I live in Mexico, I have three children, and I can honestly say I’m truly glad I gave birth in this country. Do you know what my out-of-pocket expenses were for every birth? Zero. That’s right. Keep reading to know how this is possible.
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Mexico is generally thought of as an underdeveloped country, with no social safety net. But as always, the truth is completely different.
In fact, Mexico does have a social safety net, which includes universal health coverage. You read that right. In Mexico, health care is a right, not a privilege.
In Mexico, women have affordable access to birth control, maternal care, and medical insurance for their children. Working mothers can even get paid maternity leave. Surprising, isn’t it?
Personally, I’m a poster mom for maternal care in Mexico. My story is a positive example of the kind of care that all mothers should receive, no matter where they’re from.
My personal experience with maternal care in Mexico
The first time I got pregnant, I was 22 years old. I was a college student at the time, but I got my first surprise. My student insurance covered basic maternal care, including consults with an ob-gyn and prenatal vitamins.
By the time my baby was born, my husband had acquired employer’s insurance, which fully covered childbirth.
And it was no easy birth! My son baby was born at 28 weeks, and he ended up staying in the NICU for two months. But guess what? Insurance covered all of it- specialists, intensive care, oxygen, therapy, monitors, medication, labs, everything you can think of.
When our baby was finally able to leave the hospital, my husband and I didn’t worry about paying the bills. Insurance covered everything, we didn’t pay a cent. We’re still whole-heartedly grateful for this. You have no idea how much.
A few years later, I found out I was pregnant again. My husband and I were elated, until the day I woke up in a pool of blood. I was rushed to the ER at my local hospital. I had a miscarriage which required minor surgery and a hospital stay, and it cost me nothing. Not a cent. And I also got 7 days of paid leave from work.
The second time I got pregnant, I was a working mom. I was teaching full-time at a private university and I had my own employer’s insurance.
This insurance covered everything, and it also gave me paid maternity leave. This usually comes in effect 40 days before the due date. All I had to do was attend regular doctor’s appointments.
Unfortunately, childbirth was difficult again. One day, I was having breakfast with my family when I suddenly found myself standing in a pool of my own blood. My husband rushed me to the ER and I ended up staying in the hospital for almost a week before my second baby was born.
I had a condition called placenta previa, which carries the risk of massive hemorrhage during pregnancy and birth. I remained in the hospital, had labs done, and eventually, I was rushed into an emergency C-section. My baby and I needed intensive care for a full day. I received multiple medications, a blood transfusion, and oxygen. Fortunately, we both turned out fine and we were able to go home a few days later.
Do you know how much that cost me? Nothing. And I also got six weeks of paid maternity leave after childbirth.
I got pregnant with my third baby when I was working as a freelance English instructor. By then, my husband had become an academic in a public university and he had federal employer’s insurance which still covers our entire family.
I had a risk pregnancy due to my previous miscarriage and C-section. We were perfectly able to afford a private ob-gyn, but when my water broke my husband rushed me to our corresponding public hospital’s ER.
My baby was breech, so I had another C-section. I also requested to have my tubes tied, no questions asked. And do you know how much we paid for that? Absolutely nothing.
I have to admit that if it weren’t for Mexican employer’s insurance, my family wouldn’t be what it is today.
Women’s Health Care in Mexico
In Mexico, employer’s insurance is known as IMSS (Mexican Institute of Social Security) or ISSSTE (Institute of Social Security for State Employees). Both cover absolutely everything, from minor colds to maternal health care to catastrophic illnesses to organ transplants.
In 2003, the Mexican Congress passed a law which made health insurance a right and created the Seguro Popular (People’s Insurance. This covers the rest of the population that doesn’t have employer’s insurance. In less than a decade, Mexico officially achieved universal health coverage.
This coverage includes reproductive health as well as maternal and newborn health care. It also includes paid maternity leave for working mothers.
From personal experience, I can tell you it was easy to get an IUD from my employer’s insurance. It also covered childbirth, paid maternity leave, labs, doctor’s appointments, consultations with specialists, ultrasounds, medications, hospitalization, and emergency services for me and my baby. There were no out-of-pocket expenses.
There’s no way I can ever be grateful enough for this kind of coverage.
How Health Care Works in Mexico
In theory, Mexican employers must award medical insurance to all their employees. Every month, a certain amount gets taken out of paychecks to pay for employer’s insurance. How much gets taken out depends on a worker’s salary, but the benefits are all the same.
In the case of the Seguro Popular (People’s Insurance), each family must pay a premium, and the cost depends on the family income. It can be anywhere between zero and the equivalent of $570 US dollars every year. It’s actually very affordable.
You could say all the citizens of Mexico are all paying for each other’s health insurance, but as a taxpayer, I say this is something worth paying for.
Health Care Challenges in Mexico
Of course, not everything is perfect. There are many challenges that Mexico faces when it comes to health care.
There are many remote areas which are lacking in hospitals, medical staff, and equipment. Also, even heavily subsidized health plans are unaffordable to the poorest parts of the population.
Most of the time, indigenous people are left out of the system. They usually live in remote areas and it’s difficult to make adequate health care available to them.
Also, there’s already a shortage of qualified doctors and specialists. Many politicians promise to build new hospitals, but it’s all useless if there aren’t enough doctors and nurses available to staff them.
Finally, not all employers offer access to health insurance. Nowadays, many companies don’t work inside the system and therefore don’t insure their employees because it saves them taxes. Many poor and unskilled workers have to settle for jobs that don’t provide medical insurance.
My Two Cents on Health Insurance
In my opinion, every country should make health care a priority.
As American lawmakers and citizens engage in heated debate, I’ve heard all sorts of opinions. Some people claim they shouldn’t have to pay for anyone else’s “bad decisions”, and others believe it’s a shame American mothers don’t have access to affordable health care.
Fortunately, here in Mexico, everyone agrees healthcare should be a right, not a privilege.
Of course, Mexican health insurance is heavily subsidized. It wouldn’t be possible to do it otherwise. But what is the problem with that?
In my opinion, health care, and especially maternal care should be a priority for any government because the future of its population is at stake. In the long run, it’s better to invest in health care than to take care of millions of people who went bankrupt from hospital bills or who are too sick to work.
What about disease prevention? We have that covered too. All three of Mexico’s insurance institutions cover the costs of prevention, such as vaccines for children, reproductive health for women, and weight control for the obese.
In short, I believe health care paves the way for prosperity in the long run. A healthy population is a more productive population. I would give a bigger chunk of my taxes to pay for health care if I could.
Because the truth is if the Mexican health care system were different, at least two of my babies wouldn’t be alive today. Perhaps I wouldn’t be alive today.
So if you must, fight for better health care. It’s one of life’s most basic needs.