When out of the country on vacation, the last thing you want to think about is what to do in case of a medical emergency. After all, no one wants to think about illnesses, diseases or becoming injured at any time, but it’s an especially somber topic to consider when enjoying the beauty of a far off land or a tropical paradise. Unfortunately, emergencies can and do come about, even when you are on vacation and the better prepared you are to handle them, the smoother the whole process will go. Therefore, the professionals at AirEvac International have compiled the following pertinent information on what to do if you find yourself in the middle of a medical emergency in Mexico:
Information for United States Citizens Visiting Mexico Who Need Medical Care
The following information is brought to you by the U.S. Mission in Mexico. Keep this information in mind to better prepare for an emergency while visiting Mexico:
Most Hospitals Require Payment, Up Front
Unlike many US hospital, emergency rooms or urgent care clinics, in Mexico, if you visit a hospital, you will be expected to pay up-front for the services rendered. If you don’t have money on hand, be prepared to hand over your credit card for the medical staff to place a hold on that card in order to receive the medical care you need.
Some Insurances Won’t Cover You
If you do have to get medical care while visiting another country, you don’t have the promise that your health insurance will cover the expense. In the very best scenario, you will get reimbursed for the cost of your medical care once you are back in the United States. In many cases; however, you will be paying for the medical care you receive totally on your own. Be sure to contact your private health insurer as soon as possible to let them know about your situation in order to perpetuate reimbursement if possible.
Hospital Quality Varies Greatly and Not All Are Considered The Same Level
Going to any hospital you come across in Mexico might not be a wise idea. This is because the quality of care varies greatly. The following a breakdown of the most common types of hospitals in Mexico:
- Private Modern Medical Facilities: These facilities provide high-quality care, but you pay for it. If you think our health care rates are high in America, be warned, most private health care facilities in Mexico charge even more than American hospitals.
- Private and Public Hospitals: These facilities provide basic care. They might not be able to handle complex or life-threatening cases.
- Public Clinics: This is the place you go to get medication and other basic medical items.
What to Do If You Have a Life-Threatening Medical Emergency
Obviously, if you have a life-threatening emergency, your best bet is to leave Mexico and return to the United States at once. In order to do this, you likely need to procure the service of an air ambulance company like AirEvac International. The U.S. Embassy also maintains a 2013 list you can access, that contains several companies you can choose for this service.
Tips For Getting The Proper Billing From Hospitals In Mexico
If the worst should happen and you are hospitalized or need medical care while in Mexico, the U.S. Missions recommends you take the following steps in order to ensure proper billing:
- Contact your insurance company soon: As mentioned above, as soon as you know you will need medical care or are stabilized, call your insurance company and let them know what’s going on. Don’t assume the medical facility you are at will do this for you.
- If possible and your condition allows it, obtain a cost estimate for any procedures or treatments before you complete them.
- If hospitalized, request an itemized bill, daily.
- Be sure to express any concerns you might have with your care, billing or otherwise to the hospital administration as soon as possible.
- Contact the United States embassy if you find yourself in an unresolvable dispute over your medical care.
Know Your Right’s Within Mexican Medical Facilities
As part of the Federal General Health Law, which governs Mexican medical facilities, the medical facility located the closest is legally obligated to provide you with information, diagnosis, and medical care. They are also required to procure authorization from you the patient for any treatment. As a patient, you also have the right to consent to treatment. Medical facilities may not detain or attempt to retain a patient, their passport or even their body should death occur in order to obtain payment for medical service rendered. The patient or family members present or another legal representative are legally obligated to pay the hospital bill along with the patient’s insurance company.
Horror Stories From Mexico
While most Americans who have been hospitalized in Mexico have had acceptable experiences, there are some outliers. In these situations, U.S. citizens who have needed medical evacuations have been delayed, facilities have withheld passports and refused to provide patients with itemized lists of charges. Thankfully, in most cases, medical facilities adhere to the Federal General Health Law and do not put Americans in these horrible situations, but there are always exceptions, which is why you need to be your own advocate.
Know Your Emergency Contact Numbers
Perhaps the best way to protect yourself while out of the country is to learn important information pertaining to the U.S. Embassy. Of course, the United States Embassy is like a physical representation of America within the borders of Mexico. This site contains all the important information pertaining to the United States Embassy including their number, which is invaluable information in a medical emergency situation.