What does Universal Healthcare look like outside the USA

Democrats Abroad has invited Americans living overseas to join in an interesting exercise. “Americans abroad overwhelmingly support universal healthcare, because thousands have experienced it first hand,” they wrote in an email. This was followed by an invitation to share stories around experiences with universal healthcare with members of congress in order to “‘highlight the fact that quality healthcare can be affordable and available for everyone.”

ARO applauds Democrats Abroad for this invitation. It is true that Americans living overseas have unique experiences, often from the outside looking in, that can be shared to enrich debates not just on healthcare but many policy issues. It is not often that political parties or decision-makers recognize or ask Americans overseas to share their insights and knowledge, specific to living abroad. Too often this population is a forgotten constituency base. This invitation to share our expertise, based on the unique experiences we are living, should be more consistent and formalized part of decision-making processes.

Here are some of the stories shared on healthcare experiences by Americans living overseas, as posted on the Democrats Abroad Healthcare page. If you have an experience that would help contribute to the argument around universal healthcare please share on their site.

“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.”

“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.”

“I am a healthy young adult living in the United Kingdom. Although the NHS certainly has its problems and is underfunded, it is still fantastic! Just knowing that if I were to pass out at work again (I have low blood pressure) I wouldn’t be telling the paramedics not to take me to the hospital because I can’t afford it, as I did in the US. Even dental work, like fillings, costs about 20 quid, when it would likely cost hundreds of dollars without coverage. Even though I miss the US at times, I’m terrified to return if Obamacare gets repealed.”

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