Some of the doctors in Yucatan are very good. I have, from my house in Valladolid, two 24-hour clinics within a block. We’ve had experience with staff members over the years who needed emergency care. One needed an emergency appendectomy. One needed an emergency gall bladder removal. The doctors would have liked to have done it in Merida, where they had laparoscopic equipment they don’t have here, but they did it here, not in a hospital setting but in a clinic setting. In both cases, they had very good results.
There are a number of medical options in all of Mexico, but specifically in Yucatan, the teachers and anybody in the administration of the school system have their own medical insurance. They have their own hospitals. Then there is Seguro Popular, which is for people who are not in a salary position. If you’re a farmer or something like that, you can join Seguro Popular at a very low cost. I can’t remember what it is because I don’t belong to it, but I have an American friend who’s got diabetes and a number of other medical issues. He’s also a farmer, so he’s cutting himself all the time, and he ends up using that insurance and he said he is extraordinarily happy with it. The downside of it is they don’t, from my understanding, have a huge amount of conditions they treat. They have 250 or 260 conditions that are on the list of treatable things, and if you fall outside of that, then you go on a long, long waiting list.
Then, parallel to that is a system, which I use, and which is basically like social security that we pay into every month. Not only do we get healthcare with that, including the whole hospital system, but we get points applied to a house at some point. So if you start doing this when you’re 18 or 19, by the time you’re 40 you probably have enough of these points to get a house. They’re not very big houses, they’re not very fancy houses, but they are a house that becomes yours.
And then parallel with all of that, is a private pay system. I belong to the social security but I don’t really use it, because it is kind of my back-up in case of a catastrophic event. If I just need something casual done, I’ll just go up and pay out-of-pocket, the same with dentistry. Last week, I had a root canal and I think 3 x-rays and all together, the total bill was just about $100 and it was within walking distance from here in Valladolid.
Valladolid is one of the major cities in the state Yucatan, but certainly not on everybody’s radar. Most people know it; they’ve come through here on their way from Cancun or Playa Del Carmen to Chichen Itza. It is a town of less than a hundred thousand people.
Then if you go to Merida, there are now a number of very, very good options – hospitals, doctors and specialists; especially doctors. That’s happening in Cancun, also. Prior to maybe 10 years ago, if you had any extra money and you lived in Cancun and you got sick, you went to Merida. You did not try to do anything in Cancun, because their health system was not really great. Now, that’s changed with the number of newcomers who have moved in, along with the wealthier Mexicans.
There are stem cell research facilities just south of Merida. There are a lot of cutting edge, or close to cutting edge, in medical research going on, that’s not filtered down to everybody certainly. But it does exist. Routinely, in Mexico City, they do all these surgeries that they do anywhere else; heart transplants and all those kind of things. Merida is particularly becoming a destination for medical tourism and dental tourism. A number of my friends here in Valladolid, from Canada and the US, have had dental implants at very roughly $1,000 a tooth, which I hear costs $5,000 to 10,000 a tooth in the US.
The dentist I go to teaches at the dental college. I’ve sent a number of people there and they have all been happy. Probably half of the locals who use local dentistry and local gringos who use local dentists, go to her now. If that’s not good enough for them, others go to Merida. They find some people who can meet their standards.
A few years ago, I was in Merida with some of the people I worked with, and I got an allergic reaction. I turned red and started itching. They were afraid I was going to get a respiratory failure and so they took me to a private hospital. I walked into the emergency room (I was ambulatory) and the receptionist said, “What’s your name? If you have insurance, go in that door.”
Just about that fast, she didn’t have time to write down, if I had insurance or not, and if she did, what kind it would have been. Within a minute I had an MD in the room and then within 15 minutes I was in a bed with IVs, with super nursing care all day. At least two specialists came and saw me. Late in the afternoon they pumped me full of drugs and gave me a bunch of drugs. My total bill was about $240.
I mentioned that a few weeks later to somebody working in a hospital in New Jersey, and he said, “You would have been lucky to get an aspirin here for that, and especially if you came in through the emergency room. You’re sure to be charged $1,000 to $1,500 without anything else.”
I had an MRI a few years ago or a CAT scan (I don’t remember which). I went to the place where I figured I was going to make an appointment that would take place in a couple of weeks. But the doctor told me to sit down for about 10 minutes. Then we did the whole thing. I came back the next day and got the film. The bill there was $75. There are good options here.
(Hospital Star Medical, Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, pictured.)