Expat Healthcare in Mexico
I want to tell you several stories of expat healthcare that my wife has received in the previous month. It has left me thinking about why the quality healthcare that we receive in Mexico at an affordable price is not available in the United States.
Do not get me wrong the Mexican healthcare system has plenty of flaws. We are fortunate that we can afford services that some Mexicans cannot.
I will also state that we are dealing with the private side of healthcare and not the public-funded side which makes this a more apple to apple comparison.
A few weeks back I was speaking with an American podcasting friend who thought he was going to marry a Mexican woman living in the US. They were going to move to Guanajuato City, Mexico until she decided to break things off. It was that discussion that brought about how he thought healthcare was delivered and paid for. His assumptions were naturally based on how healthcare was delivered and paid for in the United States.
The problem is I do not think any other country in the world delivers and pays for healthcare the way the United States does.
WOW, that was an epiphany for me.
Expat Healthcare is What Sold Us on Moving to Ajijic
What sold us on moving to Ajijic Mexico was my wife’s first visit to her endocrinologist more than 2 years ago. That initial appointment lasted 2 hours, my wife learned things that no medical professional had told her about her condition, and the cost was the equivalent of 35 US dollars.
My wife is a retired registered nurse which means she is a total pain of a patient. She has been seeing an endocrinologist for almost 30 years for a thyroid condition. She has been taking the same natural thyroid replacement medication for almost that entire time. The medication she takes is not available outside of the United States. This is a common medication and I discovered that those in the expat community where we live who take this medication go back to the United States once a year and refill their prescription.
However, in the time of COVID-19, this is difficult. Plus, the previous time we were in Texas, it was so challenging to get the appointments and get the prescription filled that we both wanted to pull our hair out. We were paying for the medications outside of insurance, therefore, the issues were completely caused by the medical delivery side of the business.
My wife decided this year to move to a synthetic version of this medication; and after an initial appointment, the doctor wrote her a new prescription with the plan to do bloodwork and schedule another visit in 4 weeks.
That is the first story I want to tell you about our expat healthcare experience.
Going to the Lab
My wife, a week prior to her next appointment, visited the lab associated with the clinic where the endocrinologist worked. The clinic, Quality Care, provides expat healthcare for a large swath of the community. She walked into the lab and within a very few minutes, the lab technician appeared and asked what services my wife wanted. My wife told her what was requested and told the technician which doctor should receive the report. Blood was drawn and between 24-48 hours both the doctor and my wife received an email with the report. She got the report at the same time that the doctor received it.
She paid for the lab work in cash immediately after blood was drawn.
In most cases, medical services are paid for either before or immediately after the service is provided. It is like the old days in the United States in that it is the patient’s responsibility to pay the bill. In most cases, you will be told the cost before the procedure is undertaken.
My Wife’s Last Visit to her Endocrinologist
The next week, my wife arrived at the clinic a half-hour early, as my wife likes to make sure she is there on time. The doctor’s previous appointment had ended early and she got to see the doctor 15 minutes before the scheduled time.
When was the last time you saw a doctor at the appointment time, much less early?
They discussed how they were going to adjust the medication. Notice I said how “they” were going to adjust the medication.
The cost of the doctor’s appointment was around 45 US Dollars.
A week later my wife “texted” her doctor and told the doctor she did not like how she was feeling at the new dosage. They went back and forth via text on how to adjust the dosage. What you will notice is my wife had the doctor’s cell phone and email address and there is no charge for this type of consultation.
My wife has never felt more comfortable with a doctor in her life.
My Wife Tests Positive for COVID-19
This second expat healthcare experience is what has blown me away.
Even though we have been extremely careful, on a recent Friday morning my wife got up and did not feel well. She went back to bed with a 100-degree fever. Later in the day she had a slight headache and felt fatigued.
My wife emailed her endocrinologist and asked how to adjust her medications for another condition. Her doctor promptly responded with instructions.
I emailed my general practitioner and told her about the situation. She responded with the names and telephone numbers of all the labs but suggested that we use Golab because they will do home visits.
At 10 AM on Saturday, I called the lab and discussed which COVID-19 test to request. I decided on the Anti-Gen or rapid test because the PCR test would take 4 days to get the results. I requested they come to our house and the technician arrived at 11:45 AM.
Remember, I called them at 10 AM and the technician arrived less than 2 hours later. We were both tested and my wife’s results were “positive” and mine was “negative”. The cost for just the home visit was 200 Mexican peso or about 10 US dollars.
Over the next few days, I went back and forth with my general practitioner on whether to retest, when, and how long to quarantine. We probably exchanged a dozen emails when I asked how much I owed her.
She said how about the cost of an office visit which is 350 Mexican pesos or 17-18 US dollars. I dropped by her office the next day with 500 Mexican pesos or about 25 US dollars.
So Appreciative for the Expat Healthcare
I am so appreciative of the healthcare we have received in the last month. My wife’s temperature dropped back to almost normal within 48 hours and as I write this she is quarantining. She continued to have a very, very low-grade fever (less than 1 degree Fahrenheit) for 5 more days.
Having direct access to our healthcare professionals greatly eliminated a lot of stress.
What I have noticed is the healthcare professionals here are not outlandishly compensated nor is there a litigious culture if something goes wrong. I have heard of some horrible doctors and like anywhere else you need to do your homework.
My wife’s specialists come to the Lake Chapala area about once a week from Guadalajara which is about an hour away. My general practitioner has an office in central Ajijic which is within walking distance from our house. Admittedly it is a long walk at probably a mile but I still walk it.
These healthcare professionals are given the time to listen and get to know their patients which is unheard of in the United States.
I know of various expats who get their healthcare through the public sector and in general they have been happy. It is slow and bureaucratic but it is mostly free.
Note: On January 25th, 2021, the day this post publishes my wife’s low-grade fever had been gone for over 48 hours.
These Are Our Experiences
Obviously, not everyone has had a great experience with healthcare here but it is has been the human kindness and attentiveness that I have so appreciated.
I have more stories but the experiences of the last week prompted me to write this post.
If you have any questions or want to share your experiences, please comment below.Marc Miller
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So happy to hear that your wife is doing well and also that you have tested negative. It’s encouraging as we get fed so many stories about how vulnerable older people are to this virus.
Marc Miller says
I think it is primarily that we live at 5000 feet of elevation and are healthier than we have been in years.
Marc, so glad your wife is better!
My ENT doctor in my Mexican city asked me, 2+ years after having half my thyroid removed in the US in 2016, because of suspected cancer, “Have you had your thyroid levels checked since then?” The US doctors during the surgery and testing learned that fortunately, I did not have cancer. No one — including the surgeon — had ever followed up with me on my post-surgical thyroid levels. But my Ear-Nose-Throat doctor in Mexico had me tested, and the tests showed that my thyroid was struggling to put out enough hormone. She then gave me a prescription for a small dose of medication, and tested me several weeks later. Result: my thyroid was doing well now. The first appointment with this ENT was about $48 for an hour, the second was free “because it’s part of the first meeting’s results”, she explained. Without her catching this, my thyroid would likely have failed.