"So, you're going to have your baby in MEXICO?"
"Yes." For a variety of reasons:
1) We live here.
2) We can not afford to have a baby in the US. (We do have emergency health insurance for the US, but I don't think they'd count a full-term, natural delivery as an emergency.)
3) . . . OK, it appears that the money issue pretty much seals the deal.
Having now experienced Mexican health care in a variety of forms, I am fairly satisfied with the system. However, keep in mind that Mario's job provides us with excellent private health insurance, on top of the national system (which will hereafter be referred to as social security). Also keep in mind that I was one of those millions of uninsured Americans for at least two years, and it is such a relief to know that I can now seek medical attention without being thrown into welfare.
In summary, Mexico has two systems for its citizens. Well, let me be honest--I could say it has three. The most overarching system is the public system (social security). Any Mexican who pays taxes is eligible to receive services from social security for themselves and immediate family. A second option for many Mexicans, though unfortunately a small minority, is private insurance provided through one's employer (or for those who have the cash to shell out for a policy). The third option, for those who don't pay taxes, which comprises a significant amount of the population, is the shift-for-yourself method. Clearly, this is the failing of the system. However, keep in mind that Mexico is a developing country and I think the country as a whole does very well with the resources it has (in health care, at least). It's still absolutely horrible that many can not access decent health care, but the majority of the population do receive proper attention. In some ways, I think this system has the US's system beat, especially when you consider how many tax-paying Americans have no medical insurance.
I have had limited experience with Mexican public clinics, but my experiences have been positive. When I lived in Puebla, I woke up one day with a horrible, horrible sore throat and could not go in to work. The people at the school called in an appointment for me at the clinic that day. I didn't have to wait horribly long, they provided me with a translator, and prescribed me some antibiotics. I paid nothing apart from the taxes taken out of my paycheck. (Side note: I also went to a private doctor, as it was recommended from my school. That doctor forgot to check which medications make me throw up and prescribed me something that made me feel sicker than I already was. I would have been better off with the basic antibiotics from social security!)
Now that Little Girl needs vaccines, we do go to social security for those. We could get them through a private lab, but we'd be paying out the nose. Social security gives them out for free. We decided it was well worth our time to stand in line. So early on a Saturday morning (hoping it would be less crowded), we registered Little Girl and began a wait that we were sure would take roughly five hours. Only two hours later, we were called in, Little Girl received her monthly medical exam from the doctor and was sent to the lab for the shots. Fifteen minutes later we were out of there! The lab technician scheduled her next vaccine, so we wouldn't have to wait. And true to his word, we didn't wait at all. That last visit, we spent 10 minutes in total at the clinic. Not bad. So, in my opinion, social security works--particularly if you have an appointment and arrive on time.
Normally however, we use our private doctor. But honestly, we do not need an insurance policy apart from hospital visits. Every appointment I've had with either our obstretician or the pediatrician costs $400 (roughly 40 USD), and is paid in cash. And the beauty with the obstretrician's visit is that it included an ultrasound (3D) at every appointment at no additional cost. When I heard that my friends pay roughly 100USD for an ultrasound, I swore up and down that the next child will also be born in Mexico.
I have asked my sister-in-law (who's blind and therefore has trouble finding steady employment) what happens to those citizens who are permanently disabled or have chronic illness and therefore can not work (and pay taxes) because of their disability. After all, these people are the ones who have the most need for health care and no way of paying for it. She assured me that the government does indeed have a program to help the permanently disabled. No doubt there are quite a few who are not covered by such a program, but her assurances made me believe that they government is trying. I hope that is the case.
But for the average, tax-paying citizen, health care in Mexico seems to be on the right track. It is also one of the things that makes me grateful to live here.