Medical and Dental Care in Mexico: How Bad is It Anyway?
Updated: May 14, 2020
The following describes my personal experience with medical care facilities in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco. These are my personal opinions and is not meant to be representative of all medical and dental care across the country. All prices listed are in USD.
“So, I finally found a GYN and had my first appointment the other day,” I told my best friend as we caught up about the last few months of my life in Mexico.
Her eyes widened and her voice got low. “Oh God… How did that go?”
If I had a dollar for every time I received a look or comment of fear, concern, or disgust when I mention going to see a doctor or dentist in Mexico, I'd have more than enough to feed my never-ending taco addiction over the course of the year.
For some crazy reason, we’ve been conditioned to believe that medical care here is subpar, inefficient, or downright scary compared to that in the north.
But to the surprise of many, the truth is that the medical care my son and I have received here in Mexico is just as good if not better than the care we received when we were in the U.S.
Better Appointment Availability
Making doctors appointments in the U.S. always used to require taking off of work or taking my son out of school to make it to the office between the hours of 8-4pm, Monday through Friday. The other option was to visit an urgent care facility, which is much more expensive and sometimes not covered by insurance at all.
Here in Mexico, the offices we've visited have offered hours as late as 7pm, providing a much more flexible and convenient option without having to go to urgent care. And for the less urgent issues, there's always one of the many pharmacies with walk-in clinics, or “consultorios”.
Personalized, One-on-One Visits
Every exam room we’ve been in so far is in the same room as the doctor’s individual office. That means that we’re not playing the shuffle game between rooms and nurses before the doctor walks in, because the first room we walk into is where the doctor already is sitting and waiting for us.
It’s just us, one on one with the doctor that we came there to see. If we do see someone else first, it is usually just an administrative person to collect first visit paperwork. This is a big difference from what we were used to, when we’d spend more time with a nurse than the doctor themselves.
Once with the doctor, I’ve never once felt rushed through appointments, or left feeling as though I didn’t have my question appropriately answered.
Never in my life have I been given my doctor’s personal phone number or e-mail address and invited to call whenever I had a question or concern. Well, that all changed when we moved to Mexico.
I’ve found that many of the doctors here will publicize their phone numbers and e-mail addresses on their website or even personal Facebook page and encourage you to reach out to them.
In my personal experience with my doctor, my after-hours questions were answered promptly via e-mail, WhatsApp also is a popular way to connect here, and there is no exception when it comes to doctors or dentists. On more than one occasion, I’ve reached out to my medical provider to ask them a question or inquire about availability.
In the past when I’ve had to contact my doctor, I’ve had to either leave a message with either a nurse, an automated system, or connect to an emergency after-hours line (which doesn’t guarantee that I reach my doctor).
Top Notch Facilities and Equipment
Okay, let's get personal for a second. Ladies: When is the last time your GYN used an exam device with a camera attached to the end so that you could actually see the exam on a screen in front of you as it is being done? I certainly never had until I had my first exam in Mexico. Not only did it make me feel that much more confident in what the doctor was telling me, but I can now say that I've SEEN where babies come from!
I was surprised myself to find that the facilities here were modern, bright and sparkling clean, and equipped with all of the latest equipment, some of which I had never seen or experienced before (such as above).
I didn't even know that laser treatment was an option for a toenail problem I'd been having because the doctors offices in the states didn’t have it nor did they mention it-- but lo and behold the office in Mexico had it and my problem is well on its way to being resolved, after unsuccessfully being resolved in the U.S.!
No Pressure, No BS Treatments
One thing that I’ve noticed and appreciated here is that the medical care isn’t so much based on trying to turn a profit as it is actually fixing the problem. This has resulted in me spending hundreds of dollars less on treatments, and with minimal medication.
Personal example #1: Not long after I first arrived, I went to see a dentist about some tooth pain that I’d been having on and off for the past several years. At my dentist in the states, I’d been told that there was irreversible damage done to my gums and that I would probably need to get an existing crown removed and replaced, among other issues. Needless to say, it would have cost me hundreds to get the problem fixed, WITH insurance.
Here in Mexico, on the other hand, the dentist told me that my gums and teeth were just fine and looked great...the pain was simply due to my poor flossing technique (which by the way, I’d been taught by my previous dentists). After a quick tutorial on the correct way, they proceeded with my cleaning, and told me to make my next appointment when I was ready (instead of rushing me into a 6 month early commitment right then and there). That was nearly a year ago and that tooth pain has yet to return.
Personal example #2: Remember that toenail problem I mentioned earlier that was unsuccessfully resolved in the U.S.? After telling me that the problem was minor and would eventually fix itself (which it did NOT), they instead had me purchase a $250 boot to unsuccessfully resolve a related Achilles issue, and THEN had me sign up for $640 worth of physical therapy treatments that I could have found on YouTube. I should mention that this was all POST-insurance. Who knows what it would have cost me otherwise.
Here in Mexico, on the other hand, my podiatrist told me that the prognosis that they gave me for the toenail was actually incorrect, and that it could be resolved within weeks with a combination of oral and laser treatment. I’m now quickly on my way to recovery at a cost of $30 per monthly session.
And while we’re on the topic of cost, let’s talk about...
We moved to Mexico without health insurance. And while our temporary residency status has allowed us to qualify for and obtain the country’s public health insurance, we know that we have the option of utilizing the private healthcare facilities of our liking, whenever we want to.
The thing is, paying out of pocket is actually an option here. I don’t have to worry about going bankrupt over one medical procedure, or having to put aside a portion of my pay each pay period to pay off an exorbitant medical bill.
Here are just a few of the approximate out of pocket costs that I’ve paid in private facilities since we’ve been here:
Dental Cleaning/Exam (with X-ray): $35
Urgent Care Visit: $25
Annual GYN Visit: $30
Podiatrist Consultation PLUS Medical Pedicure: $40
Podiatrist laser treatment: $30/session
Pediatric visit AND follow up appointment: $30
Doctor’s Visit PLUS Lab Work: $50
Keep in mind that the above are all in private facilities with bilingual speakers. I've been told that public facilities and non-bilingual doctors cost much less, if anything at all. The “consultorios” often cost less than $4.00 USD a visit. The medications are much cheaper too. The most expensive prescription I’ve paid for was roughly $25. The lowest was $2.50, for a 30 days worth.
And while we haven’t yet experienced any major medical emergency, I know for a fact that it would only cost me a fraction of what I would have paid in the U.S., with insurance.
Available In-Home Visits (Updated April 2020) When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we were of course discouraged from leaving our homes unless absolutely necessary. Visiting large medical facilities and hospitals were also discouraged unless it were a life-threatening emergency.
So when my son ended up with an infected ingrown toenail in the middle of it all, the best option was to either visit one of the corner consultorios, or have someone do an in-home visit. We opted for the latter to lessen the risk of exposure.
Within the hour of talking to a doctor about our needs, we had someone fully qualified and bilingual at our house to examine him and write a prescription. The out of pocket cost? Roughly $48 USD. I honestly thought it was a little on the high side in the beginning, but then I had to think again about what I was receiving: In-home service, within the hour, during a pandemic. And that was the full out of pocket cost...not a co-pay!
So next time you question the quality of medical and dental care available here in Mexico, just know that those who choose to utilize it are certainly in good hands. It only makes sense why medical tourism has grown and continues to grow in Mexico.
Follow our journey as we live and play in Mexico at Just Me and J in Mexico. Also be sure to head over to the Travel Unapologetically Facebook page for blog updates as well as travel tips and inspiration.