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Health Diaries: Melba'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.


Melba is a homemaker from San Antonio, Texas. She came to the United States about 19 years ago but has only had health insurance for 4 months. In Texas, Melba usually uses the community clinic as her go-to source of healthcare while her family primary care physician is in Mexico. He has been their family physician for years, before they moved to the United States. Melba would like to have a primary care physician in the U.S., but thinks the copays and deductibles are too much. When Melba feels sick, she likes to go to her physician in Mexico because she is familiar with him, she can get better quickly, and the cost is about $50 for visit and medication compared to $300-$400 in the U.S. She also sees a dentist in Mexico who is her sister’s boyfriend. She goes to Mexico about every 2 months to see her family and will try to make the most of her trip and utilize some healthcare services and products. She drives 6 hours to Monterrey with her husband and son and they stay with family.

Melba’s son suffers from seizures due to epilepsy and has a neurologist in both the U.S. and in Mexico. She decided to go to Mexico to see a neurologist about 8 months ago when she noticed the U.S. based doctor would keep upping her son’s dose without seeing any improvement in the seizures. Her son hasn’t had a seizure for 2 months after beginning the medication given to them by the neurologist in Mexico. The neurologist in the U.S. didn’t approve of the idea at first, but eventually agreed to work with them and check the medication they get in Mexico. When asked why they continue to see the neurologist in the U.S. Melba says there is an emergency medication that he provides that is not available in Mexico. She also mentions that in the U.S., her son gets a more thorough check up that includes checking his weight, blood pressure, and temperature, whereas the neurologist in Mexico doesn’t check all of that. She spends about $150 more a month to buy the medication in Mexico, but she believes it is worth it because it has finally helped with her son’s seizures. Melba schedules the next appointment after every visit with the neurologist in Mexico.

Melba mentions that in order to afford her son’s medication, she will take items to Mexico to sell at a flea market such as secondhand shoes, clothes, and toys. Aside from buying any medications for her son and that her doctor prescribes when she is sick, Melba also likes buying Paracetamol in Mexico and a natural cough syrup called Saridon. She feels these medications are stronger than medications in the U.S. In addition to her and her family’s healthcare needs, they like to hang out with their family and grab a few other items to take home with them. Some things she buys include food like meat and tortillas.

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