Health Diaries: Juliana'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.
Juliana came to the United States about 28 years ago from Mexico. She loves to cook for her family and sew in her free time. Unfortunately, she lost her job in the pandemic but was able to maintain military insurance through her husband. She feels confident and comfortable that she has insurance because she knows she can go to the hospital in an emergency and feels like it represents a step forward in her health journey.
Juliana cares a lot about her and her family’s health and does diligent online research about doctors before calling for appointments. She gets frustrated when she can’t find an appointment with a doctor who speaks Spanish and is covered by insurance. For this reason, she hasn’t found a reliable primary care physician for at least 5 years.
While she has had good experiences finding specialists such as when she needed a vascular surgeon and was able to be covered and get the care she needed, she feels like most of the time, it’s a headache to find doctors that are covered and hates the hidden fees. She wants to find a primary care doctor that she can communicate with in Spanish and build a relationship with but has had no luck. Juliana finds it easier to get her care in Mexico when she needs it, especially if she is visiting her family there. She feels like she has more freedom to choose the doctor she wants in Mexico, not just with the first doctor that has an availability.
For comparison, Juliana tells us of a time she went to a doctor in the U.S. for her eyes, paid the $45 copay and was given a prescription for $150 eye drops. When those made things worse for her, she had to pay another $45 copay for the doctor to tell her that they didn’t work and didn’t offer many other solutions. It felt like throwing money in the trash to her.
Usually, Juliana will travel into Mexico by bus to see her family. She will buy mint (hierba buena) and chamomile (manzanilla) teas, allergy medication, antibiotics, and vitamins. She also visits the eye doctor, dentist, and general practitioners if she’s feeling sick. She trusts her family to take her to good doctors and has always had good experiences. She tries to visit her family every month or every other month to catch up and get anything she may need.
Juliana feels that the herbs are more natural, the doctors are friendlier, and the medication is stronger in Mexico, and as long as she can’t get an appointment or find a competent doctor for her needs, she will continue relying on the Mexican medical system that helps her feel better.