July 3, 2022
  • July 3, 2022

Health insurance as a retired expatriate

By on May 11, 2022 0

Has anyone ever used Tricare as their primary health insurance in Mexico? If you do, let me know how it works for you. I think parts of Mexico might be a good place for my sunset years as long as I’m not in the middle of warring drug cartels. The Yucatan Peninsula? Puerto Vallarta?

Tricare is not Mexican insurance, so you cannot use it here. If you got sick and needed your insurance, I see on the Tristar website that it says you should get all medical attention before traveling as your insurance will not be valid when you leave the country. Now, if you have something special with them that isn’t so obvious on their website, that’s great. But still, let’s say you have a heart attack and you need open-heart surgery. Hundreds of thousands of dollars! No hospital will take your insurance in Mexico. You’ll have to pay your bill in full before they release you, and then you’ll have to fight the insurance company yourself for reimbursement. But just be aware that if you can’t pay out of pocket for medical care, you will be turned away in Mexico or you COULD be treated and they will hold you in the hospital until you can pay or call the police and get you Stop. Generally they want something upfront, in case of a serious medical emergency they will want 10,000 DOLLARS secured on credit cards before treatment. The number of people dying in hospital parking lots because they have no money is endless in Mexico.

So, now that I’ve pooped all over your dream. Let me give you another option. The public health system is available to foreigners who have a Mexican resident card (not a tourist card). You can pay a very minimal amount each year to buy into the healthcare system. It’s enough for an emergency, but you’ll get what you expect from a social medicine structure. Not very clean, dilapidated equipment, long waits, sleeping in the corridors because no room is available. You even have to bring your own toilet paper, pillows and sheets in many cases. Nurses don’t often watch you, they recommend that you have family members in the hospital with you at all times to take care of you, doing tasks that a nurse in the US would handle. Your family members and friends will be your nurse.

The social system will force you to pass a thorough medical examination and if there is a little thing, or a pre-existing condition of any kind, they will not accept you. So for most people who are ready to retire, this is not really a good solution because few people are without pre-existing conditions at retirement age.

I’ve been living in Mexico for about 15 years, just turned 50. I’m healthy, but at just 50, I think more about what will happen if I get seriously ill. There really aren’t any good options in Mexico except to make sure you have a good savings account to pay out of pocket. Until now, I have always paid for my health care out of pocket, it is much cheaper than in the USA. But I’m not rich, so the thought of something major happening to me is worrying, and even after 15 years of being here, I don’t really have a good plan to allay my worries, because there isn’t there aren’t many options.

My mother moved to Mexico and lived here for three years. She was paying a ridiculous amount of money on Medicare supplemental insurance, something like $400 a month. She’s on a fixed income, so I told her to cancel her health insurance because she can’t use it in Mexico, but not to consider that $400 a month as “free money,” she had to save it every month for a medical emergency in Mexico. She did not do it. After three years in Mexico, she pissed all her money every month, then she had an accident where she broke her arm. It was a cheap bill, like US$50 for x-ray and cast. But it was enough for her to remember that she was living here, that it wasn’t a vacation, and what would she do if something worse happened. She ended up returning to the United States to be protected by Medicare, as there was no other option for her in Mexico. Private insurance for quality care in Mexico for someone of retirement age is super expensive.

Hope this helps, even if it’s quite depressing