Seniors considering retirement in Mexico typically wonder about the availability and quality of medical care services as they age. Do doctors and clinic staff speak English? Are the equipment and diagnostic techniques adequate? Is medical insurance available and at what cost? In short, what kind of care can a person expect if an illness or disease strikes south of the border? Medical care in Mexico is available at a fraction of the cost of care in the United States, with qualified doctors and state-of-the-art facilities.
Health Care in Mexico Rating
The health care system in or near major cities in Mexico is second to none. Many of the physicians attended university courses or internships in the United States, and speak at least passable English. Modern hospitals employ all the latest equipment for complex medical testing and procedures. In many cases, no appointment is needed to see a doctor. A patient simply walks into a hospital or medical clinic and sees a specialist a short time later. Depending on the specialty, a visit typically costs between $25 and $65. The high end of the range is generally reserved for cancer specialists and other complex areas of medicine.
Mexico Healthcare Example of Costs for Expatriate
Susan Clark, a 58-year-old former nurse who lives in Yucatan, Mexico, discovered a lump in her breast early in 2012. She began a series of tests in nearby Merida, a city of more than 1 million residents, which revealed the cancer was present. As a nurse, Clark was faced with the decision of remaining in Mexico for treatment or returning to the U.S. She chose to seek care in Merida and has not regretted the decision.
One of the first procedures performed was a guided-needle biopsy to determine if the breast lump was malignant. Clark paid about $478 for the test at 2012 currency exchange rates. A computerized tomography (CT) body scan was immediately ordered to evaluate whether cancer cells had spread to other areas of the body, at a total cost of $655.
The former nurse opted to undergo surgery in a Merida hospital to remove diseased breast tissue and a few lymph nodes for testing, followed by radiation treatment after tests showed her cancer had not migrated beyond the breast. An oncology surgeon performed the operation and oversaw Clark’s recovery during her three days in a local hospital. His entire fee came to $1,400. The surgeon’s assistant charged $311, while the anesthesiologist received $389 for his services.
Her total hospital bill came to $1,388. A month after leaving the hospital, radiation treatments began. She drove to the clinic every weekday for five weeks to ensure any remaining cancer cells were irradiated. The entire series of treatments cost Clark $2,673.
Quality of Medical Care in Mexico
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of medical care in Mexico centers on the compassion and genuine concern shown by doctors, laboratory personnel, and hospital staff. Clark was stunned to see her surgeon show up at every radiology treatment to check on her progress. When she questioned the practice, the doctor simply replied by saying Clark is his patient and he feels obligated to support her through the entire treatment process.
Compassion is also illustrated by the comfortable chaises in each hospital room where family members can comfortably rest as they remain near loved ones. Instead of limiting visiting hours, family members are encouraged to spend time with patients while they recover in the hospital. Clark’s surgeon visited her hospital room four times daily to check her incision and talk to her about any discomfort.
South of the border, a doctor, radiologist, or laboratory technician who is proficient in English commonly serves as the liaison between a patient and all other medical professionals. This person explains all laboratory results, schedules upcoming appointments, and is typically available by telephone day or night if questions arise. These services are also usually performed without additional fee to ensure the patient completely understands the diagnosis, treatment options, and scheduling.
Mexican Health Insurance or No?
Health insurance represents another concern for those hoping to retire in Mexico. Insurance is available at a fraction of the cost when compared to U.S. prices, with reasonable deductibles and co-pay amounts. For example, a 64-year-old woman with no pre-existing medical conditions can purchase an annual international health insurance policy for about $1,800 a year. This type of policy typically carries a $500 deductible per incident and 20 percent co-pay. There is no lifetime cap on coverage. Many Mexican health insurers require this type of policy to be purchased by age 60, but it cannot be canceled as a person ages. Rates typically increase 10-15 percent annually. Policies exist for older people, but they tend to cost more and may carry some restrictions.
Some retirees in Mexico prefer to set aside money each month for future health care needs instead of purchasing health insurance. With the lower cost of medical care in Mexico, they realize a medical savings account can cover expenses as they arise. With first-class medical facilities, equipment, and competent physicians, retirees living south of the border enjoy access to health care at a fraction of the cost in other regions.
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