Thursday, March 27, 2014

Travelling without Medical Insurance

Travelling Without Medical Insurance

We travel a lot. In fact, six months of the year we are somewhere in between Canada, USA and Mexico*.

When in Canada, we have Free National Health Coverage.

When in the USA, we purchase supplementary insurance.

When in Mexico, we have No Medical Insurance.

You read that correctly.

When in Mexico, we have No Medical Insurance.

Before I get into my story and the purpose of this post, I want to make it very clear that I am not suggesting that anyone go without medical insurance. Anywhere or any time. I’m just telling you about an experience where we required medical coverage, in a foreign country, and we didn’t have any medical insurance.

To make a long story short, we’re healthy and in our opinion, medical treatment in Mexcio is cheap. Now for the long story…

This January, The Kids and I were sick. Really sick.

After trying to treat Artemis’ parasites with walnut tincture (like I did last year), I realized that it wasn’t working. So, we made a visit to the doctor who prescribed anti-biotics.

At the same time, Max also saw the doctor only it took him two doctors vistis, a fever of 104, four anti-biotics and one month to feel better.

As for me, at the doctors agreement, I didn’t take any medication for my head cold** and suffered for three long weeks.

Turns out that all the medications (for both kids) cost $500MXN ($50CDN) and a Doctor’s consultation is $30MXN (up from $20MXN last year). That’s about $3CDN.

You read that correctly.

A Doctors visit costs $3CDN.

However, a Doctor’s visit and medication is not a serious illness like a hospital visit. And, truth be told, we’ve never been to a hospital so we don’t know the costs.

Until now…

In case you didn’t know, our road is under construction. That’s an understatement. It’s littered with a labyrinth of planks over open registers, mountains of rocks and two metre deep (6.75 ft) trenches with no caution tape. It’s dangerous to say the least and our patience with the noise, dust and disruptions is wearing thin. Good thing we won’t be around for the next three months.

Mexico Road Construction

At the same time as the road construction, we’ve decided to do some work on the house. The timing couldn’t have been worse as we were leaving in a few weeks, however, the road was already dug up so we jumped at the chance to save a ton of money and finally get it done (we’ve been waiting since 2007). In turn, there is a 2 foot drop of loose gravel into a 2 metre deep trench beside our house. Artemis slipped (like she stepped on a banana peel), fell two feet and hit her head on the rock wall.

She cried. A lot. I checked her out and she didn’t seem hurt except that she wouldn’t stop crying. And then I saw the blood dripping down her face.

Turns out, she had a 1 cm cut which looked to Ed and I to be a “bit too deep” and of course it could be something worse. We didn’t want her to not get a stitch and later a doctor say that she should have had one. So, Ed and she headed off to get a taxi and head to the hospital. Note that our van is currently parked at a friends because we can’t use our driveway due to said two metre drop.

Remember last year when Max was really sick and I wrote about Prepare for your Childs Illness BEFORE they get Sick. Well, we’d done just that and chose the newest and most modern hospital in the city “Hospital de Las Culturas”.

We made the right choice of Hospital.

Even though the waiting room was packed (and we knew it would, this is the most popular hospital in the city). Within 30 minutes, Artemis was being seen by a doctor. Within 15 minutes after that, she was having an xray and 1 hour 20 minutes after I saw the two of them walk down our street, hand in hand, they were back.

Turns out she didn’t need a stitch. Instead, the Doctor cleaned the wound, put on a steri-strip, and gave her a prescription for an anti-biotic.

Aremis Xray Hospital Mexico

Isn’t her head beautiful!
The total cost of the hospital visit, including the xray (which we got to keep, how cool is that) was $38MXN.

You read that correctly.

A Hospital visit, including x-ray costs $3.80CDN***

In reality, the hospital visit cost nothing. It was the x-ray that cost money and Ed even received a receipt for it. In addition, the Doctor asked Ed if he could afford to pay for it. If not, it too would have been subsidized.

Not once was Ed asked to provide any identification to prove citizenship let alone his name. Which is a good thing because he didn’t remember to bring any.

Given the fact that we’re healthy and supplementary insurance for the four of us for four months costs around $2,000CDN, that’s an awful lot of Doctor’s visits, medication and x-rays.

Ever Been to a Hospital in a Foreign Country?

P.S. I originally stated that you “don’t need a doctors prescription for medication in Mexico”, however, it appears that “sometimes you don’t need a doctors prescription” for some medications and other times you do.

* At the time of this posting, we have just begun a three country, 5,000 km, four-day trip from Mexico to Canada. Note that we have insurance while travelling in the USA.

** Someone I know thinks that it might have been something bacterial-like that I contracted from uncooked meat, or unsafe food processing conditions. I’m not disputing this. Her exact question was, “How are you still alive”.

*** Note that we are not familiar with the country, state or hospital(s) coverage in Mexico. We might have gone to the only one that has free coverage.

23 thoughts on “Travelling without Medical Insurance

  1. Eric SHEWAN

    Sarah and Gang,

    I’ll be awaiting your arrival in Outer Heckston, with open arms.

    The “SHERIFF”

  2. Brandee H

    Hospitals in Mexico are completely different from Canada!!! I love how you can go straight to the specialist you need and not to a family dictor first and wait for a teferral!! I had similar great experiences in Chiapas! I went to a private hospital in Queretaro once. I had a severe infection, went straight to the Ear, Nose Throat Doctor. My whole trip plus medications came to just under $20. So much easier!! And the hospital looks like a hotel!!

  3. Cathy C

    I have had to go to a hospital in Florida for my son and it was a night mare. My Husband worked for a US company who provided the insurance. Hospital all shiny and new didn’t bill out of state or out of street is seemed. Our credit card was check to insure we could pay the bill. Didn’t think he fracture collarbone, xray said he had. Referred to orthopaedic surgeon that didn’t take kids and only did sports …and the nightmare went on and on. I will say the rep from the insurance company was outstanding at helping up to resolve issue after issue.
    Cathy C recently posted…WHAT TO WATCH WEDNESDAY #W2WW This weeks recommendation #10 #TheITCrowd @Netflix_CAMy Profile

  4. Peady

    I am glad your daughter is okay. Whew! They are such little virus factories and danger attractors, aren’t they? If I could wrap them in bubble wrap I would. Nah! They are better off flying and being free, but aack!

    I have been to hospitals in the US and I have nothing but positive experiences to report. I understand that is not the case for everyone.

    As for travel insurance – I buy all of it! 😀

    Bon voyage! Viaje seguro!
    Peady recently posted…And snow on and snow forth…My Profile

  5. AlwaysARedhead

    Firstly, have a safe drive home; secondly, I imagine the cost of medical care for some Mexicans is expensive, thirdly one wonders why it costs so much for healthcare in the states? Does Mexico offer the same healthcare that we receive in Canada or that Americans receive in the United States?
    AlwaysARedhead recently posted…Our vacation in JamaicaMy Profile

    1. Sarah Post author

      Dear AlwaysARedhead,

      Many of the doctors/dentists/professionals that I have come into contact with have been (partially) educated in the United States and speak a fair amount of English. Their level of knowledge (from someone that doesn’t know exactly) seems to be very good. Equal to what we would receive in Canada.

      The one difference is sharing of information. They don’t do it. You really need to ask a lot of questions.

      Besos, Sarah
      Sarah recently posted…Does Being Late Bother You?My Profile

  6. Carla

    The cost difference is crazy! It is amazing how different health care is around the world. Quite an eye opener! Did she get to keep the x-ray of her head? And yup you’re right it is a pretty head 😛

  7. Debbie S.

    I can’t believe the cost of the health care your family has paid for in Mexico, amazing! Gotta love steri-strips, best invention of the century! Yes, absolutely beautiful skull, had me worried at the part she hit her head on rock wall.! Glad it all worked out.
    My son has ongoing medical conditions, and as far as I know (and I have researched majorly),there isn’t an insurance company in Canada that covers pre-existing conditions for traveling out of the country. Really sad, as we would love to take him to maybe like DisneyLand! If we do and he needs medical assistance, it could cost us everything we own. Sad leaving him behind. Yes, Canadian insurance companies , shame on you!
    The other option would be to have a Disney land in Canada, wouldn’t that be grand!
    Love your blog, have a safe trip!

  8. Ali P

    Never needed any kind of medical attention while travelling so far, but always have had insurance, as well.

  9. Amy Lovell

    LOL Thats crazyness at the difference between mexican and canadian prices! Thihngs are so different in places other than canada

  10. Elaine Buonsante

    I’ve always considered Mexico to be a very poor country. How do they manage to have such great medical care?

    1. Sarah Post author

      Dear Elaine,

      Great question. I am not an expert in the field but here’s my thoughts.

      1. All of the doctors I’ve met are from privileged families who speak English and were educated in the United States (and a few in Canada). Most of the others I’ve met are very educated.
      2. They get paid a pittance and really have a sense of service.
      3. Most people can’t afford the $2 for a doctors visit and even if they could, they couldn’t afford the medication (even though it’s cheap in Canadian terms) and even if they could, they don’t have any way to get from the communities to the hospitals (which are in the cities). In a nutshell, most of the population doesn’t have access to medical care.
      4. Basic medical care doesn’t include repairs to birth defects, physiotherapy, mental issues or prenatal care (the list goes on). You see a lot of cleft palates, shortened legs, and eye issues that would be fixed very early on in Canada.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

      Besos, Sarah
      Sarah recently posted…A Balloon For Alexander #babylossMy Profile

  11. Darlene W

    How fortunate you were that you were quickly able to get your daughter checked. My husband has work insurance that covers out of country so we are set


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