A Little about Healthcare in Mexico

Navigating the healthcare system in Mexico isn’t easy. The US embassy even has a page or two available for hospitalized citizens in Mexico and a list of Air Medical Evacuation Services if needed in the worse case scenario. Unfortunately, air ambulance service is not covered by most insurances and must be paid for upfront. In the event of emergency air evacuation, having an insurance policy that covers the cost, would be a good idea. 

For none life-threatening medical scenarios, however, with a few bits of information and a little practice, you’ll be sailing through these high changeable medical seas in no time.doctor1.jpg The good news is that Mexico has universal health care which is divided into three categories. Seguro Popular is for residents without formal employment. IMSS (Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social) is provided by employers. ISSTE (Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Sociales de los Trabajadores del Estado) is only for government workers. Even as a foreigner, you may be eligible for coverage under one of these three setups.

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This is where you apply for Seguro Popular in our town.

Here’s How to apply for Seguro Popular:The head of the household should take an official id (INE, passport, driver’s license) to the affiliation office which you can find by entering your state and municipal here. If you are not a Mexican citizen, you can use your temporary or permanent residency card. You will need to present a comprobante de domicilio reciente (proof of residency such as electric bill, phone bill or predial). If you live in an area with a population less than 250 residents, you can ask for a letter from the local authorities to verify your address. In our area, this letter can be requested from an office in the presidencia (town hall). You will also need the CURP (Clave Única de Registro de Población) for each member of the family. If including an unmarried son or daughter between the ages of 18 and 25, you will need to present a comprobante de estudios (proof that he or she is a student). If you are renewing your policy, you must present the expired policy. hospitals.jpgYou’ll get a sheet with a barcode on it. Keep this, it’s your póliza (policy). You’ll need it for every transaction. I’ve seen some people laminate their policy but just slipping it into a plastic sleeve should do the job. The policy has the expiration date, family members covered and whether there is a co-pay or not. No contributiva (non-contributive) means there is no co-pay for most treatments. You might also get a little booklet that lists what Seguro Popular will cover. It’s helpful but there seem to be yearly changes so your booklet might not be up to date. When you go for appointments, take the policy, your CURP (which also has a barcode) and your official ID. doctor2.jpgIf you do not qualify for coverage under these three groups, you can apply to a private insurance company. This is not a comprehensive list, just a place to start. Check each company’s requirements to see if it would meet your medical needs and if the private medical facilities accept that particular insurance.

If medical insurance still seems beyond your financial grasp, take heart. Medical procedures in Mexico are often a fraction of the cost when compared to the United States. In fact, the prices on some procedures are so good, a whole tourism industry sprouted up to take advantage of them.  And that’s just with major health issues. Most farmacias (pharmacies) have a doctor available for consult for around $40 pesos for minor medical emergencies like colds, stitches, scorpion stings, or a bean up the nose. specialists.jpgSo where can you go for treatment? If you live near Mexico City you are in luck. CDMX (Mexico City) has several high-quality hospitals including the Hospital de la Mujer and Hospital Nacional Homeopatío. Several states also boast having a Hospital Regional de Alta Especialidad. There are even three hospitales psiquiátricos in Mexico should you or someone you love need to avail yourself of their services. IM000805.JPGIf you live in a rural area and you have Seguro Popular, your first stop will be at the hospital comunitario (community hospital). Don’t expect to be able to waltz right in and see a doctor. Head to the information desk and ask what the procedure is. You ought to do this before anyone needs a doctor. Go in for a family checkup. Everyone will get a routine physical and a little booklet to keep track of appointments. More importantly, you’ll be in the system so making an appointment gets just a bit easier.

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Hospital Regional (General)  in Uriangato, Guanajuato

If your condition is more than that hospital comunitario can handle, you’ll be given a referral to the closest hospital regional or general. You’ll need to head there and find out what the procedure is for making appointments as well. You can ask the security guard to send you in the right direction. Odds are you’ll need to head to Archivos (archives) first. Be aware that each department has its own process. There’s one process for seeing the doctor but a different process for getting lab work done. Keep asking until you understand what it is you need to do. Expect this procedure to change. The newest little hoop to jump through at the hospital I go to is to have the head chemist sign off on your prescription before you can pick it up at the pharmacy. Of course, she isn’t always there. In fact, she’s only there about 2 hours in the morning. So getting your prescription filled is just that much harder. IMG_20180416_115204Pharmacies outside of the hospital don’t typically ask for prescriptions. This makes it much easier to avoid the long and tedious process in order to get medication, especially for chronic illnesses. The best approach is to have an empty bottle of the medicine you need and hand it over to the pharmacist. Ask if there is a generic version and you can save even more money. If you aren’t sure, take a list of the generic varieties that you’ve downloaded from the internet with you.

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Pharmacy with adjoining doctor’s office.

If you aren’t exactly sure what you need, ask the pharmacist to recommend something for the symptoms you describe or go ahead and get a consultation from the doctor next door. Wait time is typically less than 30 minutes. If there’s a long line, it’s not much effort to find another consultorio adjoining a different pharmacy. doctor3.jpgOf course, you can always find a private doctor if you have the means. You’ll get more personalized service and I’ve heard some doctors even make house calls. You might even have round-the-clock service via the doctor’s personal cell phone.CAM00659.jpg Some areas have a Red Cross facility. This might be your best bet if it is a real emergency. There is a paramedic on call at all times and usually an ambulance. Arriving at a hospital in an ambulance will cut through the red tape for admission. However, be aware that the Red Cross is not a charitable organization. There are fees involved for everything, including the ride to the hospital, and you’ll need to pay up front.

Another thing you might not expect is you’ll have to line up your own blood donors if you require surgery even if you aren’t going to get a blood transfusion. If you are in an accident, that requirement might be waived temporarily but know that you will be expected to get a certain amount of “replacement” blood before being released.CAM00656-1.jpg If there’s anything I’ve learned in navigation the medical ocean in Mexico it’s that you need to be your own best advocate. That may include getting your own blood work done at private laboratories, doing some intensive research on the internet, translating it into Spanish and handing it to your doctor.  Don’t meekly go along with diagnosis or treatments before checking out alternatives and in some cases, the facts. Don’t allow your level of Spanish mastery to interfere with your health. Bring someone to interpret if need be. Being your own advocate won’t make you the most popular patient in the waiting room, but it might just make you the healthiest.

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Playing Tourist–Dolores Hidalgo, Gto

I’m not a big fan of Mexican movies, but every now and then, one catches my fancy. Our latest tourist adventure was inspired by 2014 movie En El Último Trago. Three old geezers set out on a whirlwind adventure, well, as whirlwind as 3 old geezers can spin, to Dolores Hidalgo, specifically to the José Alfredo Jiménez museum. The movie is a hoot. There was nothing for it but to recreate their journey to Dolores Hidalgo ourselves.

It’s only about 3 hours from our home, so it was an easy day trip. Thank god, we had no vehicle problems or no random police stops. Nearly all of my proposed visit sites were clustered near the centro, so we parked and hoofed it.

After stopping for refreshment at a torta place, we began our tourist adventure with the Casa Museo José Alfredo Jiménez. I even got some pictures of the signature of José Alfredo Jiménez, which is a key feature of the movie. Entrance is $40 pesos with a discount for teachers and students with appropriate ID. We bought most of our souvenirs here, which meant lugging them around the rest of the day, but after seeing the other gift shops, we decided it was worth it.

We passed the Parroquia de Nuestro Señora de Los Dolores and saw some class trips reenacting the Grito de Dolores.IMG_20180711_121814

We went to El Museo del Bicentenario which was disappointing. I wasn’t able to exactly understand how the displays came together. The nearest I could figure each room represented an oppressed society. One had posters about censorship in Russia, another Vietnam, 2 full rooms were devoted to China and the last room was all about Israel. There were some exceptional stained glass windows in one room and a few spectacular Catrinas in another, but that was about it as regards to Mexico. Oh, and the two full wall surrealist murals were something to see. Admission was $20 pesos, half price for students and teachers.

Our next stop was La Casa de Los Descendientes de Hidalgo (the House of the descendants of Miguel Hidalgo), which was also an upscale restaurant. The entrance was $30 pesos per person and $10 for camera use. As the name implies, this was the home of the 5th generation descendants of Miguel Hidalgo, the last remaining descendant having just celebrated her 106th birthday. Apparently, after the 5 generations, the blood is no longer pure and the generation count begins again. So the children of the 5th generation, are no longer descendants of Miguel Hidalgo, or so our tour guide told us. This was my favorite museum. There were dioramas depicting some of the most relevant aspects of the fight for Independence. I have to admit, I always wanted to have my own handmade wooden dollhouse and these little scenes made my heart go pitter patter with longing.

We then took a turn around the centro, which was very pleasant, and had some ice cream (another reference to the movie). There were a few nice statues, lots of benches to sit on, and a whole lotta shoe polishing carts. We admired La Casa de Visitas from our park bench.

We hiked a few blocks to the Museo del Vino and the Casa de Hidalgo. Both had a $45 peso admission fee, which seemed a little steep now that we’d been to a few of the other museums. We opted not to tour either. I did peek in Hidalgo’s house and was reminded of another movie Hidalgo la Historia Jamás Contada which as far as historical movies go, wasn’t bad.

Of course, it could be that Hidalgo, who fathered children with two different women and spearheaded the national fight for Independence, was not quite what you would expect from a Catholic priest. Hidalgo had his own vineyards which were burnt in punishment for his treason against the crown, so the Museo de Vino wasn’t a far stretch of the imagination right there next to his house in what used to be a hospital. We did hit the gift shop and bought a locally produced bottle of wine called Lloro de Tierra. It was a nice, sweet, fruity rose and we enjoyed it immensely when we got home.

We did not get to the Museo de la Independencia, nor did we stop to see la Tumba de José Alfredo Jiménez en the Panteon. When we asked for directions to the cemetery, hoping it was close enough to walk to, we were told we’d have to walk “un chingo” to get there. My son’s flat feet were starting to ache and we were getting tired, so walking un chingo didn’t seem like something we were interested in doing.IMG_20180711_140241.jpg On the way out of the town, we stopped in another nice park with statues, a playground, some nice fountains (without any water) and benches that resembled sofas.IMG_20180711_141220As far as Pueblos Mágicos go, Dolores Hidalgo should be on your must-see list, not for the quality of the museums because they were rather ho-hum, but for the historical significance of the area, and the wine. I would recommend staying more than one day since there are so many things to see.

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Becoming an Herbalist Free Course

Sign up for the FREE Becoming an Herbalist Mini Course!

Herbal Academy has done it again! Another incredible course and an incredible price (honestly, you can’t get a better price than free) focusing on the question “What does an herbalist DO? “

Lesson 1 looks closely at certification and regulation for herbalists and explores some of the educational options that are available to those interested in herbal careers. L

In Lesson 2, we will take a look at the language that herbalists use – words you can and cannot use legally, regardless of education, due to the current state of herbalism as an unlicensed practice. 

Lesson 3 dives deep into the ethical considerations of becoming an herbalist. 

In Lesson 4, we will outline key aspects of starting your own herbal business and the many details that go along with each. 

Lesson 5 discusses the importance of keeping your finger on the pulse of herbalism. Enroll in the FREE Becoming an Herbalist Mini Course and discover your herbal path

Class begins on August 6, so don’t wait too long!

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