Reaming the pipes

As ObamaCare comes thundering down the highway above the Rio Bravo, and Death Panels prepare to push poor Aunt Lucy into the lake on a flaming canoe with flowers, I feel it’s appropriate to gloat a little, yet again.

Here’s another example of how we do it down here in the Developing World.

I’ve had some medical issues in the past weeks, and here’s how they played out and what they cost. Read it and weep, as the saying goes.

My father had colon cancer when he was about my age. That, they say, puts me into a higher risk category, so I pay attention to it, though not as much as my old mama would have liked. She’s gone now, so I do as I please.

In 1997, I got a colonoscopy in Houston. Except for the night before when you have to flush your guts, it was a piece of cake. During the procedure, I received the amnesia anesthetic, which is kinda fun. No problem was found.

I had medical insurance through my work, so I have no idea what it cost, probably somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million.

In 2004, after moving south of the border, I decided to repeat the procedure. It had been seven years. An acquaintance who had done it at my hospital in the nearby state capital said she was given full anesthesia.

I did not want to be put to sleep entirely, so I opted for the older procedure of a barium enema, which has a really nice ring to it, no?

The barium enema has a reputation of being kinda grueling. It wasn’t so bad.  But, you do have to empty your guts the night before. That’s the yucky part.

Again, no problem found.

Flash forward to now.

Down here you don’t even need a doctor’s order to get a barium enema. You can order it on your own. However, I did see my doctor first. Then I walked next door to the hospital to make an appointment for the next week, which was last week.

I did it early last Wednesday. I was told the results would be ready at 5 p.m.

But I did not pick up the results till yesterday afternoon, just before the appointment with my doctor, who is an internist, a gastroenterologist, a surgeon, a professor at the medical school and a great, soothing guy.

Again, my pipes are clean.

Total cost of the procedure, including meds to empty my intestines the night before and the doctor visit: $188 U.S. bucks. Everything. I paid cash.

* * * *

But that was not the only pipe to get inspected of late. I had an ear problem. I phoned my main man, the doctor mentioned above, for a recommendation of a ear-nose-throat specialist.

Early Monday morning, I phoned the specialist’s office to make an appointment. Can you come at noon? Why, yes, I can.

On arriving, the doctor saw me immediately. No wait at all. He was trained in the military, and there are photos on his office wall of him in uniform. Are you still in the military?  I asked. , he replied.

Military medical training here is considered the best in the country.

This specialist and my primary doctor have offices in the annex of the most modern hospital in the state capital, and their equipment is top of the line. This is not burro medicine from an old Pedro Infante film.

The specialist put a thin wand with a light and tiny videocam into both my ears, which, he discovered, needed a good flush. And he did that.


He then stuck the videocam into both nostrils and down my throat, giving me a view on the computer screen at my elbow.  Nostrils and throat were good.

I departed with open ears. Total cost of the visit, the procedure, and the ear drops for later: $43 U.S. bucks. I paid cash.

Let me know how ObamaCare plays out for you.

* * * *

(Addendum: Here’s how a barium enema works. You don one of those open-back, butt-revealing shifts everybody dislikes. You lie down on a table beneath a huge X-ray machine like in the TV show  House. A tube is stuck in your bunghole. Its tip inflates just inside you, so the tube stays put and slams the portal shut.

About half a gallon of a liquid that resembles soy milk travels from a hanging bag through the tube and fills your guts from the wrong end. You feel bloated.

You’re instructed from the other room to move your body this way and that. Six or so X-rays are taken. I wasn’t really counting. On finishing, the balloon tip’s air is released, and the tube is withdrawn with care.

You step into a bathroom, take a seat, and most of the soy milk escapes. Most.)

51 thoughts on “Reaming the pipes”

  1. This is that we’re aiming for so that many more people would be able to undergo the procedure rather than die of cancer in the richest country in the world. The death panels in the US are the insurance companies and the health industrial complex. Obama care is attempting for fix that, and while it’s not what I want (which was single payer), it’s a good start. Why should we in the US not get the same treatment at a reasonable cost like you in Mexico. I did read it and wept because I realize that there is a better way to health care than making exorbitant profits of sick people. Mexico is a good example. Your political tilt here is way off. You are partaking in something that to many people across the border is just a dream now. Mexico is a good example, and there are many more. Every human being has the right to quality health care regardless of ability to pay. It’s a basic human right.


    1. Señor Toth: Of course, the basic problem in the U.S. is the health-care industry and insurance companies. And yes, the intent of ObamaCare is to fix that. Whether it does so (and how it does it if it does it) is yet to be seen. The legislation is a towering pile of paperwork that I doubt a single soul has read in its entirety. God only knows what’s in it.

      You may be jumping from the pot into the fire. Or not. Nobody knows.

      What we have down here is a government-subsidized system for the poor folks, and it works fairly well, depending on where you are. There is waiting. There are lines. There can be a shortage of medicines. And the beds are sometimes left over from the Revolution.

      And we have a private, capitalist system for people who can afford it. My experiences that I describe here, the service and the prices, are totally part of our modern, free-enterprise system. There is no government involvement at all, which proves that good and reasonably priced medical care is absolutely doable in the free marketplace. You Gringos simply cannot do it.

      Our government system, though far cheaper even than what I paid, does not function nearly as well as our private system, not by a long shot, but the government service is better than nothing.

      The American problem is the stunningly greedy insurance industry combined with lawyers. I’m not smart enough to know how to fix it, but I remain skeptical that a government health-care system will do it well. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.

      And I will stay down here. For good.


      1. Single payer works well in many places, Mexico has a system that works for it. We’re trying to get one that works for us. We know there is a big problem. We now are embarking on a solution despite the obstruction from the far right. Don’t throw around the right wing talking points about death panels. That’s what we have now.


        1. The death panel thing was, of course, a bit of dark humor.

          And it’s not conservatives that cause your nation’s health-care problems. You’ve been reading too much HuffPost. It’s the health-care industry and insurance companies and lawyers. From what I have read recently, many of those people even voted for Obama, ironically.

          As I already said, time will tell about ObamaCare. Keep your fingers crossed.


          1. The GOP is bought and paid for by the health care industry … and every other industry. The people who voted for Obama, like myself, are not the problem. We are the solution. All 53% of us. We’ll see how Obamacare turns out, true. So, why jump on it before it has a chance to work?


  2. Basic human rights for medical care, food and housing?

    While you’re at it, let’s add jobs and a car, has absolutely nothing to do with earning or self responsibility.

    A no-win situation. Good luck.


    1. Rancho: I imagine you are reacting to Señor Toth’s assertion that health care is “a right.” I did not get into that in my reply to him, but I am with you. Lots of things that are good and desirable and sometimes even necessary in life have now become “rights.”

      I want to have good health care, and I want all others to have it. But I’m not ready to declare it a basic human right.


  3. As you know, we share a love for Mexican medical care. Proof that the free market can set prices for doctors just as it does for Fritos. Unlike many “advanced” countries that mistake health care as being free.

    The doctor who repaired my right ankle was an Army doctor. When he discovered I was retired military. he shooed the clerk away who was more interested in my credit card numbers than getting me into surgery. Apparently, the hospital had been stiffed by a number of Gringos.


    1. Steve: Yep, anybody here working in the health-care industry who was trained by the military is regarded as first-rate. Why? Got no idea, but there is probably a good reason for it.

      It disturbs me to hear that some Gringos stiffed that hospital. They should be rounded up and dumped back over the border ASAP.


    2. Nobody is mistaking health care as being free. Our current system is inefficient and being taken advantage of by the industry and insurance providers. Obamacare has already done some good and seems to be a good way to go if we cannot go single payer. The major changes will come when the exchanges go online. Making exorbitant profit on the backs of sick people should be a crime. Nobody chooses to be sick. No, health care will ever be free. We just want a better product at a more efficient cost.


      1. Señor Toth: Making exorbitant profits off sick people should be a crime, punishable with jail time.

        As for ObamaCare and the costs it will add to an already financially overloaded nation, time will tell. Keep your fingers crossed.

        Or move down here with me. Bring the family. We have a much better product than what you have now and what you will have with ObamaCare, and at a very efficient cost.

        And it’s free enterprise.


        1. Thanks for the offer, and I still have to collect on that dinner. But I think we’re on our way to fixing our system. Let’s not jump to conclusions about overload. The conservative Supreme Court and the elections determined that ObamaCare is here to stay. We now have to implement in steps. We have the means to do a lot of things well. This should not be very hard.


            1. Watch as we do it. Have some faith in this country’s ability to solve problems. We may get a little dirty in the process, but we usually get things done pretty well. 🙂


          1. Think post office vs UPS. 2600 pages in the bill kinda shouts failure. The govt will end up taking over. You will end up with govt workers running the system making more than the Doctors. It is a mess now but this will make it worse.


            1. USPS is doing fine. Good service for a good price. Again, why not hold off on writing Obamacare’s obituary from a distance before it even takes effect? Wouldn’t it be fair and balanced to just allow it to work and let’s see how it does?


    3. Steve, what you really like is cheap medical care because of the financial disparity between the US and Mexico. Enjoy the benefits. Now we have to fix the US system, which has been hijacked by greed. BTW, if you like Mexico’s health care, you’d love the ones in Canada, Western Europe, Japan … and so on.


      1. John: While I know no Japanese or Europeans (not counting you), I do know some Canadians, who are far from content with their socialized medicine. It’s common for American Lefties to point to these systems as something to mimic because they work soooo well.

        Sometimes they work well. Sometimes they do not. The primary gripe seems to be long waits for non-urgent care. Contrast that to my experiences here with Mexico’s private system. Our government system in Mexico is not nearly so well-run as our capitalist system.

        But we have the two systems, and about everybody gets care.

        In your first comment in this dust-up, you said that you did “read and weep” after learning of my recent medical experiences.

        You realize, I hope, that my experiences came 100 percent from our free-enterprise medical system. It is not government-run in the slightest, and it works great.

        Our parallel government system, which provides medical care to not only the poor but anybody who wants to sign up and pay an annual fee (or sometimes not) which, last time I checked a few years ago, was about $300. That’s yearly. Even non-citizens can join.

        We are not forced to participate in the socialized system. It’s purely voluntary, as it should be.

        What we have here, which works beautifully, is a THIRD OPTION that sits between the absolute boondoggle of America’s current health-care system and ham-fisted, socialized medicine like ObamaCare.

        During the time ObamaCare was being fought over, before it passed into law by the skin of its teeth, I was hoping a THIRD OPTION would happen.

        It did not, although some conservatives were advocating it — and ignored.

        America should look south to Mexico if it wants to see how to run a health-care system. Something to please just about everybody, and nobody is forced to do anything. It’s a free world down here.


        1. How is Obamacare socialized medicine? It exists entirely in the private sector. I heard a lot of good things about Canada, but there is good and bad with everything. Let’s just agree to see how it works out and not be judgmental before it even takes effect. We had an election, and now we’ll put it in place. No need for the right to be so aggressively negative for the sake of politics. The voters rejected that type of attitude by a large margin. Let’s just go on. You enjoy your heath care in Mexico, and we’ll keep on working to make ours better.


      2. “USPS is doing fine.”

        Are you kidding me?

        Is the way you receive your news, via the town crier? USPS is bankrupt and has serious financial issues. They were trying to cut Saturday delivery because they can’t afford to do it. Where do you get this everything is good and rosy pictures from? Do you know that the U.S. is in an economic meltdown, or has that news not made it to your hamlet?


        1. Rancho: Settle down there, old feller. Perhaps he meant to type UPS instead of USPS. Señor Toth lives in a small town like Mayberry, and maybe the U.S. Mail does work pretty good there.


        2. Better check your facts, sir. Find out why USPS has a deficit, and then check out the latest on the US economy, If you want bad news, you’ll be disappointed.


    1. Francisco: I pray for a heart attack too, just not anytime soon.

      My father had surgery for his colon cancer and lived on for about six or seven years with no recurrence. Ironically, he was in the hospital getting a checkup on the cancer situation when he had a massive heart attack and died in a nanosecond.


    1. Mark: Now stop it with that Spanish! We habla el Engleesh here.

      Rough translation: You’re killing me with these stories, amigo. I pay too much now and receive almost nothing in return from my insurance in the U.S..

      Guess what, Mark. I have no medical insurance down here. No need.

      You should move back ASAP.


  4. In Canada here…

    My dear wife broke her leg last winter.
    It resulted in a massive blood clot.
    She was treated daily in emergency.
    Same days we had to wait a while. Other days we were out in an hour.
    Our Medicare is paid for because we are no longer big earners. Our drugs are paid for after a modest $500.00 deductible for the both of us.

    My wife also has moderate skin cancer issues which are dealt with pronto! All on our Medicare.

    Señor Felipe, give this plan a chance in the USA before poopooing it. Too many people in the USA live in substandard conditions. A little social security goes a long way.

    Glad to see you got good service in Mexico.


    1. Peter: Glad to see you’re getting good service.

      As for poo-pooing ObamaCare and not giving it a chance (Toth says the same thing), nothing written here will have the slightest effect on ObamaCare, alas.


    2. PS. It may not be legitimate to compare Canada, a nation with a small and relatively uniform and responsible population, to what the United States has become. And certainly not to point to Western Europe, which was done earlier by another commenter, an area whose “social democratic” fiscal policies are swiftly sending it toward financial and social disaster and where, in the worst areas, people are even rioting in the streets.


  5. Writing here to two fellows in the list above because the thread hit the limit.

    Señor Toth: The U.S. Postal Service is “doing fine”?! Perhaps in your small town. Head up to Houston and other big cities, and see what you think. Long lines and surly employees.

    Patzman: Quite likely the government will eventually take over, but who knows?


      1. Rancho: This is not Disqus. This is the WordPress comment system, and you can limit the number of replies in a particular thread because if it goes on and on, the replies get narrower and narrower, and it’s difficult to read.

        And you don’t get cut off in mid-sentence. You just reach a point where the Reply button isn’t there.


    1. There is no problem with the USPS in Houston, everything is working as it should. Overnight deliveries from hubs to area towns, and second day deliveries farther. The price is still right. The service is very good.


      1. Señor Toth: Then things have really changed since last I stood in line some years ago in a Houston post office only to be faced at last with a surly attitude on the other end of the counter. I imagine whatever I mailed did arrive in a fairly timely manner, however.

        Our Mexican post office is far better, just like our health-care system.


  6. Had my pipes reamed about 4 months ago, total cost: zero. Loss of dignity, beyond calculation. The Canadian Health System has problems, but like regrets, too few to mention (Frankie S said so). ObamaCare will work, eventually, when the general American populous stops being afraid of something new and the common good for all overtakes greed.


  7. I am with Felipe on this one. Getting medicines and care while we lived in Mexico was simple and straight forward.

    Managed Care has wreaked havoc on the American medical system. A failed business model.

    Not sure what ObamaCare will do — just hoping it helps. I am skeptical though.


  8. Señor Toth: You amuse me. I just went back over your comments here, and they seem to be this:

    1. The Republican party is in the pocket of all major corporations.
    2. People who voted for Obama are the solution to the nation’s problems.
    3. ObamaCare will be easy to implement.
    4. The U.S. postal service is in fine shape.
    5. The U.S. economy is doing well.


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