Health Diaries: Alfredo's Journey
This story is part of the Health Diaries series where we report the struggles and actions of Americans who, despite having insurance, must cross the border into Mexico to get the healthcare they need.
Alfredo, a social worker and father of a three-month-old, is extremely concerned about the kind of medical care he, his child, and his wife will receive now and in the future. Raised in McAllen, Texas, after moving from Mexico around the age of 8 without any health insurance, he is determined to ensure that his son will never have to go through life without health insurance coverage. After graduating college, Alfredo sought a job in social services to help families struggling with the permanent residency process. He described families waiting for years to have their paperwork processed by government agencies and the hardship they experienced trying to create stability for their families.
Alfredo was not sure how the health insurance system worked in the United States because he did not believe his own family had coverage when he was a child. However, once his employer made it available to him, he jumped at the chance to have medical and dental coverage for his family. Alfredo began to really use his coverage during his wife’s pregnancy. He experienced significant confusion trying to identify the costs for her prenatal care and trying to ensure they did not take on substantial medical debt as a new family.
Alfredo’s wife sought care with her obstetrician in the United States and continued to do so after their baby was born. However, toward the end of their pregnancy, Alfredo learned that his son had a heart defect that required immediate consultations with a cardiologist and potential surgery. Alfredo was desperate for help to understand what he could do to ensure the baby would receive immediate coverage upon his birth. His employer refused to enroll his son on their medical insurance plan prior to birth and failed to enroll his son upon delivery—Alfredo waited three weeks after the baby was born for coverage. Alfredo had to cancel a cardiologist’s appointment for the week after the child’s birth due to the lack of coverage. Because of this, he was angry and confused about what insurance “coverage” meant in the United States.
Alfredo’s experience led him back to Mexico for health and dental care. In Mexico, they never experience the kinds of delays they experienced when their newborn was sick. Alfredo also feels that services are better quality, medications are more affordable, and he is more comfortable obtaining care from a doctor he can speak to in his native language. He described a visit with a doctor in Mexico as an opportunity for a full consultation about all his health and well-being issues. It was more holistic, according to Alfredo. He wishes that he could receive the same level of medical treatment in the United States as in Mexico, but for now, he considers it well worth crossing the border for better care. Alfredo’s young son continues to be monitored by a cardiologist in the United States. Still, he has two pediatricians—one in the United States and one in Mexico—so Alfredo can ensure his son gets the best care when he needs it most.