When our clients consider retiring in Mexico, one of the most common questions is related to health services and insurance. We have a kit available to help you navigate through this topic, which you can download here.
But today we have a guest post by Monica Rix Paxson. She’s an expert on Mexico’s Health System and she’s sharing with us a couple of details to keep in mind in case you need to use health services in Mexico.
Medical Culture in Mexico
By Monica Rix Paxson
The best way to explain what I mean by “medical culture” would be to tell you about the time I went to a well-known acupuncture clinic in Chicago.
The staff was running late and the waiting room was jam packed because a new physician—a noted acupuncturist from China—had just arrived for his first day of work. Before long, the newly arrived physician walked up to me in the waiting room and asked a couple of really intimate questions about my body and health.
I nearly fainted, I was so mortified! No one had clued him into the fact that in the USA we consider conversations about bodily functions to be private.
But you can relax now: in Mexico, your privacy will be honored. But it is a different culture, and if you aren’t aware of the differences, you too can find yourself in awkward situations.
Here are a few potential “gotchas” you’ll want to be aware of. Of course, these are general insights. Your experience may vary, for example depending on whether you are visiting a newly graduated physician at a pharmacy associated consultorio or the lead cardiac surgeon at a major hospital, etc.
Keep in mind…
- If you are visiting a doctor’s office, there may not be a receptionist, nurse or anyone else on staff. You’ll often be greeted by the doctor.
- The ritual of being guided to a private examining room where you are handed a paper gown and told to undress is typically (and blissfully in my opinion) missing.
- If a doctor needs to reach some part of your body with clothing covering it, he or she will ask you to remove what’s required. Or they may, as my doctor did to examine an injured shoulder, peel the part in question with the delicacy of unwrapping a newborn.
- Medicine is more “touchy” in Mexico. Doctors use traditional methods of palpitation and listening with a stethoscope than in the USA and rely less on lab tests and machines.
- Medical offices often have very minimal equipment. You may be sent to a laboratory for blood work or a radiologist for x-rays, etc.
- Medical practices in Mexico are typically owned by the physician, not corporate entities like PPOs or HMOs. They don’t need staff to help with insurance billing because they aren’t going to take your insurance. Bring cash.
- If you are a traveler, make certain your insurance covers hospitalization in Mexico. Do this even if your employer provides your insurance and your travel is work related. Most insurance policies simply don’t cover this, and you’ll need to purchase special insurance for travelers.
- Even if your insurance does cover hospitalization, hospitals in Mexico don’t typically take an assignment of benefits. That means you’ll have to pay cash and file a claim against your insurance to collect. Get a copy of the itemized bill. You may need to have it translated.
- Physicians may keep no medical records: you are the keeper of the records. You are expected to bring them with you.
- If you are considering coverage through public health programs such as IMSS or Seguro Popular, if you need hospitalization it is expected that you will bring a caregiver with you (spouse, friend, etc.) to provide personal care (feeding, bathing, bed pans, etc.). If you don’t, you have to rely on the attention of a nurse who’s looking after many patients at once.
These are just a few of the many cultural differences in how medicine is practiced in Mexico. As you might imagine, it is better to know about the differences in advance.
You as a reader of TOP Mexico Real Estate’s blog, might be interested on learning more about this topic, and the good news is that there are two books available so you don’t make assumptions that lead to learning things the hard way. I wrote the book The English Speaker’s Guide to Medical Care in Mexico, and I’m co-author, with Luis Felipe Garcia Perez, of The English Speaker’s Guide to Doctors & Hospitals in Mexico.
A little knowledge goes a long way!
Monica Rix Paxson an award-winning author of science and medical books.
Top Mexico Real Estate is not affiliated with Monica Rix Paxson, and have not and will not receive any compensation in exchange for sharing these links.
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