Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What About Medical Care?

Just about everyone who visits us and especially those who think that maybe they might like to live part time or full time in Mexico asks us, "What about medical care?" It is a good question and it is one that we asked and continue to ask ourselves but our answer, at least for us, is changing.

At first we didn't think we would use any medical services in Mexico. For routine things we would continue to use our doctors when we went back to Texas. In an emergency we talked about getting insurance to be flown out if need be or maybe we would just jump in the car and head for the border. Heck, maybe we could even hire an ambulance staffed with a nurse and a doctor to get us to the border.

In the time we have lived here we have had friends who have had stents put in to clear arteries, knees replaced, emergency abdominal surgery, broken bones repaired (one of those was me), colonoscopies (one of them was me again), pacemakers calibrated, round-the-clock in-home nursing care......and the list goes on. Most of these were not covered in Mexico by USA medical insurance and while the cost for the procedures was not cheap it was about 1/3 the cost of what the procedures would have cost in the USA.

We have gradually gained some confidence with the doctors in Queretaro, which is about 40 miles away from San Miguel. That confidence isn't shared by all of our doctors in Texas. I have one that everytime I see him he tells me about when he and his brother had to hire an airplane to fly his uncle out of Puerto Vallarta only to find out that the test that had been reported to them wasn't correct. I've heard this story at least three times. He is quite sure that I will die of a perforated colon in Mexico. On the other hand, my Internist who is a female and younger than him and was in the Peace Corps just calls in a translator from her office and reads my Mexican medical reports and so far has thought that my Mexican care has been just fine.

This week Ned had two surgeries to remove a couple of squamous cell carcinomas. He had seen his dermatologist in the USA in May but here six months later he needed to have two places looked at again. We decided to try out a dermatologist here. She took some samples and sent them to the pathologist. When the report came back she went over them with Ned and gave him copies of the reports but she said that they did need to be removed. She told him what it would cost. We talked about it. He could wait until we went back to Texas, or he could take the reports and go back now and have the regular dermatologist take care of it or he could let her do it. Having the procedures done in Texas would mean that the cost would be covered by Medicare. But when you weigh the costs of getting back to Texas against the cost of having the procedures done here, having the cost covered by Medicare is sometimes a wash.

Here is where we are at this point in time. We are living in Mexico. We feel we can get good medical care here. Although just like in Houston, you have to search for a good doctor. On the other hand, we have Medicare and supplemental polices in Houston that cover most of our expenses for medical care so we will make the decision on where we get our medical care on a case by case basis and expect our Texas doctors to work with our Mexican doctors many of whom have studied some in the USA.

What about medical care in Mexico? I think your answer to that question changes over time and whether or not you are a full-timer. Today, we're straddling the fence......or maybe I should say the border.


Steve Cotton said...

Great photograph -- and a very nice summary about medical care in Mexico. The answer "it depends" appears to apply to almost ay question asked about Mexico.

Islagringo said...

I have no choice. I must use Mexican medical care. No complaints so far.

Bob Mrotek said...

I happen to be very positive about the medical care here. I have had major surgery to have a tumor removed that was as big as my fist and pressing against my heart. Thank God it wasn't cancerous. My wife, Gina, has had a mastectomy. I have nothing but good to say about the treatment we received and I thank God for the good doctors, nurses, and hospital staff in Mexico. Billie, let me know if you want to talk more about this.

Charles Hall said...

It would take a whole essay to write my thoughts on this subject considering what my family is going through at this time.

I'll try to keep it short and simple: It's called compassion. I find the doctor's that we deal with in Mexico very compassionate. It reminds me of when I was younger in the U.S.

The U.S. medical system is so broken that it's difficult for anyone to have the time to spend with you. You're allotted only so much time. I've had seven major surgeries in my life. (All in the U.S.) I've watched the system change over the last 48 years. You can't blame it on any one entity... Everyone has played a roll.

Both countries have great doctor's... and some not so great ones as well. The only problem is that even a great doctor can not necessarily over-come a broken system.

Bottom Line: I'll take compassion over technology any day.

P.S. We can call all of our doctor’s on their cell phones and have access to them any time of day or night. I haven’t had that luxury in the U.S. since 1985.

Glenn said...

I agree with Charles Hall about compassion. I spent the night in a hospital ward (about ten patients) in Patzcuaro. The first thing the next morning the staff (Doctor and nurses) came and gave each individual patient a pep talk. I realized that they actually cared...and felt a lot better.

Paul said...

An interesting topic, to be sure. Funny that I should read it today. I'm reading a fiction book called Foreign Body, by Robin Cook.

The book is about people receiving excellent care out of country for much less money and how it was hurting the medical system of the US. There's a plot afoot to discredit foreign doctors by spreading fear.

It sounds like one of Billie's doctors is spreading such fear. Perhaps he's a bit afraid of loosing some of his business! :-)

Billie said...

Paul, I don't think he is afraid of losing a patient. I just think he is old school and is sure that no one else in the world can be as good as USA doctors. Or maybe he just looks down his nose at anything Mexican. Thanks for the heads up on the book. I may put it on my wish list.

Michael Dickson said...

What Charles Hall said!

I would not dream of going to the U.S. for medical care.

Billie said...

Michael and all of the rest of you, it looks like the "ayes" for Mexican Medical Care have carried the day.

Michael Dickson said...

I cannot fathom crossing the border for health care, getting oneself involved in that faceless, emotionless, lawyer-driven, outrageously priced system where, just to see a doctor, you must sit endlessly in little cubicles, waiting, waiting. Absurd.

And I know Gringos in Mexico who pay incredible insurance premiums here that include airlifting (!) over the border, as if this is Namibia. Never ceases to amaze me.

The U.S. excels in medical research, of course, but for 99 percent of one´s needs, it´s far better here. And far cheaper. And far nicer.