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.
Micah moved from Mexico to a southern border town in Texas during his early adulthood. He now has a wife and five children, and enjoys playing sports, spending time with his family, and being active. He is a commercial truck driver for a large supply chain company. Micah describes this job as the “good kind” that comes with great medical benefits for him and his family. He feels like he has finally hit a milestone on his way to being a successful provider and father.
He says that acquiring necessary healthcare and maintaining good health should be a satisfying—rather than unpleasant—experience. He describes his medical insurance provider as a member of his family because it is there for him in times of need. When his wife was hospitalized for three days, the insurance company paid for all of her medical expenses. He felt supported after that experience and was happy to find to have found such a great job.
Micah made sure his wife was treated by doctors in the U.S. and spent household money to make sure she could see any provider necessary. However, for his own health issues, he often put off treatment or looked for ways to avoid the copays that were adding up for doctor’s visits. Micah has had longstanding stomach issues and often experiences pain after eating. Micah can afford to see his primary care provider when he wants to, but a recent endoscopy was exceedingly expensive, and he had to set up a payment plan even after insurance was applied.
He still felt fortunate, however, because a doctor in Laredo, Texas, gave him the name of a doctor in Mexico who could assist him with further treatment for much less than his copay in the U.S. He also said this same doctor often sends his prescriptions directly to the pharmacy instead of making him come to the office for minor issues. This saves Micah the cost of a lost day of work, the copay, and the effort to coordinate a time to visit.
Micah places a high value on interpersonal connections and feels like he has a relationship with his current doctor in Laredo. This experience is new for him because his previous physician was usually too busy to see him and would often assign an assistant to his appointments. Micah also receives direction from this new doctor about which prescriptions are cheaper in the U.S. versus in Mexico. When they agree the medication is cheaper in Mexico, the doctor gives him a prescription to take across the border.
Micah now travels to Mexico twice a month to pick up his prescriptions and to check on some of his relatives. While there, he obtains headache remedies, herbal teas for stress, cold syrup, a form of aspirin, and vitamins for himself and his family. Sometimes, he noted, the first drugstore he tries does not have the medication he wants, so he walks around the corner to find a pharmacy with his medication. He never goes home empty-handed.
When she was pregnant, Micah’s wife traveled to Mexico to consult a gynecologist and to have prenatal care. She also receives dental treatment there. She believes that the care she receives in Mexico produces better outcomes than healthcare in the United States because, she notes, the doctors are more personable and considerate of the patient.
Micah said an added benefit of buying medications in Mexico was the improved effectiveness—he believes that Mexican Tylenol is usually more effective than Tylenol in the U.S., so he buys it in the pharmacy while visiting. He does not have proof that Tylenol is actually more effective but, because he perceives it to be, they continue to get it there.
He estimates that more than 75 percent of the people who live along the border in the U.S. cross it to visit a doctor because of the price, the treatment, and the improved service. He said that the care and attention that medical professionals in Mexico provide to their patients make the Mexican healthcare system exceptionally efficient. He wishes all of his health care could come from the U.S. because he lives here, but the costs add up, and he cannot afford to take away from his family any more than he has to.