December means medical checkup

lab
This is my wonderful lab.

WHEN I WINGED south over the Rio Bravo way back in the Dark Ages, I had the hysterical healthcare mentality of a typical Gringo.

Live without health insurance? Why, that would be sheer madness, so I purchased coverage with a system called IMSS. If memory serves, it was the peso equivalent of about 300 U.S. bucks for a year of full coverage. But after that first year, I knew better and did not renew.

One must go to an IMSS clinic, and I didn’t want to. They’re dicey.

Health insurance? Who needs health insurance? Pick your own excellent doctor and pay cash or yank out your debit or credit card.

After marrying in 2002, my child bride talked me into getting a complete checkup in 2004 at the Star Medica Hospital in the state capital. I repeated the process in 2007. In 2013, I decided on a simpler approach.

Every December I pick a day and head to the outpost of a lab downtown at 8 a.m., and I get my cholesterol, blood sugar, triglycerides and poop tested. The last I hand over with some cute comment. On some years — not all — I get an EKG and chest X-rays. I do those elsewhere. The first in a doctor’s office ($25 U.S.), and the second ($16 U.S.) in a different lab.

I skipped those this year because I did them last year.

After the pretty nurse takes my blood and poop sample, I head home where I arrive by 8:30 — there’s rarely any wait at the lab because I get there when it opens — and I dine on a nice, warm croissant accompanied by hot café Americano negro and a beautiful woman.

In the afternoon of the same day, I return to the lab to pick up the results. Yes, same-day service and, of course, there was no physician’s referral required. Charge: $27. Now that’s healthcare for you.

That all took place yesterday.

How you folks lovin’ that ObamaCare?

This year’s results: I’m in tiptop condition.

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.