutes without a lot of pain, and often I can’t even rest comfortably in bed. I walk and exercise as much as I can, but obviously I must be careful. I see a physical therapist twice a week, which helps as well. I must take pain medication on a regular basis. All other possibilities have been ruled out, and my orthopedist has concluded that the pain is the result of so many years of degeneration and the terrible condition of my hip, and the pain is possibly chronic. In essence, by refusing to make a small investment in my health care, my potential was squandered: including years of work, academic achievement, and productive contribution to society. I am facing the reality that I may never know a life without pain. It is a small thing, compared to a lot of other people. Still, after 40 years of pain, the end result of my successful hip replacement surgeries was expected to be no more pain, or at the very least, very little pain – and knowing that I face more pain, with no confirmation that it will end, is daunting to me. I won’t give up. I have no reason to. I live in a country with a health care system that takes exceptionally good care of me. The U.S. should perhaps look into the German system, if Congress is having trouble trying to “fix” ACA. I know there are also a lot of good ideas out there, from some Democrats and Republicans. The citizens of the United States of America deserve a good health care plan. People are more productive and happy and spend more money when they don’t have to worry about what happens if they get sick, and these are all crucial requirements for a successful economy. Alas, I digress, my story is told, and you know what you have to do.
After a motorcycle fall and a subsequent biking accident, my right ACL ligament just snapped. Of course to confirm that this was in fact the reason I could no longer climb stairs, lift my leg high enough to get into the shower, or get into and out of a car, I needed several doctor's appointments and an MRI - after the emergency room visit. Which provided crutches and a support bandage. After the diagnosis, surgery. After the surgery, stitch removal and physical therapy. Now I have two fully functioning knees and am only about $200 poorer. I pay reasonable income taxes in France every year and I have absolutely no problem with our securité sociale (healthcare system) taking care of everyone who needs it. How can we have a healthy society without healthy people?
I moved to Sweden for family reasons years ago, and both my children were born there. I’m grateful to the Swedish health care system for giving them the best possible start in life, including prenatal care and obstetrics, regular pediatric check-ups and occasional visits to the emergency room. No health care system is perfect, and doctors’ waiting rooms in Sweden are not as luxurious as in some in the US, but we’ve always received excellent medical care. This is especially apparent in the extensive medical treatment necessary for one of my children, who due to a congenital deformity suffered from life-threatening kidney infections early in life. Many of us hope that we can avoid sickness and injury by leading a healthy and responsible life, but sometimes bad things happen anyway. It was terrifying for us as parents to find ourselves in the neonatal intensive care unit with a three-week-old baby in critical condition. But through our fear and grief, we could see that no resources were being spared for our son. In fact, costs and insurance were never an issue (there wasn’t any paperwork to fill out) because in Sweden medical care is free of cost for all children up to the age of 18. After several more hospital stays and surgeries, our son recovered. Throughout this experience, I was constantly impressed by the fact that not only my son, but every single child in Sweden receives the same high level of care, regardless of their parents’ circumstances. Swedes recognize that children are society’s future, and that children deserve society’s support. As a result of treatment by medical specialists in Sweden, my son, now a young teenager, is in full health and thriving. The doctors call him in for regular check-ups, and tell us that, though they do not expect him to have more problems, they will continue to monitor him throughout his life, just to be on the safe side. One day my son may want to move to his other home country – the United States – and if so, I hope he will not be denied insurance because of this pre-existing condition. Most of all, I hope that American society will do better by all its children and provide them and their parents universal health care. It’s the only compassionate thing to do.
My daughter was 18 months old and had been suffering from congestion for about a week. I didn't think much of it until she woke up one night and I noticed that she was having labored breathing. She laid still in her crib, her chest collapsing. She wasn't crying so it was clearly evident that something was wrong. We immediately took her to the hospital where she was admitted immediately. We spent 3 days in the hospital, the first night being the most intense. She was connected to an IV, had a catheter, and had to wear an oxygen mask. Every few hours the nurses came in to administer her dose of steroids. They bathed her and did their best to keep her from crying. It was difficult to watch because she was just a baby and was being pricked by needles and forced to endure other scary moments that would be difficult even for adults to handle. After a few days, she was cleared to go home. When they handed us the paperwork we weren't quite sure what to do. The nurses looked at us like we were crazy because we just stood there waiting to be handed some kind of bill. Prior to this, I don't think I really had a strong opinion because I had never had an experience to know otherwise. However, from that day on, I feel very adamant about socialized healthcare. The pediatricians, pediatric nurses, and ER staff provided excellent care. Had this happened in the United States, we would have had to have paid a few thousand dollars, not taking into account the medicine that was required afterward either. Her nebulizer and salbutomal inhaler, together, cost less than €20. This is just one example, but I have many others. Both my children were born in Spain so we have numerous experiences dealing with the healthcare system. No parent, or anyone for that matter, should have to worry about the cost of medical treatment when it comes to the health of a loved one.
My husband and I stopped to help a middle aged American couple who had been touring the Rheinland. They had been biking when the woman fell and hurt her leg. We helped them access the German healthcare system, where the woman was treated for a broken leg. She and her husband were so impressed with the quality of care and the cost of care that they returned for follow up from the state of Washington a year later. Having lived in Germany for 30 years I can only confirm their experience. I was treated for breast cancer 10 years ago. Not only did I receive excellent care and experience a positive outcome, there was absolutely no disruption of my family’s life due to financial pressures.
My daughter (then 7) broke her arm at 6pm on a Friday night. Our doctor met us at the local hospital 15 minutes later. The X-ray technician had gone home so he gave her a call and she came back in to do the X-rays. I repeat, she came back in to work at 6:30pm on a Friday! We were home with my daughter's arm in a cast and pain relief by 7:30pm. As if that wasn't enough generosity- they didn't even charge the $25 after hours fee. Total cost for the broken arm $0. My son needed stitches in his head so the doctor asked the doctor in the office next door to put them in because he had plastic surgery experience and would leave minimal scarring. We waited 20 minutes and he was right, there was no scarring. I was once so sick and vomiting uncontrollably that I couldn't drive to the doctors office - my doctor sent a health shuttle to pick me up. My mother visited and got a lung infection. She was seen, without insurance, right away and given antibiotics. The visit and meds cost $45 and the illness didn't ruin her trip. Universal coverage doesn't mean longer waits or compromised care- it means peace of mind, it means no hesitation to get a consultation, care, treatment and medication. After 13 years in NZ & Australia, I wish this peace of mind for all my fellow Americans!
I married my Danish partner in 2012 and she gave birth to our beautiful twin daughters in 2013. Because it was her first delivery, and she was older and had to undergo hormonal treatments, she experienced hormonal imbalances. No problem, she was given two weeks of inpatient care at the country's premier hospital in Copenhagen. Later, one night she awoke at 3 a.m. with severe back pains. No problem, an on call physician arrived at our doorstep within 30 minutes! Recently, one of the now four year old twins fell and damaged her teeth, of course in the evening! My wife called the emergency medical number, was given an appointment at the emergency dental clinic, and within 30 minutes had gone with my daughter, received treatment and returned home, which in this case was the removal of her two top front teeth. In Denmark, all you have to do is show your national health card upon entry to any medical facility. Your record pulls up, you are told exactly where to go relative to your appointment, and off you go! That entire process takes less than one minute. And because she was a child with an obvious immediate dental need, she went right to the front of cue, no questions asked! On my side, I just recently received my national ID number and thus access to the local health care system. Previously I would have needed to use my US insurance for routine care. However, I had a bike accident resulting in a concussion and needed emergency medical attention. I was fully covered, including many nights in the hospital, several MRIs, and two months of outpatient treatment. No bureaucratic lines, no hassles of any sort, 100% first care, easy treatment. During last year's presidential election season, Denmark was referenced often as a place where according to Bernie Sanders health care works and according to Republicans: "we don't want socialized medicine like in Denmark." Well ... Bernie is right. It works great here. It is hassle free. And the total costs are LESS than in the States. Sounds like something that our leaders should more seriously look into!
I am a U.S. citizen who moved to Toronto in 1980 to attend graduate school. While there, I met and married my husband, who was a seminary student at the time. In 2010, our nineteen-year-old son was diagnosed with a life-threatening brain tumor. Although the tumor was benign, it was compressing his brain stem, and required complicated surgery in two stages. Two full days' use of an operating room and three surgeons were required, so there was a slight delay until the necessary scheduling could be worked out. From the time of his diagnosis until his surgery took place was only a matter of six weeks. He was hospitalized for two weeks, then had six weeks of radiation a year later, and has had a series of MRIs and follow-up appointments at regular intervals ever since. I would not be able to begin to estimate the cost of his medical care over the past eight years - and the ongoing care he will need for the rest of his life. In all this time, the only bill we ever received was for the rental of a TV while he was in the hospital. We are a single income clergy couple, with a daughter who has her own medical concerns, so we would have been bankrupted several times over had we not had Canada's universal health care. I am happy to say that our son went on to graduate with honors from the University of Waterloo, and now works full time for a computer software company in Toronto. He will always have some disabilities as a result of the tumor, as well as the surgery and radiation. But for now, he is doing well. I'd like to conclude with a story told to us by one of our son's surgeons, who did a post-doctoral fellowship at Stanford. He had operated on a man who developed complications, and required additional surgery. As the man was being wheeled down to the operating room, a message was received from his health insurance provider, stating that the gentleman had maxed out his insurance coverage. The hospital staff were advised to take the man back to his room and discharge him. At that point, our doctor decided that he would return to Canada to pursue his medical career. Based on our family's experience, I cannot imagine living in a country without universal health care.
One reason single payer works in Canada is that each Province runs its own program. Federal involvement is limited. When comparing the US with Canada remember that we have very long wait times. This helps reduce costs but has only worked so far because we are so polite -- that may not last much longer. It will be very difficult to modernize, especially medication and dentistry. Supplementary services are only covered by private insurance and employers don't always make good partners. Canadians like to compare themselves with the US but we don't look so great compared to Europe and other developed countries. Some Canadian doctors are willing to work on a salary, which has some advantages but that would probably not be acceptable in the US.