Tuesday, May 22, 2018

HEALTH CARE AND MEDICAL INSURANCE IN MEXICO: What We Do as Expats

A Common Question When Thinking About Moving To Mexico

Sayulita UNIMED Urgent Care & Ambulance
      Moving to Mexico at the age of 58 and Jon at 65 years old, having easy access to quality health care was high on our list of priorities. Medical and dental care seems to be one of the biggest concerns when people ask us about retiring in Mexico. At this age, most of us consider what we will do in case of a heart attack, stroke, cancer, broken bones, broken teeth, or other physical ailments. And then there are the mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s, and other possible disorders during aging. We want to be prepared, just in case.
Hospital CMQ Riviera Nayarit in Bucerias

Medical Care
    When we were deciding where to retire in México, access to health care was included in the Top 10 Reasons We Moved to Sayulita, Nayarit. We found that good medical and dental care are available at various clinics in Sayulita, the San Francisco General Hospital five miles north in San Pancho, the new Hospital CMQ Riviera Nayarit 13 miles south in Bucerías, and several medical centers in Puerto Vallarta, including Hospital Medasist and Hospital CMQ Puerto Vallarta 30 miles south.
Bandaras Bay Pharmacy & Medical Clinic in Sayulita

     Some pharmacies in México (farmacias), especially in small towns, have a doctor’s clinic associated with them, usually right next door. The Banderas Bay Pharmacy andMedical Services on Calle Manuel N. Navarette in Sayulita is one such service which has two doctors, does house calls, and has a phone number for 24-hour urgent care. We keep their brochure and phone number, as well as the one for the Unimed Urgent Care clinic near the Pemex gas station at the entry to Sayulita, posted on our wall in case of emergency. I recommend having a name and phone number of an urgent care or doctor handy for the area you decide to move to, preferably one who speaks English if your Spanish is not good.
Pharmacies in Mexico Often Post Common Medications Stocked

     Pharmacies in México have a good selection of common maintenance medication, most of which do not require a prescription. Controlled substances and antibiotics often require a prescription, which you can usually obtain for a small fee. However, prescription medications are not necessarily inexpensive compared to the price we pay for a one-year supply of generic drugs that we take. 
      In addition, specialty drugs and nutritional supplements are generally not available in México, even in the larger Farmacia Guadalajara, Wal-Mart, or Costco pharmacies in Puerto Vallarta. We are careful to bring a one-year supply of all of our prescription medications, nutritional supplements, and over-the-counter medications with us once a year, including fish oil capsules, calcium carbonate with Vitamin D, Vitamin C, ibuprofen, 82mg aspirin, and many others. Vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional supplements can be found at GNC stores but are relatively expensive compared to in the United States. 
Jon at Farmacia Guadalajara 

     Fear of illness or injury while living or traveling in México is a real concern for many people. It may ease the minds of those new to México to know that pharmacies, Urgent Care Clinics, and hospitals are readily available in tourist areas of Mexico.             Here is one story of a time that my husband, Jon, needed to treat a minor health issue while in Mazatlán that I hope will help others realize that medical care is easily accessible in most areas of Mexico: TwoTrips to Pharmacies in Mazatlán: Treating a Mild Infection While in Mexico.

     The next service we researched was ambulances in our area. When we realized there are three companies that have ambulances in town or nearby, Baywatch, Banderas Bay Medical Services, and Unimed Health System (Urgent Care), we programmed the direct phone numbers of all three services into our cell phones. We have the 911 emergency service in our area, but the dispatcher may not speak English and will send whatever ambulance they choose. We prefer to call the ambulance directly and make sure they are available immediately and can take us to the hospital of our choice.
Ambulance at Unimed is Associated with AirEvac International

Find a Primary Care Physician
      We wanted to establish a relationship with a primary care physician we trusted in case we had medical issues beyond that which an urgent care clinic could handle. Our dentist in Sayulita recommended a doctor she trusted for his medical expertise and that he would not take financial advantage of us as gringos by charging high prices or by charging for a false diagnosis.
     We decided to give this doctor a try when Jon had been experiencing a troubling eye pain for a couple of weeks. We rode the bus to his office in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle about 11 miles from Sayulita. As is common, his office was next to a pharmacy.
     The doctor was personable and spoke English well. He spent about a half-hour talking and examining Jon, then told Jon he should wait a week or so and see if the pain would go away. He said to come back if it didn't. When asked how much we owed, the doctor said, "Nothing. I didn't do anything." Wow! 
     Then he gave us his cell phone number and said if we had an emergency to call him first and he would meet us at the hospital, partly to make sure we weren't overcharged, since we are gringos. We felt good about our new primary care physician. The eye pain did go away in a week, a mystery to us, and we haven’t had to return to see the doctor since.
DENTAL CARE

     We feel fortunate to have a good pair of dentists in our town at Dental Office Sayulita, Dra Carla Governi and Dr. Roberto Conti-Vecc. They are both skilled and their prices are reasonable, which we appreciate since we don’t have dental insurance and pay for all dental care out-of-pocket. Finding a good dentist in the area you will move to in México is as important as finding a good doctor, we feel.
     We have our teeth cleaned twice a year in Sayulita. Dr. Carla does the cleaning herself and she is very thorough. She charges us 1000 pesos (about $50 US dollars) each. I had her replace one of my broken fillings and was pleased with her expertise and price.
Dra. Carla is a Very Professional Dentist
     Jon has had two crowns done by Dr. Roberto in Sayulita and says they are the best crowns he has ever had—each one fit perfectly the first time they were placed on the tooth and required no grinding. Dr. Roberto took the impressions at his office and then sent them to a crown-making lab in Puerto Vallarta. Since the lab specializes in making crowns and uses a process that is exacting, the results are very high quality.
     To give an idea of the cost of having a crown replaced, here is the breakdown for Jon’s most recent dental work. Dr. Roberto removed the old crown and found there was not much old tooth left. Jon wanted to save the tooth, not have it pulled. But there was pain and infection in the tooth so he had to take ten days of antibiotics and then go to a specialty dentist in Puerto Vallarta for a root canal (see below). After the root canal, Dr. Carla did a core buildup of the tooth in resin which cost 900 pesos (about $45 US dollars) after the cash discount. He opted for the more expensive zirconium crown which cost 8820 pesos (about $440 US dollars) after a 10% cash discount and included the removal of the old crown.
Specialized & Advanced Dental Office in Puerto Vallarta

     To have a root canal done in our area, Dr. Roberto and Dra. Carla sent Jon to a dentist at the Specialized & Advanced Dental Office in Puerto Vallarta which specializes in root canals. She only does root canals in her practice and therefore, she is very skilled at doing them. The total cost for the root canal was 3200 pesos (about $160 US dollars).
     Since we pay for our dental care out-of-pocket, we have saved a great deal of money by having our dental work done in Mexico rather than the United States. The crown replacement and root canal cost about $645 US dollars in Mexico. If Jon had had this work done in Oregon, we estimate it would have cost about six times as much.
     
Health Insurance
Mexperience Offers Medical Insurance Options For Mexico

     For those who wish to purchase medical insurance that covers health care while living in Mexicoo, the Mexperience website has a couple of good explanations and services to offer. I would refer you to their Guide to Healthcare Services in Mexico. One of their recent blog articles has a nice summary of Healthand Medical Insurance Options in Mexico.
     After reading many Facebook Expat group discussions on this subject and speaking to other expats we have met in México, I find every person does something different. There isn't a “one plan fits all”. Jon and I have looked at both Mexican public health insurance and private insurance plans for expats and we just don't feel either is a good option for us.
     Here's what Jon and I have decided—we pay out-of-pocket for health care while here in México. It's relatively inexpensive for quality practitioners and hospitals. In case of a major emergency, we will pay out-of-pocket. We are both pretty healthy, so it feels like the right decision for us. But it's not for everyone.
Medicare Can Only Be Used In the U.S.

     Jon has Medicare Medical and prescription insurance which he can only use in the U.S. so he gets an annual physical and a year's worth of medication when we are in Oregon each summer. He has his doctor write his prescriptions for a quantity to last for one year, then has the pharmacy fill it for the maximum allowed by the insurance, which is usually a 90-day supply. Then he asks the pharmacy technician to call the insurance company and request that they cover a vacation supply, usually another 90-day supply. Finally, he has the pharmacy fill the balance of the prescription for a cash price. Using generics, this is usually the least expensive route, though if a generic medication is very inexpensive, we find it is best to have the entire prescription quantity filled as cash and bypass the insurance billing altogether.
     I am 61 years old and am eligible for an affordable health insurance plan in the U.S. due to my low income. I only take out enough from my IRA to live simply here in México and that qualifies me for this inexpensive plan with a low premium and high deductible. This covers my annual wellness physical and mammogram while we are in the U.S. It also allows me to purchase a year's worth of prescription meds while in Oregon, using the same insurance billing procedure as described for Jon above. Purchasing a year's worth of generic prescription medications and supplements such as vitamins, calcium with Vitamin D, fish oil, as well as over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and aspirin 82mg while in the U.S. is far cheaper than buying them in México.

Here are a few other sources of information for Medical Insurance while in Mexico:
2.  Expat Insurance Solutions by Expats (Medical, Evacuation, Auto, Home)
https://www.weexpats.com/ (Worldwide including US and Canada health insurance with WEA)


     This is an interesting article from the Yucatan Times, giving us confidence in the quality and low cost of health care we have in this country: Mexicoamong the 5 countries with the best healthcare in the world for retirees. In this article, “International Living’s Mexico Editor, Glynna Prentice, says, ‘In Mexico, I have access to two affordable healthcare systems: public and private. In Mexico’s private healthcare system, costs—pretty much across the board—run 25% to 50% of U.S. costs for comparable services. And as a legal resident in Mexico, I also have access to Mexico’s public healthcare system, which runs most people around $300 to $400 or so a year—or less,’ says Prentice, one of an estimated 1 million Americans now living in Mexico”, according to International Living. Jon and I are legal residents of México but have concerns about wait time in Mexico’s public healthcare system and so have chosen not to go that route.
     I recommend that when you consider where to move in México, you evaluate the quality of health care facilities available in the city you like and how far they are from your home. Having high quality medical clinics, dental offices, and hospitals nearby has been a comfort to us since we moved here. Though we are in fairly good health and have rarely needed medical care, we are more comfortable living in México knowing where to go when we do need it.

     I invite you to SIGN UP for my "Healthy Living and Traveling inMexico Newsletter", published monthly with stories about our latest adventures, my recent blog articles, and news about my books.


ANNOUNCING MY NEW NOVEL! eBook only $2.99 or FREE on kindleunlimited!

Just Another Manic Moment
     When they fell in love, it was powerful. Then Jake was diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder. Could Lindsay tolerate the chaos from Jake's wild mood swings? Would newly discovered gene assays and blood tests indicate choices for a better treatment? Would escaping their stressful lifestyle and moving to México give Jake and Lindsay the new start their relationship needed? 

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JUST ANOTHER MANIC MOMENT: A Novel
(In Sickness and In Health #1)


Terry L Turrell, Author
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15 comments:

  1. Thank you Terry for all the good info


    As we all know that we have some very good medical care in Mexico and for most part inexpensive.

    In the event of a very serious medical situation/emergency, most people would want to return home for insurance or personal reasons.

    I highly recommend having some back up in case of medical emergency like Travel MedEvac Insurance. Travel MedEvac insurance is not a replacement for travel or health insurance, it is a layer of protection not offered by most policies.

    What is the difference between air ambulance membership vise insurance?

    Unregulated air ambulance memberships have no legal oversight to fulfill their promises. Travel MedEvac is a regulated insurance policy and obligated to take you ALL the way home by law within the terms of the policy.


    Canadian if you want to know more on health coverage information outside of each province

    American did you know Medigap policies cover foreign travel emergency care if it begins during the first 60 days of your trip, and if Medicare doesn’t otherwise cover the care.

    For more info visit us at https://medevacglobal.com/

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  2. so what happens when you have emergency and end up in mexico hospital for surgery? it seems daily anymore gofundme for americans getting hurt with no insurance

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    1. We will pay out-of-pocket. In some cases, we might return to the U.S. to have our insurance there cover it. After all of the helpful comments, we will again consider purchasing private insurance here in Mexico. It is always a difficult decision. Thank you for reading my article, Connie, and for commenting.
      Terry

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    2. We've had friend who exp. what others have asked/many peeps fear this most! Major Medical Full Blown Life/Death EMERGENCY; Critically Ill with 2 Major surgeries, dialysis, other high tech tests, etc. Mexico hosp & Drs saved his life. Intensive care 9 days, 5 more days in private room; once released sent to hotel for 4 more days with RN 24 hrs day, MD visit daily. checked daily. YES, MD & RN made house calls, included hotel room! TOTAL COST? Less than $10,000.00 US. PLEASE NOTE: This is VIP: Majority of Hospitals in Mexico do not accept most US plans/few CA plans - all others, require deposit, UPFRONT & PAID; BEFORE you're seen by dr, before anything is done - even if emergency! Heart attack - hurry up & put up that credit card. SO they may verify/place small hold for amt you were notified! Usually, less than $2500 will cover few days in hospital & few tests; depending on what Dr thinks. But, it is very LESS money than US/CA & is quality care with great drs! They never do anything unnecessary - tend to be very cost effective/conservative! Another option is to go "home" where your ins will cover you, if you're ok, travel on plane. If you have Medicare - fastest US city will do! Air ambulance if emergency - see comment from Yvon above about ER transport! Its hard to imagine, prices are SO less compared to US! Hope this is helpful!

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  3. Terry this is a very good article that I think anyone going to move to Mexico would value

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Mom, for reading and commenting on my article. I've been wanting to write this one for a long time because Mexican health insurance is a big decision that Jon and I discuss often. It's great to get all of the helpful comments that come after I post an article like this.
      Terry

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  4. Thank you for the useful information. It is good to know such services are readily available. My wife takes lots of various supplements so bringing them with to Mexico is good suggestion as I was unaware they might be more expensive or harder to find.

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    1. You're welcome, Ken. Glad the information is helpful. And thank you for reading my article and for your nice comment.

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  5. Excelent read,find it hard re'what to do when traveling to Mexico re; health insurance,it can become very expensive,I am from Canada and wunder of the Alberta Goverment would repay most of your cost after you paid out of pocket when you return home ,stay usually 3 months, Can travel insurance expensive and feel i should not buy,a topic for discusion al the time nobody knows what to do it seems when i talk to friends,we all have differnt ideas! Thank you

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  6. Thanks for sharing the blog, seems to be interesting and informative too. Can you suggest some of the interesting places to visit for Health Insurance

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  7. Thanks for sharing the blog, seems to be interesting and informative too. Can you suggest some of the interesting places to visit for Health Medical Insurance

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  8. AGS Health Insurance is not a medical aid and under no circumstances must it be considered as a replacement for the benefits offered by a medical aid.

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  10. Thank you Terry for your in site. As an expat for over 15 years with homes in Mexico, Argentina, and Costa Rica, I found out the hard way how important medical insurance is after I was hit by a taxi cab. I learned QUICKLY that you do not want to be stuck in a public hospital if you are accustomed to the US or Canadian standards. Private hospitals are the ONLY way to go. I searched everywhere for affordable insurance WITH comprehensive coverage. This was a challenge, but when I did find it, I decided to ask for a job selling it. This is something ALL expats need and I found out the hard way! My insurance now covers me ANYWHERE in the world, at ANY PRIVATE hospital, with any doctor I choose. I have the option of US coverage at a fraction of the price I used to pay when living in the US. We have offices in Mexico and are teamed with an international law firm - which means we have a LEGAL presence in Mexico (many companies selling this type of insurance do not!). I don't know if this is appropriate to offer my info here, so Terry please let me know, as I know I can help other expats.

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