Ventanas Mexico

Resources for full- or part-time life in Mexico

Provides a blog promoting living in Mexico and promotes books on learning Spanish and how to rent in Mexico.

Living in Mexico: Good News for Hypochondriacs?

Medical testing is cheaper in Mexico

Even if you have never had a medical condition more serious than chapped lips, once you turn 50, you start to feel like your days are numbered. Moles you never noticed, little coughs, indigestion - everything is suspect.

As much as I believe in early detection tests, there sure are a lot of them. Every time I go in for my annual physical and see that picture on the wall of all my internal organs. You know the one that has been in every doctor's office you've ever been to since you were 10 years old.  I still squeeze my eyes shut and tell my doctor to never, ever explain any of that to me.  

No matter how good you feel, annual visits are nerve-racking.

Now and then exam results put you in that gray area of "things to keep an eye on." In the case of questionable test results ("The talk of the lunch break room" once in my case), you will probably be told to come back in six months to see if anything worse has happened.  

(For imaginative people like me, this message means only one thing, ”brain tumor.” I spend that time positive I’m incubating something.)

Hopefully, after that worrisome six month wait, you will receive an “Okay, it wasn’t weird this time...(Just kidding!)"

Then the instructions are to come back in three years for follow up. Three years?  Doesn't that seem like a long time after those results they questioned?

Do second opinions save lives?

At issue is insurance screening guidelines. To control costs, insurance companies only allow doctors to give tests under certain conditions or within certain periods.  A few years ago, doctors were accused of being overly zealous in testing and driving up costs.  

Nowadays, U.S insurance companies have pretty strict guidelines. Irregularities might mean they test every year. If you have never had a bad test, your might wait as long as every ten years between tests.  We all go by the same rules even though we don’t have the same bodies or family histories unless your doctor aggressively intervenes.

Ten years ago, I experienced some strange symptoms. I knew something was wrong and suspected why (a post-divorce diet of nothing but chocolate and nacho cheese Doritos). My doctor couldn’t pin my symptoms to anything serious and guidelines did not support more tests because I was under 50.  

I fought on, and got all kinds of tests anyway, paying out of my own pocket. My doctor told me later that I probably saved my own life. (For a good article on protocols, read this piece by the Cato Institute.)

Subsequent articles by doctors indicate they are none too fond of them.  Sometimes you just want what you want (in this case a test), even when you're not sure why.

Over the next few years,  I will make the transition to full coverage in Mexico. A health insurance policy from a private insurer in Mexico with excellent coverage, including extra cancer coverage (cancer being the bane of our American 20th-century existence) runs about $1,600 a year. You have a two year wait before anything serious can be covered by that policy though, like it used to be in the U.S.

From my research so far, even a premium expat policy would cost less than insurance in the U.S.  Expat policies enable you to be treated in almost any country other than the U.S.(and Japan) because international insurers know what a hosing they’ll receive from our completely corrupted healthcare system.  

When the same drug costs one person $20 and another $200 because of their insurance, you know something's wrong.

When it comes to choosing your battles, at 50+ most of us know our bodies. I know that I have driven mine like a shiny red sports car - years of physically demanding sports and exercise without the diet to back it up. Subsequently, I like to check some parts more frequently than others.  We all have a sense of our weakest links from our lifestyles and family histories.

A friend of mine, eager for me to get back to Mexico this year said, “Why don’t you just get your annuals here? It would cost you fifty bucks.”  

hospital in Mexico

Hospital Angeles del Carmen, one of the most important hospitals in Mexico.

That’s when I realized I can always soothe my inner hypochondriac in Mexico. 

Honestly, every time I have my annual exams in Denver, as much as I love my family doctor, I have to walk her through my medical history. With so many patients, she forgets things like irregularities in past exams. 

Many health care insurers doesn't cover prostrate exams for men over a certain age.  That seems risky. Why not get these exams in Mexico to ease your mind?

Should you ever want a test just because you want it, you can do it here at a fraction of the cost.  If I want a second opinion, I can get one here at an affordable cost while in the U.S. it would not be covered.

AARP recently wrote an article reporting that of patients seeking a second opinion at Mayo Clinic, only 12% were accurately diagnosed by their primary care physician. More than 20% had been misdiagnosed and 66% required a revision to the diagnoses.

If waiting three years is too long to wait after swinging from a questionable test in the U.S. to a good test, here you can march right in for another test from a Mexican doctor for fifty dollars.

Living in Mexico and taking advantage of their very good healthcare system, plus keeping a relationships with U.S. doctors has the potential to provide you with options.

Options are what this blog and website are all about.

Have you ever heard your doctor say, “I can’t” because of a guideline?  I have.  If I hadn't fought it, I'd be dead.  

How would you feel if your life were really at risk? What if you could get a second opinion not just from another doctor, but from another country and a whole other health care system?  

To think doctors themselves are inherently inferior in Mexico is simply racism.  Particularly in Mexico's major cities, you'll find world-class specialists, many of them U.S. trained.

America's healthcare system  ranks 37th - behind Iceland, Italy and Greece, not to mention coming in last among first-world countries for over-all quality. 

Doesn't that make having a choice or a second opinion sound pretty good? 

Related Links:

Do you have a spare $367,000 for you retirement healthcare? Ventanas Mexico

Uh-oh, someone is pissed: "Replacing the Obscenity that passes for a healthcare system in the U.S." - The Hill

We spend by far the most on Healthcare, according to many, including USA Today but still don't see better results  (includes video)

Most recent:  Contrary to popular belief about Mexico's produce perhaps being "fresher," eating healthy will be one of your biggest, unreported challenges living here. 

Next up: Ducking out, of the American economy and its politics. Frankly, it feels damn good.


Hi, I'm Kerry Baker and a partner with Ventanas Mexico which provides insight and resources to those considering full or part-time expat life in Mexico, most recently "If Only I Had a Place" on renting here luxuriously, for less.

I am also author of the "Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online," a curation of the best Spanish language tools on the web. Thinking about moving in a few years? Learning Spanish takes time and study. 

Get started with the Guides lesson plans on your laptop or e-reader. (Invest in a slim, lightweight laptop for travel, like the Acer Aspire.