Die-hard habits

MOVING TO another country doesn’t mean you leave your habits behind. Some of those habits are good, others less so.

One example is the American habit of medical insurance. The necessity of having coverage is ingrained into the Gringos, and I was no exception when I moved south in 2000. Almost immediately, I bought coverage from a Mexican government provider that goes by its initials IMSS.

The annual premium for major medical was the peso equivalent of about $350. There is an IMSS clinic/hospital here on the mountaintop. After a year, I had begun to lose the Gringo medical insurance habit because I’d seen how relatively inexpensive private healthcare was, plus I’d noticed the crowded conditions at the IMSS clinic.

I knew I would never use it.

stock-footage-mexico-detail-of-waving-flagDuring that year, I’d had some routine health issues, but I had not gone to the IMSS clinic, which would have been free. I went to private doctors and paid out-of-pocket. When it was time to renew the IMSS coverage, I let it lapse, and I’ve been uninsured since.*

But today’s topic is not the superlative Mexican medical system. It’s die-hard habits. My health-coverage obsession 15 years ago is an example. Another is the U.S. passport. Mine will expire soon.

Coincidentally, both my Mexican passport and U.S. passport expire next year, the former in February, the latter in May. Both were issued for 10 years. There will be no waffling on renewing the Mexican passport. That’s a no-brainer, and it’s not that difficult to do.

A decade ago I got my first Mexican passport in an office in the old Colonial center of the state capital. The system was good, but the offices were cramped and jam-packed with people, most no doubt dreaming of visiting America. That was not my dream. It was my past.

Those offices have moved out of downtown and into a large space in a strip mall, eliminating the previous, cramped conditions. My wife renewed her passport in those new offices a few years ago, and I was impressed with its well-oiled efficiency. You make an appointment online, and you leave after a few hours with fresh passport in hand.

The last time I renewed my U.S. passport, I went to the bunkered Embassy in Mexico City. Once I penetrated the building the process went smoothly. The passport was express-mailed to me weeks later.

us flagThis time, however, I would do it at the U.S. Consulate in San Miguel de Allende about 140 miles away. I don’t know if that option was available 10 years ago. I’ve only been to that office once, to get something notarized, and I had to wait in a long, slow line.

From what I’ve been told, processing takes five weeks (Compare to Mexico’s passport process of one day.) and I’d have to return to San Miguel, or they would express-mail it to me at a higher cost.

But I face a dilemma: Why do I need a U.S. passport? I have not been in the United States since early 2009. I doubt I will ever set foot there again. I have a Mexican passport that will get me anywhere a U.S. passport will — with the sole exception of the United States.

And here we encounter a die-hard habit. I likely will renew it even though I know it’s a total waste of time and money. But I promise one thing. It will be the last renewal, one way or the other.

* * * *

* Not quite true. About three years ago, at my wife’s insistence, we enrolled in another government healthcare system named Seguro Popular (Popular Insurance). It is totally free, zero co-pay, but I cannot imagine ever using it either for the same reasons I balked at IMSS.

We’d have to be dead broke.

22 thoughts on “Die-hard habits”

    1. PS: Thanks for the link. There’s another link on that page to make an appointment online for San Miguel. Should simplify matters, and one wants totally unnecessary chores to be as simple as possible.

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    1. Bliss: Being a Mexican citizen with no intention of setting foot in the U.S. again, I can’t imagine when I would need anything for a U.S. ID. Since becoming a citizen a decade back, I’ve never been asked for a U.S. ID down here. Not even once.

      I have Mexican IDs a’plenty. Passport, driver’s license, voter ID with color photo.

      You’re welcome for your passport reminder. Don’t you take advantage of the incredible utility of online calendars? I could not live without one. Actually, I use two, one is backup. I never forget anything at all.

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  1. Speaking of passports and the whole immigration bundle of complexities, we are on an extended cruise which will port in several countries. I can’t remember, at this time about two weeks in, the number of customs and immigration forms we’ve had to complete. Sometimes the same one more than once cruising over boundaries so finely defined that one could spit the distance from one to the other.

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    1. Carole: Yes, I remember you’re a’cruising. Lucky you. Well, I guess so. I’ve never been on a cruise nor had much desire to be on one, but I know others really love them.

      As for those national boundaries, wherever they are, they should be respected even if they’re not where we wish them to be.

      Enjoy the rest of your trip.

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      1. We are docking in San Diego tomorrow, this leg having left Vancouver, we, along with all non-US citizens must be cleared by US immigration and customs, again, whether we get off the ship or not. We’ve done San Diego before so we were going to sleep in. You should take M on a cruise. She would probably love it.

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  2. Felipe,
    Aren’t you covered by U.S. Medicare? As I remember, you do collect Social Security. Medicare would be a good backup in case of some extremely expensive severe ailment. Of course it would necessitate a trip north of the Rio Bravo. (Houston has some of the best medical care in the world.) In which case, a U.S. passport might come in handy.

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    1. Larry: When I turned 65, they sent me a letter. Seems one is automatically installed in Medicare Basic. Then there are other add-ons you can choose and pay for. I just ignored it all. I would not go to the U.S. for healthcare.

      Some years ago a relative told me of a friend who had a serious problem that required brain surgery, literally. It was a challenge to find someone in the area who did that sort of thing. After a good bit of investigating, a surgeon was chosen who had studied in both Mexico and Europe and practiced in the nearby state capital. That doctor did the work and the problem was solved. The entire process cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $15,000 U.S.

      That, of course, is not chump change. Nor is it the many tens of thousands or a million dollars such a thing would cost in the U.S. It’s the price of a good used car. If I had to buy a good used car, I could easily do so. I’ll stick to Mexico.

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  3. “We’d have to be dead broke.” To quote John Bradford, “there but for the grace of God goes John Bradford” as a fellow prisoner was being lead to his execution. You just never know, Don Felipe, what the future holds for each of us.

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    1. P.S.: A Gringo I know hereabouts told me a few years ago that he has a private healthcare policy that even includes medical evacuation to the U.S. It runs him about $2,500 a year. I always chuckle at the notion of medical evacuation to the U.S. as if Mexico is Upper Volta, Congo or something of that sort. Ridiculous.

      Had I done such a thing over the 15+ years I’ve lived here, I would have paid out over $37,000 by now, far more than the cost of the unlikely brain surgery I mentioned in a previous comment. There are few certain things in this world. Much is a gamble. I have chosen not to wrap myself in a Linus blanket, and I’ve been correct so far.

      That $37,000 has been drawing interest, and will far more than pay in Mexico for whatever unlikely catastrophic health issue that may appear at this point.

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  4. I didn’t carry health insurance when I lived in Honduras. Good quality care was always available at modest prices. However, I was going to join a group plan comprised of non-profit and missionaries who shared a great plan if I had stayed on a permanent visa. Now, I have insurance in the US but I am going to switch to an Obamacare plan soon as it’s the only affordable option for me that I can foresee.

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    1. Laurie: Not having health coverage of some sort in the U.S. is insane. But Mexico, and it seems Honduras, show there is a better, less pricey way. The U.S. situation is out of control, alas.

      Stay healthy, señorita.

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  5. Government “fixes” things until they are broken. Obamacare will finish US healthcare off. We have Unaffordable care also known as Obamadontcare Insurance.

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