The Space for Expatriates
Well, actually not. But I always wanted to use the excuse that the dog ate my homework. Actually what happened is that Erika The Efficient, who has never thrown anything of mine out, threw out the grocery receipts I was saving to use doing a cost of living blog. So it will take me a while to get more receipts together so I can post cost of groceries, gas, etc.
That said; we can still talk about the lower cost of living. One of the big areas of savings is medical care. Thanks to a jar of salsa that must have been in the ‘frig a bit too long I had the opportunity to avail myself of some of Cabo’s fine medical attention last week. Now, some things to know…
There are both public and private hospitals in Los Cabos. The ISSTE hospital is the worker’s social security hospital and is free to them as long as their employer pays into social security for them. Free. As in, all medical care plus prescriptions at absolutely no cost. Foreigners who move to Cabo are probably not covered by their employer but can buy into the program. I’ve heard prices up to $600 per year, which is still one heck of a bargain. You pay your fee in January and don’t have to worry about health care expense for the rest of the year. You are issued a little booklet that identifies you as a member of the system, and outlines what services you’re entitled to (in addition to illness your preventive health care is included, but a man’s book would obviously not entitle him to obstetrics, etc). I don’t know a single soul who’s bought into it here in Los Cabos because it is so over-whelmed by our recent population boom that it takes hours of waiting.
There is also Seguro Popular, which is supposed to fill in the gaps for Mexican’s who are not covered by social security. I’ve heard good things about that hospital, and am looking into buying in as a back-up to private care. I hear that’s as inexpensive as $100 per year and also includes prescription drug coverage. But in order to sign up you’ve got to be in line before sunrise and plan to spend the whole day, that’s how long the lines are and how slowly they move.
Which brings us to the medical system most foreigners take part in: the for-profit sector. There are several private hospitals in Los Cabos. The two largest are AmeriMed and BlueMedicalNet. Both are bilingual and cater to both the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking communities. How they go about it is very different.
AmeriMed is located in the same office complex as my office, in downtown Cabo San Lucas about five minutes from our home. They also have a large hospital in San Jose. The less I say about them the better, but you should know that after my last experience there I gave instructions to everyone that if I fall over and crack my head in and my brains are oozing out of my skull directly in front of their office they are to call Blue. I’ll wait for them to come scoop me off the sidewalk. One reads occasional horror stories in the Gringo Gazette about their mistreatment of foreigners and now I believe every word of them.
Blue Medical Net is located on the four-lane about a few miles out of town; if you’re familiar with Cabo they are roughly across the highway from Home Depot. I think they also have a presence on the San Jose side. I’ve had to visit them twice recently and so far am very pleased. A few months ago I had (ahem) a bit of a problem slicing some ginger. We went out there and were treated quite well. It was our first visit, and I was especially impressed by Dr. Rivas’ bedside manner and the efficient manner in which my problem was treated. As memory serves the emergency room charge was about $90 US, which included all follow-up. If you’ve ever tried to bandage your own finger you will appreciate how grateful I was to be able to go out there and have one of their doctors inspect the injury and re-bandage my pinkie every morning and as promised I was never charged for those extra visits. Thanks to the salsa I found myself out there again about a week ago, the cost of the doctor visit was 550 pesos, or about $40 US. Since I really didn’t feel like running around chasing down the prescriptions I had them filled at their in-house pharmacy; if they were more expensive than downtown it was only by a peso or two. And again, the prescription formed specified follow-up, at no charge.
The last option, and it’s a great one, is a house call. Yes, they still do them here. Dr. Jim McAllister is an American doctor who is really terrific. He’ll come to your home for about $60 US, his cell phone number is 044-624-141-6176. Put it on your speed dial.
Speaking of cell phones, all of the doctors here will give you their personal cell number and email. Even more shocking to Americans and Canadians is that THEY EXPECT YOU TO USE THEM!!! If you fail to do so they will either give you a scathing lecture or, worse, give you one of those withering looks that communicate their displeasure even more clearly. If you have a question or concern, no matter how minor it may seem, call the doctor. They really won’t mind.
I would rather endure torture than go to the dentist (is there really a difference?) but when forced to have found that they also charge a fraction of what their counterparts north of the border charge, are excellently trained, and accessible.
One last comment on health care. Prescriptions. Unless you go into the public systems you will buy your own medications. On most prescriptions you will pay only a fraction of what the same drug would cost in the States. My husband takes quite a few medications and being an engineer has done a thorough study. In many cases he can buy the same drug here for less than his deductible (co-pay) from Medicare if he filled them up there. Many drugs are over-the-counter here, with the exception of narcotics and antibiotics.
So, I do hope that helps. The bottom line is that health care here is as good as (I believe better than) what you’re used to and at only a fraction of the price. That’s a cost of living bonanza!
Carol Billups is Broker/Owner of Cabo Realty Pros. She has enjoyed working with both buyers and sellers for over eleven years and still thinks hers is the best job on earth. She is also the real estate columnist for Los Cabos Magazine. You can read more of her articles on the website blog www.caborealtypros.com. You can reach her from the U.S. or Canada at 1-760-481-7694, or in Cabo at 044-624-147-7541. You can listen to our 24/7 broadcast on http://www.livecabo.net for a mix of happy music, weather reports and local information.
© 2012 Carol S. Billups