As we prepared for our move some of the questions we heard most often from people were about how we would deal with medical issues while living in Mexico including “Can you understand the doctors?”, “Are Mexican doctors “real” doctors?” and “Do you trust the Mexican health care system?” After living in Mexico for almost six months and having availed ourselves of the Mexican health care system a couple times now we are finally in a position to provide an answer based on experience rather than our extensive research. The answer to all of those questions is a resounding YES!
Prior to leaving the States we did purchase global medical insurance. We have a global insurance policy that’s basically a safety net in case of a major accident or surgery. We haven’t had to use it, and our goal is to never have to use it, but for anyone thinking of traveling or living abroad long-term we’d highly suggest you have some kind of insurance as a safety net. It’s highly affordable and eliminates stresses about major medical injuries abroad.
I promise we’re not sickly individuals but Deidre and I have now both been seen by a doctor here for reasons having nothing to do with living in Mexico and everything to do with getting older. These visits were related to issues we had with (GASP!) pre-existing conditions before we arrived in Playa del Carmen. So with insurance to be used only in case of emergency, pre-existing conditions and Spanish that’s better suited to a beach bar than a hospital what does an adventure into the Mexican health care system look like?
It was Sunday at about noon when we decided that we should make an appointment to see a doctor. Since it was Sunday, typically the only day of the week off work here, we sent a request through Dr. Bernardo Diaz’ English language website hoping for an appointment on Monday. A few minutes later we had a response from the doctor asking us if a house call would be okay and if so to provide our address and he would be at our apartment in a few minutes. We agreed and he was here by 1:00 complete with medical bag, stethoscope etc. Yep, the doctor was at our house, on a Sunday, less than an hour after we emailed his office.
He explained he wanted to come by when he did just in case we needed any lab work done since the medical lab closes at 2:00 on Sunday. After completing a thorough examination (and a short conversation about why Barry Sanders didn’t play for the Chiefs when he’s from Kansas) Dr. Bernardo had a handle on the issue but sent us to the lab for some tests just for verification.
Less than 2 hours after our original email to the Doctor the lab tests were finished and we were back home awaiting the results. Later that afternoon (yes, the same day) Dr. Bernardo came back over to our house with the results where he concluded his initial diagnosis was correct and wrote a prescription. I walked up the block to the 24 hour pharmacy on the corner, filled the prescription and was back in a few minutes.
So to recap (times estimated):
- 12:00 Emailed doctor to request appointment
- 12:45 Doctor makes house call
- 1:30 Samples taken for lab tests
- 3:00 Doctor makes 2nd house call to review lab results and prescribe meds
- 3:15 Patient on meds and healing
Some of you are probably thinking, “Well, if I wanted to pay for it I could do the same thing in the US.” True, so let’s break down the costs of our little non-adventure (paid in pesos but converted to US dollars for simplicity’s sake):
- Doctor’s house call (for both, not just one), diagnosis and review of lab results – $94
- Lab visit (with results in less than an hour) – $30
- Prescription for antibiotic – $27
This example was not a fluke, it is only different from our other experiences so far with Mexican health care because it was our first (and 2nd) house call. In the past we have opted for a visit to the doctor’s office which saved us about $40 but was in every way just as professional and expedient.
To be fair, we have not we had any major issues yet so we have not visited any of the hospitals (knock on wood) and don’t want to judge them on our lack of experience. We have heard from folks here in town that the hospitals are clean, professional, state of the art and in every way the peers of their American counterparts. However there is a catch – we’ve heard from reliable sources that there is a secret pricing structure just for gringos that while still affordable is a bit steeper than the “local” rate others might receive.
So you see, there is a catch to Mexican health care system. Of course there is, it’s health care, there’s always a catch! But to avoid climbing on my soapbox any further let me just leave you with one final thought- The Mexican health care system has met or exceeded our expectations in every single way but one. The cost.
Next up? Tackling the dentist.