Health Diaries: Lilia'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.
Lilia is a principal secretary at an elementary school in her hometown of San Antonio, TX. She is currently in college for business management. She has a grown daughter and a new granddaughter and has been spending more time with them recently. Unfortunately living alone can cost a lot, and it doesn’t help that she has a high-deductible health insurance plan. She rarely sees her primary care doctor because of all the hidden up-front fees of testing and referrals. She says while an OBGYN visit is covered, the lab tests which are routinely part of the visit are not and end up costing around $200. One time, she had an irregular EKG and was referred to a specialist for more testing. Unfortunately, Lilia decided not to go because she would have to take out a bank loan to pay for the tests. She finds the process of dealing with health insurance extremely frustrating.
While she has family in Mexico that she has visited since she was a little girl, she only recently started using Mexico for healthcare reasons. She mentions that a few years ago her friends were talking about how much cheaper the products and services are, so she thought she would give it a try. She normally goes for visits 3-4 times a year to see family but tries to make the best of her time and get any services or products she may need. It takes about 4 hours for her to drive to Mexico. She has gone to a family-recommended dentist and had good results fixing her chipped tooth. She appreciates the transparency and lack of hidden fees in Mexico. Once you pay, you feel better and you’re done, they won’t be sending bills and making things more complicated.
She wanted to see how much weight loss treatment would be and compared it with her friend getting a similar treatment in the U.S. Her friend pays about $150 a month, while in Mexico it would cost about $75 for 3 months. The doctor gave her samples, but she ultimately decided against it and to stick to natural methods. She enjoys buying vitamins and teas in Mexico and will often pick up arthritis medication for her mom. Other things her mom requests include iron pills and arnica, an anti-inflammatory plant that is made into creams for bruises, pain and swelling.
Unlike the experience of some other participants, Lilia was not able to bring back antibiotics from her trip to Mexico, so she sticks to the vitamins and teas. She believes the herbs are fresher and the medications are more potent in Mexico, because the U.S. uses a lot of additives in everything from vitamins to meat. She doesn’t trust the drug-pushing doctors in the U.S. and thinks they only care about the money. When asked if she would continue going to Mexico for healthcare if money were no object and she said yes. Her reason is because of the way they treat you in Mexico, with care, love, and interest. She just wishes it was easier to cross but understands why there are rules in place.