Health Diaries: Mark'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.
Mark is a 50-year-old IT professional and lives with his partner of 15 years. Between them they have 5 grown children with 3 grandkids. He feels his healthcare is far too expensive and his insurance plan options have seemed to have gotten worse even with 30 years working at his company and moving up to management. He pays out of pocket for his medications and has a high deductible plan that he never meets, even while taking medication and seeing the doctor regularly. It feels like he doesn’t have insurance, but he knows it’s there in case something catastrophic happens.
In his pastime, Mark likes to ride with his motorcycle group, and they typically take the scenic route to a town about 2 hours from him to cross into Mexico. They don’t like to take their motorcycles into Mexico, so they park first then cross the border where they are greeted by shops, doctors, pharmacies, restaurants, and nail salons. They always start with lunch at their favorite restaurant then make the most of their trip by getting medications, groceries, or alcohol for cheap at the plaza next door to bring back with them.
Recently Mark needed his prescription put into special glasses for riding. After trying to use his insurance, coupons, and searching online, he couldn’t find anywhere that would put his prescription in for cheaper than $400. Finally, after buying the glasses he wanted in the U.S., he went to Mexico, and they put his prescription in for about $90. His friends have gotten their nails done, visited the pharmacy, gotten medications for their friends who can’t afford them, and much more.
Mark grew up crossing to Mexico with his grandmother where she would stock up on cigarettes, antibiotics, and get her checkups at the doctor. He sees this as a cultural thing that the community shares. Mark continues the tradition of stocking up on antibiotics and inhalers for his kids who have recently aged out of their insurance coverage. His children now go to urgent care then pick up whatever they prescriptions they need in Mexico to avoid paying out of pocket prices. They get them quickly and for much cheaper than they would in the U.S. While Mark has tried to remain consistent with using U.S. doctors for his kids, he will sometimes see the doctor in Mexico in a pinch, since he can get a checkup and pay for meds in one stop and for about $25 compared to $500. Other than that, Mark puts a lot of importance on a consistent medical record to manage his diabetes and high blood pressure. He has been loyal to his doctor for 10 years and before his previous doctor moved, he was with him for 12 years.
In terms of dental, his kids have always utilized Mexico for dental treatments such as Invisalign which they could not afford in the U.S. Mark has good dental and mainly uses the U.S. for his dental. Marks decisions for where to get his care are mainly financial. He says there is no tradeoff in the doctors or the medications in Mexico and he trusts the doctors in both countries. The only thing he has noticed is that his glasses were a bit thicker than he would like, but admits this tradeoff is worth the lower price. He feels safe going to Mexico and the only thing that would really stop him from going would be the time it takes to drive there.