Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Me Encanta the Mexican Medical System

Alien robot baby!

With the wedding over, we've finally gotten down to business on that whole prenatal care thing. Obviously, I've been taking vitamins, but with all the traveling and staying in tiny seaside villages we've only been able to see a doctor once in 16 weeks. And that doctor was at a public health clinic that we ignorantly walked into in Barra de Navidad. As it turns out, because we aren't taxpaying Mexicans, we can't use that clinic, which happens to be free, but they were nice enough to let us listen to the heartbeat, give me a blood work prescription and a general wellness checkup. Pretty darn exciting.

We had been trying to contact an OBGYN in Puerto Vallarta, but hadn't had much luck. So we decided to get the ultrasound and blood work done ourselves in the mid-sized town of Bucerias just outside of PV. At both places, we walked in off the street and 15 minutes later were getting all the necessary tests. 

The ultrasound went perfectly and was just an amazing experience. The baby looks a bit like E.T. and has the heartbeat of a metronome, causing me to wonder if we were having an alien robot child sent to take over the world. In one of the photos, the baby looks like it is giving us a high five, which we found pretty amusing. Thankfully, everything looked normal as did all of my blood work. The providers were all very good at their jobs, and the whole process was quick and easy. I got the results for everything that same day. 

The only thing that was abnormal was the cost, especially for someone like me who is petrified of the American medical system (with or without insurance) because of how insane the pricing has become. Here, the ultrasound was 300 pesos, and the blood work was 600 pesos. That's a whopping $70, and we even overpaid. It would have been cheaper to do it all through the OBGYN. In the U.S., however, the cost of an ultrasound sans insurance could be anywhere from $300 to more than $1,000 depending on how psychotic your provider is. In Mexico, it cost us $24. And I don't even know what LabCorp. would charge for a full blood workup. I'm guessing it would have at least been $500 without insurance, if not more. 

Granted none of these establishments had waiting rooms that looked like five-star hotels. In fact, few doctors' offices we've visited in Mexico have even had the lights on, and the two guys who worked the front desk at the ultrasound place and the blood work spot also did my tests. The man who took my blood did not give me a Band-Aid. Talk about thrifty. But they had all the right equipment, gave me quick and thorough care, answered my questions and were generally competent and pleasant to work with. It also helped that they didn't charge me quadruple the usual price for paying cash. For some reason that always makes me testy.

Not to rub it in, but we also went to the regular doctor because for two weeks I had a persistent cough/cold that seemed to be getting worse. We waited for 10 minutes before seeing the doctor. He weighed me, took my blood pressure, asked me a few questions, listened to my breathing, looked down my throat and then said I had an infection. Turns out, I had been wandering around with strep throat. He prescribed me antibiotics that wouldn't hurt the baby and sent us on our way. The price for this was 35 pesos or $2.75. We are definitely having this baby in Mexico.  


  1. Exciting times! You probably already know, but Pat & Ali (Bumfuzzle) had both their kids in Mexico with great results. They could probably give you some good advice. I think they were also around Puerto Vallarta at the time. Congrats! Cheryl Geeting

    1. Thanks, Cheryl! I did know that Pat and Ali had their kids here, and I've actually contacted the same doctor they used. I don't know if we will have the baby in PV or at a place in Guadalajara, but their doctor comes highly recommended by other cruisers as well. Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. that is such good news! Having been blessed with good medical insurance for many years through mike's job, I do get worried about the costs of medical care when we are cruising. I realize how ridiculous our system is here, but since it's the only one I know, the thought of accessing another one causes a bit of anxiety. I love reading about how much easier other countries are than ours. I remember in Australia I developed a serious case of dizziness after riding on a roller coaster. I went to a clinic and found I had an ear infection. They charged me nothing for the care, and the prescription was 5$. Shades of things to come. We have a lot to learn here.

  3. Everywhere we have been so far has had shockingly affordable medical care and pretty easy to navigate their systems. Hence the reason that we don't carry health insurance. Of course, that might be different if we weren't in good health, but if that were the case we probably wouldn't be out sailing anyway. The cost difference has also really made me question why things are so expensive back home. If every other country on the planet can do it for half the price (or less), why can't we?

    Some cruisers do carry travelers insurance, but I don't know much about how that works and if you can actually get decent coverage once back in the U.S.

  4. Hi Attila & Vlad! We are so proud of y'all. Sounds like a great adventure. I was so inspired by your robot story I've changed my Google profile picture. Good Sailing! Scott & Natalie on Westerly 36 "Natalie"