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Chuck Bolotin of Best Mexico Movers – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Physician in Ajijic areaThere are perhaps around 100,000 people living in the Lake Chapala area, including Ajijic.  Of those, there may be 10,000 to 20,000 expats.  The city of Guadalajara is from 40 minutes to an hour away.  Given this quantity of people, the money the people here have to pay for healthcare services and the availability of first rate care less than an hour away, the Ajijic / Lake Chapala area has the quantity and quality of healthcare services you would expect: less than a dozen doctors’ offices, a few clinics, and no multi-bed hospital.
 
There are at least three popular, full-time general practitioner, small medical practices in the area.  In addition, there are a few practices that bring in specialists from Guadalajara on a rotating basis.
 
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If you stick to the expat healthcare system as opposed to the state-run system or the system used by Mexicans with very little means, the primary care is at least as good as you would expect in the US, but much, much less expensive and much, much less hurried.  For example, you will generally pay from $15 to $30 for a visit, and it can last a full hour.  Personally, I prefer the quality of the primary healthcare I’ve received here in Mexico to what I received in the US, irrespective of price.
 
If you have an emergency like a stroke or heart attack, there are at least two local 24-hour clinics that will stabilize you, and then take you to Guadalajara, where the care is world-class; better than you would find in all but the most famous hospitals in the US.
 
In addition to this, there is a cardiac hospital being built as I write this, as well as a general hospital, both right near the center of town.  This is a major positive development, filling in the desire for first-rate, local, intensive, and emergency care.
 
Here's a story I wrote comparing the healthcare I received in Mexico with what I received in the US.
 
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Andre Bellon of Bellon Insurance Agents – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Hospital Angeles del Carmen, Guadalajara, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThere aren’t many medical centers, hospitals and health clinics in Chapala and Ajijic, although there should be so that the people here can be given more medical attention. There are two clinics in Ajijic that I know about where you can find several doctors who can help you: Clinica Maskaras in Chapala, and Quality Care, just to the east of Ajijic, heading towards Chapala. Quality Care has a really good cardiologist, lung doctor, and urologist. 
 
Maskaras and Quality Care provide really good medical services, and all the doctors and staff there speak English. The doctors and staff of Maskaras and Quality Care help people get the best medical attention that can make getting reimbursed by their insurance companies a lot faster. The staff of Maskaras and Quality Care help in filling out the forms and since they know about all the procedures, they also know what a patient needs. They don’t feel uncomfortable having to do those kinds of things.
 
The general Ajijic / Chapala Lakeside Community does not have sufficient health care available. People need to go to Guadalajara to have the best treatments when they are needed. There’s no big hospital in Chapala and Ajijic that can offer the same facilities that they have in Guadalajara, like X-rays, MRI’s, etc. For more complicated investigations, people need to go to Guadalajara.
 
The quality of primary care, on the other hand, is efficient in Chapala and Ajijic, and we do have really good doctors. For something more complicated like a surgery, it would be best to go to Guadalajara, which is about 45 minutes to an hour away from Chapala and Ajijic, depending on the time you leave for Guadalajara. If you travel to Guadalajara at 8 o’clock in the morning, for example, you’re going to need at least an hour and a half, but if you’re traveling from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM, it will take one hour at the most.
 
The hospitals in Guadalajara offer world-class medical care. In fact, most of the doctors who work at El Carmen Hospital, San Javier Hospital, Real San Jose Hospital, and Country 2,000 Hospital in Guadalajara, also go to Houston, Texas and work there. 
 
As an example, I had a customer whose three-year-old child had been diagnosed with leukemia, and my customer immediately said, “Andre, I want to take him to Houston.” Since he had worldwide coverage in his insurance, I told him he could go to Houston. When the doctor in Chapala asked him why he wants to go to Houston, he said it’s because the best hospitals are in Houston. 
 
The doctor told my customer that they could get the exact same treatment that they’re going to get in Houston here in Mexico, but in Houston, they’re going to pay in dollars, but here in Mexico, they’re going to pay in pesos. The doctor asked him where he wanted to spend his money, and assured him that his whole team worked exactly the same in Houston as they do in Guadalajara.  It was not only the same equipment and the same procedures, but it was the same doctors.
 
(Hospital Angeles del Carmen, Guadalajara, Mexico, pictured.)
Valerie Friesen of Blue Angel Solutions – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Dr. Varela, of Ajijic, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThere are a number of medical centers, hospitals, and health clinics in Ajijic. Health centers run by the DIF and Centro De Salud are government-run municipal or state institutions.
 
For example, a private hospital called Hospital Clinica Ajijic has been around a long time and has a small number of beds. It's right off the "carretera" (highway). They have doctors who have been around a long time. The hospital has services for overnight care to stabilize a patient and for minor surgeries like removing an appendix. Another small hospital that has been around a long time is the Maskaras Clinic in Riberas del Pilar.   The set-up is similar to Hospital Clinica Ajijic.
 
For more serious illnesses and surgeries, you must go to the Guadalajara hospitals.
 
It takes 45 minutes to an hour to get to Guadalajara, where there are fantastic private hospitals. 
 
There is an assortment of health facilities in Guadalajara ranging from small boutique hospitals that are mainly for orthopedic procedures or minor surgeries to the large hospitals where there is a core network of 10 to 12 private hospitals. If I were to evaluate these hospitals as I evaluate hotels, these hospitals would be the equivalent of four and five-star hotels.
 
Most insurance companies, whether Mexican-based or offshore-based, have contracts with these large hospitals in Guadalajara. These hospitals are excellent and are equipped with recent diagnostic tools. They would have a blood bank on site, full radiology services, and blood laboratories. If there is an emergency, everything is on site. I've been extremely impressed with the capability of these hospitals and their physicians. They can hold their own against any hospital in North America.
 
Expats in Chapala and Ajijic are really fortunate to be close to excellent health facilities in Guadalajara.
 
(Pictured: Neurosurgeon Dr. Varela, outside his office near Ajijic, Mexico.)
Gabriel Varela, MD of Gabriel Varela - Neurosurgeon – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Hospital Terranova, Guadalajara, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingHere in the Chapala area there are several little clinics. In my specialty (neurosurgery) I use these clinics only for stabilizing the patient and then we take them to Guadalajara, which is about 40 minutes away. In Guadalajara there are very big and very good hospitals. The service here in Ajijic Clinic, for example, is very good as well, in that we can stabilize the patient very well. 
 
The hospitals in Guadalajara are more equipped to deal with more complex issues, which are generally the types of issues I would deal with as a neurosurgeon. But for other general specialties or less complex issues, Ajijic Clinic is a good clinic. Maskaras Clinic has good doctors, too, and Maskaras has specialists in areas such as internal medicine and orthopedics. 
 
I have used the Ajijic Clinic several times for post-op care and or for taking care of general illnesses, but for operating on my patients, I need to go to Guadalajara. I use Terranova Hospital, San Javier Hospital, Real San Jose, San Francisco Hospital, and Angeles del Carmen. Those are bigger hospitals. They are not giant hospitals but they’ve got everything that we need.
 
When a patient of mine would have more trouble than others paying for their care, I use another very clean little clinic in Guadalajara that has a very good surgical room, surgical microscope, x-rays inside the surgical room, and the cost is less. If I think that I may need an intensive unit care, I would go to a bigger hospital.
 
(Hospital Terranova, Guadalajara, Mexico, pictured.)
Mirna Segura of Ajijic Rentals – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Community hospital in Jocotpec, Lake Chapala, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe medical centers and medical clinics in Ajijic are very good. As an example, Dr. Leon, who is a general practitioner, has his own clinic up here in Ajijic and he attends to people in that clinic. In the case of something that he cannot handle in his clinic, he will refer you to a clinic or a hospital in Guadalajara where you would be assisted better. Dr. Leon is the doctor of most expats in Ajijic. He speaks very good English and he is a really nice doctor. He is also connected to several specialists and he will recommend you to them if needed. 
 
There is a new public hospital in Jocotepec and many people are going there because it is a nice hospital and it is closer than Guadalajara. Both locals and expats go to this new hospital and they are all attended to. However, I do not go to this hospital as I have IMS Health, which is coverage provided by my work, so I go to the hospital in Chapala. I know expats who also have IMS and they have regular monthly checkups so there are really no problems with the medical care here in Chapala and Ajijic.
 
(Community hospital in Jocotepec, Lake Chapala, Mexico, pictured.)
Anne Dyer of Casita Montana – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Doctor Benjamin Villaran, Ajijic, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingWe have some wonderful doctors in Chapala and Ajijic.  As an example, I work with one of the top plastic surgeons in the world, Dr. Benjamin Villaran. He was just voted the number one most respected plastic surgeon along with our little clinic.
 
We have wonderful general practitioners and some of the very best doctors anywhere. A client of ours, Dr. Aceves, is a micro-biologist, stem cell researcher, and an anti-aging specialist, and is just wonderful. We have doctors here who have studied all over the world and who do seminars to keep current on everything related to their practice. We even have a brain surgeon in town who is just fantastic and who I recommend highly, as he is one of the best in the world.
 
As I understand, Lakeside Medical Center is putting in a new hospital soon in the area. As of now, we take all of our patients to Guadalajara, which is about 45 minutes away by car, to a very well equipped hospital. Of course, where we live is sort of a senior citizen area and to us, one’s health is very important, so we do all of our surgeries in Guadalajara, where our patients stay overnight in the hospital. Right now, I don’t feel that the clinics and the hospital in the Chapala and Ajijic area are as great as the ones in Guadalajara, where there are some really good, gorgeous, and wonderful hospitals.  
 
(Doctor Benjamin Villaran, Ajijic, Mexico, pictured.)
Jerry Smith, MD – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Priest blessing a room in a hospital in Guadalajara, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe healthcare facilities in Chapala and Ajijic are the bare minimum, which is fine for issues such as minor infections, diarrhea, scorpion stings and minor trauma. For anything really serious, one needs to go to Guadalajara.  The saving grace is that an hour away by car in Guadalajara, we have world-class physicians and hospitals.
 
However, for continuing care, dialysis for example, I can’t be driving back and forth to Guadalajara three times a week. Traffic there is horrible, and I really don’t like going there. It’s a common joke that I tell my wife "If there’s anything I need in Guadalajara that badly, I’ll just fly to Dallas and get it!" 
 
From a personal perspective, if I have any serious health issues come up, I’ll probably move back to Texas, but as long as my wife and I are both in good health, we’re here.  
 
(Priest blessing a room in El Hospital de Guadalajara, Mexico, pictured.)
Spencer McMullen of Chapala Law – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
San Javier Hospital, Guadalajara, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThey just opened a new public hospital in the Jocotepec municipality (just to the west of Ajijic) between Ajijic and the city of Jocotepec that can be anybody. This hospital is part of Seguro Popular.
 
 There are three types of insurance coverage here. Seguro Popular is a national health plan, for which you can sign up immediately and be covered for free for a three-year policy, irrespective of any pre-existing conditions. If you do need a surgery, for example, if you were in a car accident and they wanted to put some titanium pins in your knee, the surgery would be free and the medicine would be free but they’re going to charge you for the titanium pins.
 
A different level of care called IMSS (Mexican Institute of Social Security) also exists.  Foreigners can buy their own health policies through IMSS.  IMSS provides a little better quality of care than Seguro Popular.
 
You can also be covered under your own, private medical insurance policy.  I’m 45 and I pay about 13,000 pesos (US $765) a year for a full coverage medical policy. I also buy IMSS, for which I believe I paid $200, or about 3,000ish pesos a year. I keep dual policies just in case I get some crazy rare disease and the insurance company doesn’t cover me adequately.  So this way I have kind of a double choice.
 
My infant daughter is also on IMSS as well as a private policy. For most minor things, for example, you fell and broke your leg or you get into a minor car crash in the Chapala area, they’re going to take you to the Red Cross. They’ll do x-rays, and they’ll charge under 500 pesos (about US $29.50) for most things. You can break your arm and walk out of there paying 1,500 pesos (about US $88) for x-rays, cast, and all related items. If your condition is more serious, they will transfer you to other hospitals in Guadalajara, about an hour away. There are some other clinics in the Chapala area and in the Ajijic area too that can take you if you are bleeding or injured or you just fell off your bike, etc.
 
There are also private doctors here who can see you for regular medical visits and for which you might pay between 200 and 800 pesos (US $12 to $47). The higher range is if you’re going to have an appointment with a specialist. The lower range is if you’re going to see a really cheap Mexican doctor.
 
If you’re sick and have a cold in Mexico, you can sometimes get free medical care. Many of the pharmacies will have their own private doctor to attend to you with the hopes that you will buy your antibiotics or medicine in that pharmacy. Some provide the medical service for free and others will charge you 30 pesos (less than US $2). So you’re paying under $2 to see a doctor to get a prescription to walk next door and have it filled.
 
Here are some examples to explain the difference in medical care between Seguro Popular, IMSS, and a private hospital. I used to work in the courts in Chapala and had two coworkers.  One guy was in a motorcycle accident and had Seguro Popular, which provides services at close to no cost. I went to visit him in the civil hospital in Guadalajara and it was like out of a World War II movie. There was a huge airplane hangar with beds 3 feet apart, nothing between the beds for privacy and rows of beds as far as I could see. The women had sheets hanging between the beds that were also 3 feet apart. And you had to walk through the women’s wing to get to the men’s wing, so much for their privacy. 
 
Another friend was in the hospital for a spinal injury. He got transferred to a ward of the Civil Hospital where there were 3 beds in the room and there was a divider between each bed. Another guy I worked with at the courts crashed his car and had some bad injuries. He was at the IMSS hospital where they had 3 people sharing a room. A lot of times in the public hospital at the Civil Hospital or the IMSS the people need to bring their own toilet paper and there’s no place for family members to sleep; no chairs of maybe one if you are lucky.
 
In contrast, in the private hospitals you almost have what looks like a mini hotel room with a reclining chair so some of your family members can sleep next to you. They also provide parking and a higher quality of care and they’re going to provide everything you’ll need during your stay there
 
The people I saw who had Seguro Popular insurance received basic care; probably a little bit dirtier looking inside and they wouldn’t receive the frills you might get in a US hospital. In the Civil Hospital, while the beds might be not super new and it might look primitive, they’re going to have a lot of the world class equipment for tests and for surgery. IMSS might have a little better quality in care, might have the equipment that the Civil Hospital has in Guadalajara. Relative to private hospitals, San Javier is a local hospital here that is really nice and has good equipment, at a price.  It has nice white walls and really super clean like any hospital you’d expect in the finest cities in the US or Europe.  They have the machines for testing and intensive care unit; everything you could ever want. 
 
With public insurance, you might have to wait weeks or months to get elective or certain surgeries, so a lot of people who have the financial capabilities just choose a private doctor.  Not all private hospitals are expensive.  I went to one facility where someone was treated which was run by nuns.  It was more of a humble place but they were still able to get everything done quickly and not pay the price of the marble palace hospital. 
 
The care in San Javier would be as good or better than you would get in an average hospital in the US.  In general for healthcare here in the Chapala / Ajijic area, everything is on par but it just depends on where you go. A lot of it depends on where you get treated. Some people want to use the IMSS or Seguro Popular. Other people want to use the private system. 
 
The only issue here with regard to the private insurance is that, for a lot of people due to age or pre-existing conditions, private insurance becomes cost prohibitive so as a result, people use the public health plans. IMSS has had financial problems recently, so they’ve been rejecting a lot of new applicants who are older foreigners, seeing them as a potential drain on the system, but we get them accepted through Seguro Popular, so they have some sort of insurance.   
 
(San Javier Hospital, Guadalajara, Mexico, pictured.)

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