Mexperience Interviews Author Monica Rix Paxson
The 3rd Edition of the English Speaker's Guide to Medical Care in Mexico was published in the spring of 2013. It's a complete guide that shows you how to access safe, professional and affordable medical and healthcare services in Mexico. To mark the release of this new edition, we interviewed the book's author, Monica Rix Paxson, to find out more ...
Q. As the author of one of our most popular ebooks, we're curious: what's your personal connection with Mexico?
A. I'm from Chicago but I've been living in Morelos for the last three and a half year in a small eco-village in the mountains just outside of Tepoztlán. The eco-village, called Huehuecoyotl after a trickster Aztec god, was founded thirty-one years ago by an international group of nomadic entertainers. Obviously, one of the attractions of Mexico is the wide variety of lifestyles available. Since my work requires just a computer and an Internet connection, when the US economy headed south in 2009, so did I.
Q. How was your transition into the Mexican culture?
A. I feel that I was reasonably well prepared. I joined an online expat group from the Mexican state of Morelos a couple of years before moving here, so I had a fair amount of insight into the challenges and concerns that expats face day-to-day. I also started to learn Spanish while still in the U.S., at first studying in my car using CDs during long commutes. Since I wasn't ready to retire, I had to think about how I'd make money. I started a number of US-based web sites including Spanglish.info, a Spanish/English translation service that I founded with a linguistically talented friend. And, of course, I've been writing books for many years.
Q. Where did you get the idea to write The English Speaker's Guide to Medical Care in Mexico?
A. On one of my visits to Mexico, I had an experience that moved me to tears. I'd gotten ill with fever and pain, but I'd avoided going to a doctor for several days. In the United States I'd often gone without medical care even though I had “good” medical insurance through my corporate job. Why? Because my plan had a $2000 annual deductible, so those first visits and treatments were right out of my pocket and typically very costly. I once had a very routine bladder infection that cost me over a thousand dollars not including the medicines. Avoiding the doctor became a habit. The friend I was visiting in Mexico, seeing how uncomfortable I was, couldn't understand my reluctance and insisted I see a physician. We walked into a small neighborhood consultorio (clinic) that was associated with a pharmacy, and I was able to see a doctor right away. The whole experience was so different, so much more caring and less rushed than most of the care I'd had in the U.S. that I was shocked. When we were handed a bill for only 25 pesos (about US$2), I cried with gratitude. The medications totaled less that US$10 and I was good as new by the next day.
Q: Was that the first time you realized that non-U.S. medical care options were available to you?
I'd always wondered what people without insurance would do if they became seriously ill in the U.S. I'd seen a television program, 60 Minutes I believe, that told the story of a man who went to seek treatment in an Emergency Room. While he was there, actually still in ER for what turned out to be a life-threatening condition, his insurance company dropped him. The treatment he needed called for heart surgery he couldn't afford. He finally sought help in India as a medical tourist and felt the quality of the care he'd received there was not only much more affordable, it was better care. I remember feeling relieved that at least I'd be able to go to India if I needed help. Having subsequently had the experience of care in Mexico, I realized that not only was the medical system in the U.S. broken, but maybe there was a place closer than India where people could get affordable help. I wanted to know more about care in Mexico. The prices were affordable, but was the quality good? Were the pharmaceuticals reliable?
Q. How does your book help people to access affordable healthcare in Mexico?
A. Nearly all healthcare in Mexico is affordable when compared to equivalent care in the United States and Canada. This is primarily because most doctors still own their own practices here. In other words, most aren't subject to corporate pressure to generate profits, answer to stockholders, and use technology as a substitute for hands-on care that are part of HMOs, PPOs and corporate owned practices and hospitals in the U.S. The money you pay the doctor goes to the doctor and not a bunch of administrators and middlemen. But finding the right doctor can still be a challenge. I realized this when I saw how much of the online communications between expats in Mexico was about medical needs and seeking referrals. My book offers many different ways you can find the care you need, whether for a traveler needing emergency help or a resident expat who needs to find a highly trained specialist. For example, just as there are in the United States, there are many medical boards in Mexico that certify medical specialists here. My book lists them. These can be both a source of referrals to specialists, and a way to check if a doctor you are seeing is fully certified in a given area of specialization.
Q. Are people really serious about traveling to Mexico for healthcare?
A. Yes, Mexico is one of the major international destinations for medical tourists. Whether it is for lower cost cosmetic surgery or life saving heart surgery, there are people who travel here every day to seek help. Mexico has the distinction of being the home of nine hospitals that are fully accredited by the Joint Commission International, representing the highest standards in the world. But there are hundreds of other hospitals and clinics that compare favorably with the well-equipped institutions offering quality of care that you'd find elsewhere in the developed world. But the cost of care in Mexico is so much more affordable. An example of this is In-Vitro Fertilization, a procedure that enables many infertile couples to successfully achieve pregnancy. Mexico is a popular destination because the cost of a single round of treatment is less than half of what it is in the United States. Cost is a huge factor since IVF is frequently not covered by insurance. As an added bonus, travel times to Mexico are short enough to make quick, overnight trips possible, lowering expenses, stress, jet lag and time off work.
Q. If I don’t speak Spanish, how will the doctors understand my needs?
A. Medicine is more international than most people realize. For example, it isn't unusual to be treated by foreign nationals in the U.S.—for example, doctors from India or Russia or nurses from the Philippines. Many Mexican doctors are bi-lingual and a surprising number have completed some part of their training in the US. There are even medical schools in Mexico that conduct training in English. My book suggest several ways you can find practitioners who speak English. But in an emergency you may not have time to research those options, so my book provides a chapter that includes translated English/Spanish vocabulary and common phrases about the body and symptoms that can help both you and a doctor communicate in those stressful situations.
Q. Does this new edition explain health insurance options in Mexico? Are they just as expensive and complicated as U.S. plans?
A. You're right. The whole issue of insurance, the many types and what they each cover and cost can be mind boggling. When I was researching I found it helpful to make a chart that offered side-by-side comparisons of the various types of insurance so that I could have a clearer picture. That chart is now part of the chapter about paying for medical care. Furthermore I suggest some strategies that may help people achieve affordable full- or nearly full-coverage at any point in their life.
The latest edition of the English Speaker's Guide to Medical Care in Mexico is available for download now, as an eBook from Mexperience.com.
Monica has researched, written, and edited a great deal on scientific topics including medicine. She's worked on book-related projects in Chicago with the American Society of Clinical Pathologists and the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. Other scientific writings include the planetary science book Dead Mars, Dying Earth, written with plasma physicist and NASA contractor John E. Brandenburg, PhD, a Benjamin Franklin Award winner and Amazon.com bestseller. She has also received a commendation for “Best Science” web site from The National Science Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Microsoft Corp for a site she produced about global warming.
This comprehensive guide is a wide-ranging compendium of information, facts, contacts and local knowledge concerning healthcare matters in Mexico.
Introduction and history to medical care in Mexico
How to qualify for access to the Mexican public health system (IMSS)
Private medical care in Mexico
Finding physicians and specialist medical practitioners in Mexico
Clinics and hospitals, dental care, pharmacies, and buying medicines
Healthcare payments and insurance
Programs for US Veterans
Medicaid and Medicare
Elective surgery options, vaccinations
Assisted living and nursing care
Expat support groups, and more!