Refreshing Transparency in Medical Pricing and Care in Mexico
Every time I interact with the healthcare system in Mexico, it makes me realize just how broken the healthcare system is in the United States. There are good and bad doctors, nurses, and medical facilities in Mexico just like there are in the United States. The difference is the transparency of the pricing and how medical care is delivered.
Trip to the Emergency Room
Early one Sunday morning in early April, my wife woke up with vomiting and diarrhea. She spent about 4 hours in the early morning hours positioned near the toilet. This is the 2nd time this has happened in the last year.
We had no idea what she was suffering from but seemed that by 7 AM she was feeling better, even though she though she might have seen some blood in the toilet.
I suggested that she text her hematologist. Which she agreed to do. (Yes, she has the cell phone number of all of her doctors.)
They went back and forth for about an hour and it was apparent there were some miscommunications. I suggested that she instead call her hematologist. My wife, a retired RN balked at the idea. It was now around 10 AM that same Sunday morning. She finally agreed to call and the hematologist wanted her to go to the emergency room to get checked out.
None of the interactions with the doctor via text or phone call is billable.
Around Noon we arrive at Hospital San Antonio and she was quickly attended to by the doctor and a team of nurses. They took her vitals and quickly determined that she was quite dehydrated and started a slow drip IV. At this point, my wife was feeling much better. Over the next 4 hours, she had many discussions with the emergency room doctor. He referred her to a gastroenterologist and sent her home.
The cost was about 3,400 Mexican pesos or about $170 US dollars. We self-insure for all medical expenses as the cost of healthcare is quite affordable.
The doctor was never more than 100 feet away, accessible, friendly, and knowledgeable. Over the years, I have made more than a few trips to the emergency room for my own injuries, as well as with our son and my mother. This, of them all was one of the best experiences.
As part of the discharge process, we paid the bill using a credit card. What I have been told is it is quite common for you to have to pay before medical treatment is delivered.
Visit to the Gastroenterologist
My wife made an appointment with the gastroenterologist. She could have seen him almost immediately but we were about to leave for the United States. I was scheduled to speak at a financial conference in Austin.
During her appointment, the gastroenterologist suggested that he perform an endoscopy and a colonoscopy, both of which she was due to have anyway.
The cost of the visit was 1,000 Mexican pesos or about $50 US dollars paid in cash. She made the appointment to have the procedure done and was given a price list for all of the costs. This included:
- Biopsy pricing (cost per biopsy that the doctor requested)
The transparency in pricing was incredibly refreshing.
We arrive early one morning and were directed to the reception desk. We paid the hospital bill using a credit card.
My wife then is directed to an area where they start an IV and take her up to have the procedure.
I sit in the hospital waiting room and watched the giant flat-screen television which was displaying a slide presentation of all of the doctors, their specialties, and the days/times that they are at the hospital each week. Talk about transparency.
After about an hour or so the gastroenterologist comes out and tells me what he found. He handed me a folder with pictures he took during the procedure, a DVD, and a report. He had ordered one biopsy and basically said she would be fine.
We then paid the doctor’s bills and the cost of a single biopsy. The total cost was 23,000 Mexican pesos or about $1,150 US dollars. If we had private insurance in the United States, it would have probably covered most of the bill.
Transparency in Pricing and Accessibility
My wife was given multiple choices on where she could have had the procedure performed. The doctor explained he had a negotiated rate with the Hospital San Antonio.
The most expensive portion of the procedure was the gastroenterologist bill which was 10,000 Mexican pesos or about $500 US dollars. Very often the doctors want to be paid in cash, however were able to pay with our credit cards.
There is no benefit to having medical insurance as we can afford these prices. Not every expat can afford these prices and they can purchase health insurance. We do pay into Medicare part B but that is a whole different story.
As some of you know I recently fell in my home and injured my back. My interactions with my chiropractor and GP doctor have been equally transparent but more importantly, they were accessible. I regularly would contact my doctor via WhatsApp.
When it comes down to what I will pay for in regards to medical care in Mexico it is very transparent and quite affordable. All of our doctors are accessible via phone, text, or WhatsApp.
My wife is thrilled with her medical care. She will readily admit as a retired registered nurse, she is a total pain in the butt patient.
This is a sharp contrast with the incredible bureaucracy that we have dealt with in the United States healthcare system.
Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.Marc Miller