Like thousands of other ex-pats, our idyllic life in Mexico came to an end when we were ordered by the government to return to the "Frozen North" – which we define as anywhere the overnight temperature is as cold as a margarita.
After a decade as a broker of international health insurance and emergency medical evacuation (medevac) services, we’ve learned some lessons and would like to pass them along before we retire to the beach and the aforementioned margarita.
Because you need health insurance to pay the local hospital and you need medevac to move you to better care in a better hospital and/or move you to a hospital back home where your care is covered by your domestic health insurance, everyone needs both health insurance and medevac coverage.
Choosing the best international health insurance plan is difficult. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions. Every one of us is unique. Your age, health history, financial condition, and how much you can afford to pay to safeguard your future will determine the coverage you can get.
Two quick points:
1. Most long-term ex-pat health insurance plans are only available for people under 65. A few plans extend the qualifying age to 74. And if you have significant preexisting conditions, qualifying for any long-term ex-pat health insurance plan is extremely doubtful.
If you find yourself unable to acquire sufficient health insurance protection, a good solution is to use travel health insurance to cover accidents and new illnesses and medevac to get you back to where your domestic health insurance will pay for catastrophic care.
Short-term international travel health insurance will cover anyone, but preexisting conditions are almost never covered and the older you get the less coverage you can purchase. Medevac coverage is very inexpensive - a buck a day or less per person and it will pay the tens of thousands of dollars of an air ambulance flight to Oaxaca, DF or Toronto.
2. Carrying a free Spanish-language In Case of Emergency card so first responders and ER docs know how to treat you and who to contact in an emergency. It could be the difference between life and death in a medical emergency and it’s free. Download the template here. We know that these two points won’t cover your every need and questions and we are determined to soak up the sun and adult beverages, but choosing the best mix of health insurance and medevac goes much easier when you have an ex-pat friend (with a lot of experience) to help so, we’re here to help until further notice.
Here’s a checklist we send to friends and family before they visit us in Mexico.
1. Prepare your Spanish-language In Case of Emergency card so that first responders and ER docs know how to treat you and who to contact in an emergency. Free ICE Card templates are available here. [Okay we know we're repeating ourselves, but this is stellar advice!]
2. Call your domestic health insurance provider and find out what they will do for you if you are seriously injured or ill in Mexico. The devil is in the details when dealing with insurance companies; you need to ask these questions: If I am hospitalized, will you pay the hospital directly? If I want a second opinion, will you pay for it? If I want to come home for treatment will you bring me and my spouse home for free? How about my pets, cars, RVs, and grandchildren?
3. If you are driving down get Mexican car insurance. [We've found AAA to offer competitive, quality coverage for Americans coming to Mexico. We ex-pats use Juan Pablo Valerio Guillen at Valerio Seguro. - email@example.com 322 297 20 49 or 322 227 48 98]
4. Check your passport. You’ll need it to return to your home country and it must be valid for the full period you are outside the country.
5. Make copies of your passport, medical, and insurance ID cards. Keep the originals safe and carry the copies with you.
6. You may need access to your money. Ask your bank if it has a relationship with a Mexican bank. Then visit that bank when you arrive.
7. Register with your consulate.
8. Don’t bring guns or medical marijuana to Mexico.
9. Bring a copy of all prescriptions for every drug you travel with and keep prescription drugs in their original containers.
11.BONUS: Buy international travel health insurance AND emergency medical evacuation (Medevac) coverage. This ought to be #1 on the list, but if I placed it first in line, you would have skipped the rest of these critical steps.
In the era of COVID, medevac might be more important than international health insurance. If you are hospitalized in Mexico and want to be flown home only a medevac plan can be relied on to take you. Almost all health insurance plans exclude coverage for pandemics. If the insurance company won’t pay a few thousand dollars for your hospitalization they sure as heck won’t pay tens of thousands of dollars to fly you home.
Feel free to share this checklist and let us know if we've overlooked anything that should be on the list.
With PV-Health.com, when a health emergency threatens to become a financial catastrophe, you can say, “RELAX. We’re Covered!”