I am an American expat who has been living in Iceland for nearly two years now. Watching the rhetoric back home is so discouraging, particularly regarding healthcare. This was a status I recently posted to Facebook after seeing all of the ridiculous statements being made about "Obamacare" and how Romney's plan is "the better alternative." Americans are brainwashed by the rhetoric coming from the insurance industry, which wants us to believe that socialism means rationed, sub-par care, when in reality, because of the unavoidable conflict between profit and patient care, no for-profit company should be providing health care in the first place.
p.s. In a recent poll, 98% of Icelanders said they would vote for Obama over Romney.
Posting this here for my friends back home who seem to believe that socialized healthcare is the enemy to freedom. I live in a country with socialized healthcare, and I can tell you that the government does NOT make decisions about the level of care that I can and cannot receive. That would contravene the fundamental right to health care that everyone is guaranteed by this country's constitution. A large part of that is due to the fact that there are no insurance companies with financial incentives and large CEO compensation or lobbyists, and healthcare professionals don't always have the threat of litigation looming overhead. The US healthcare system will not change unless and until all of these issues are adequately addressed.
It means that healthcare costs reflect what it actually ought to cost for care, not the exorbitant amounts that patients currently face in the US. For instance, the cost of childbirth, if one had to pay out of pocket (i.e. they weren't yet in the system with a social security number), including an overnight hospital stay in a private room, is around $1,000. It is nice to not have to worry about going into bankruptcy if I or one of my family members were diagnosed with an illness that required treatment beyond the scope of my insurance plan.
Healthcare is NOT rationed here and has been comparable to anything I have received in the US, if not more hands on. Patients have choices and the ability to seek additional opinions. I have never had to wait for an appointment or treatment. Prescriptions are affordable, and essentially cost the same or less as I paid when insured in NYC. Conversely, a close friend that I know recently had to wait for a month to get in to see a specialist covered under her well known insurer/plan in the NYC area regarding a critical medical issue.
I would choose this system any day of the week over the US system. This fend-for-yourself mentality in the US is absurd and outdated — no other developed country in the world allows its people to flounder the way that Americans do. After living here for almost a couple of years now, I've slowly realized that this notion that we've been taught that the US is the best at everything is simply not true, and this is especially the case with healthcare.
One other thing — we pay a little more in taxes than we paid/would pay on income in NY (federal, and state, and local combined), and with that also get the equivalent to Medicare, Social Security, and subsidized (nearly free) university education. It's just that the wealthy actually pay taxes, too.
Added: We do pay 25% VAT on certain items, but at least for myself, I can say that it's made me reassess my spending habits and what I really need to exist and be happy.
5:58 PM PT: Just to add a bit of context, I moved to Iceland when I was seven months pregnant, primarily because I could not get onto a healthcare plan due to my "pre-existing" condition of being pregnant, and would have had to pay out of pocket (my husband and I were in Denmark and were going to leave for the US or Iceland). In Iceland, my appointments with a midwife (for check-ups) cost around $50, and my labor/delivery plus hospital stay cost $1,000 (which included medical intervention). I did have to pay that out of pocket, as I wasn't yet in the system here (there is a six-month grace period), but it was still a lot less than if I'd had to pay in the US.