Monday, March 26, 2012

Life without Medical Insurance

An AARP study says that health care issues are the #1 fear of retirees. That's understandable if they live in the US. I don't have medical Insurance and I don't plan to get any in the near future. One big difference here in Mexico is that we can get very good health care at very reasonable cost.

I actually had insurance for the past seven years - Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social - but I had never tried to use it until this past summer. When I finally did, I was more or less denied coverage. It's not just me, our local director seems to be denying coverage to all the gringos. Many are fighting and may eventually win, but I decided I didn't want it anyway. My small experience at the Guadalajara clinic convinced me that I didn't want to go there if something was really wrong with me. I wasted $2000 in premiums over those seven years, but better to learn now than ten years down the road.

Preventative Care

Right up front I have to say that I am healthy and do what I can to stay that way. I quit smoking twelve years ago. I eat a diet low in fat, sugar, and meat, and very high in fruits and vegetables. I average about two alcoholic drinks a week. I generally do 30 minutes of yoga with 20 minutes of meditation every morning and then later walk for 30 to 45 minutes. My blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, etc. are all good. If this wasn't the case, I would have insurance.

Costs of Medical Treatment

I don't mean to imply that I haven't had any medical care during the eight years I have been here. It's just that it has been so reasonable that I've never felt the need to fall back on the insurance.

My dentist charges $23 for a cleaning. My doctor recently raised the price of an office visit to the equivalent of about $15US. If I want to see him, I call in the morning to make an appointment or just go on in and wait my turn.

I go to a brand-new, state of the art hospital in Guadalajara for my mammograms. The price is about $40US, including a sonogram, if it's needed. The equipment is much more advanced than any I've seen in the US. I do make an appointment for that and may have to wait 15 minutes.

My boyfriend used to play tennis five days a week. His body is in great shape but he wore out his knees. His doctor is the orthopedic surgeon for the Chivas soccer team, and he replaced both knees at once. The entire cost of doctor, hospital, titanium knees, and follow-up came to $17,500.

Emergency Care

A few years back, I fell on our boat and landed on my ribs on the gunwale. I didn't spill the beer I was holding but I did collapse my lung. I had a chest x-ray in Chapala and then my doctor drove me to Guadalajara for a CAT scan. I then had a chest tube put in to drain the air out of my chest cavity. I had spent all my cash on the CAT scan, so my doctor covered the hospital bill for me and said I could pay him later! He loaned me an oxygen machine to set up in my house, free of charge. When I went to pay him back, he wouldn't let me pay anything for his services because he thought it had already cost me too much!

Travel to the United States

I would never travel to the United States without insurance. The medical costs there could eat up my entire savings very quickly. I buy a policy from www.worldnomads.com for the time I will be north of the border. I just bought one for a May trip I've got planned to Florida: five weeks for $168. Too bad it is only available for travel to a country other than where you live.

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