On Friday I posted about the variety of health care options available to choose from on a day to day basis in Mexico. Today, I’m going to share the story of an expat who’s worked in the office here for the past few years and their experience with the public hospitals, specifically his wife and childbirth. While most expats we know won’t be going in to have a baby delivered any time soon, it reflects how good the service is even in Mexico’s “working-class” health care system.
Here it is in his own words:
“My wife and I have had 4 children; the last 2 were twins, so it was 3 childbirths for my wife – the first was in a semi-charitable hospital specialized in childbirth and maternal health in Mexico City, the second was the public-insurance hospital (IMSS) in Playa del Carmen, and the third was a hospital in Canada.
“As for cost, for the one in Canada my wife – who is Mexican – was not yet covered by public health insurance, so we had to pay it out of pocket. While they gave us easy, interest-free payment options, it was a HUGE bill, by far the most expensive.
“The cheapest? The IMSS hospital in Playa del Carmen. Our entire family was covered by my wife’s insurance; we had started a little family business, and I had “hired” her. The monthly fee was pretty low. In any case, I know you can also get full coverage on a person-by-person basis for about $350 a year. However you get this insurance, it’s simply cheap.
“Now, you’ll never guess which was the best treatment. The specialist hospital in Mexico City was very professional, and without a doubt knew what they were doing, but my wife said it was impersonal. Canada – well, it was Canada. Nice doctors, nice nurses. Did everything right, and were very friendly, but nothing above and beyond.
“The public-insurance hospital in Playa – she remembers going in; the nurse put on music, and made a real effort to make her comfortable. It was the longest birth of all them, but she never felt like they were rushed or anything, she was comfortable and well-attended the whole time.
“After the last birth in Canada, she said the level of service and comfort was a close call, but Playa del Carmen’s IMSS hospital still won out – and this is considering that it was all but free!
“Now we had our options in Playa. There were excellent private hospitals that would’ve charged anywhere up to about $1600 for childbirth – a far cry from the $8000 we paid in Canada! There were also private gynecologists who charged about the same or somewhat less.
“We were thinking about those options. But in the end we thought: we have this insurance already; there’s a brand-new, pretty-looking IMSS hospital in town. Previously they would’ve had to send us to Cancun, which we weren’t terribly interested in, but with the new hospital we could be a 5 minute drive from our house. We knew people who work at the hospital, and had been there for some of the pre-natal check-ups. Everything seemed professional and well run.
“We decided to go for it, and – considering it was the cheapest and BEST treatment my wife had – we’re glad we did.
The Down Sides
“Not everything is rosy and perfect. We had only one major complaint; I wasn’t allowed into the delivery room. This is standard practice in all public/low-cost hospitals in Mexico. The private options I mentioned would’ve allowed it. Since all the options looked really good, the question came to this – was it worth $1600 for me to be in the delivery room? Since we were still paying off the little townhouse we bought, we decided ‘no.’
“My wife would’ve liked. I would’ve liked it. But the excellent treatment they gave her helped to balance that somewhat.
“The other downside was the quick shipment out the door. They definitely took the time to make sure she and the baby were in good shape and that she had rested enough to go home. But the baby was born at 6 am; by 2 pm, she was at home. “Same day delivery” I guess …
“BUT Canada was no different! While I did get to be in the delivery room, she was also out the door before at the soonest possible moment.
“So, in the IMSS hospital, I stayed up all night in the waiting room, read an entire book of The Lord of the Rings, drank about 10 cups of coffee (there’s an all-night OXXO, like 7-11, across the road) and probably paced a hole into their brand-new floor.
“I remember when Tom came by to pick me up around noon so we could get my older son and mother-in-law to welcome our new baby as a family; we didn’t have a car, and I wouldn’t have been in the shape drive any way. I must have looked like a wreck, but I was the happiest man in the world. I had just talked to the doctor, who also looked like a wreck after being up all night delivering babies; but, as attested to by wife, he has spared no effort to make everything go well.
The Bottom Line
“The bottom line is that IMSS, one of Mexico’s “cheap” options, gives Canada’s first-world healthcare a run for its money, which cost about 100 times more (if we count all the usage we got out of it); even if Canada had been free, IMSS still won out on the comfort they provided for my wife.”
So, there you have it. I’m going to dig up some more health care stories from expats here in Mexico in the future. I can tell this already; while it’s not all perfect, you begin to see a pattern – lower cost, better service.
-by Thomas Lloyd