Health Diaries: Margaret'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.
Margaret is a mother of 4 living in San Antonio with her husband and 3 youngest children. She waitresses and enjoys the flexibility of her schedule so she can care for her kids when needed and spend time with her new granddaughter. Her family gets their health insurance from her husband's job, and while she is thankful for it in many ways, it has made her feel uneasy when she doesn’t know what to expect with billing, and even when she knows what she needs, she still must see a doctor for a referral. It also frustrates her that it won’t cover her bone density test for menopause because she hasn’t reached the age minimum.
Maria also has had upsetting experiences with healthcare in the U.S. and feels lucky to have uncles and cousins working as dentists in Mexico. They have dental insurance but feels like the work done in Mexico is better. Her sister was having consistent gum infections and finally went to their cousin who is a dentist in Mexico where they noticed metal pieces stuck under her crown that her previous dentist from the U.S. had not attended to. Maria feels it would be silly to spend the money on a dentist in the U.S. with better quality and better prices in Mexico. She thinks it is hard to find people who are passionate about their work in the U.S.
While her children have been seeing their pediatrician in the U.S. since they were born, Maria’s other cousin is a pediatrician in Mexico, who she regularly seeks advice from to avoid the fees and referrals when her children may feel sick. She asks her cousin about medication brands and quality to gain peace of mind when taking things from Mexico or giving them to her children. If she knows her kids have an ear infection, she may skip the doctor and give them antibiotics she had stocked up on from Mexico.
Maria’s father left her and her siblings his house in Mexico, so they go around twice a year to check on it and buy and products or services they may need for themselves or their families. Along with utilizing the dentists in Mexico, Maria will buy antibiotics, inhalers for her children, pain medication, and pain ointment that she had to purchase at an animal clinic during COVID. She heard about the ointment through word of mouth from family. Maria was also raised using herbal remedies such as manzanilla, or chamomile tea for sleep but was recently talking with her neighbors at her father’s house in Mexico, and they suggested a tea for stress which she now uses as well.
Maria loves the ease and low cost of getting medications in Mexico where she doesn’t need to pay for a doctor's visit to get a prescription. At the same time, she questions the safety of these medications, which is usually why she will verify them with her cousin, the pediatrician, for advice. She also worries about bringing certain things into the U.S. and not knowing exactly what she may be bringing. She is strict about only bringing things back for family because she doesn’t want to break any laws or be a “distributer” for her friends.