Here we go again! If you haven’t read the first four posts of It’s Complicated, the Coles Notes version is that it describes the process I went through in order to obtain government health insurance here in Mexico. Back in Guadalajara, I was privileged to have Pedro Sanchez Bello among my students. Pedro is an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in knee replacements. And yours truly had just had two of these procedures in Canada before returning to Mexico. Needless to say, there was an immediate connection.
When I told Pedro about the problems I was having obtaining social security, he insisted on accompanying me to the IMSS office to assist me. I was totally blown away by this generous offer, especially when it evolved into a two day adventure. This incredible man took two full days off of work to help me, and even came to the bank with me to pay the fees. I am truly blessed to have a friend like this in my life.
But I no longer live in Guadalajara. I have now moved to Mazatlan. This morning I went to the administration offices of IMSS on the malecon. I thought it would be a simple procedure of this is my old address and this is my new address! Que oso! This is Mexico.
I breathed a sigh of relief when my name showed up on the computer. I presented my utility bill with my new address. Luckily one of the staff spoke English and was able to explain everything to me. I was informed that I had to attend a different clinic due to the colonia I lived in. If I wanted to attend the clinic linked with the administration offices, I had to borrow a utility bill from someone who lives in this area. Otherwise I would have to go to the other clinic.
Ok, so I need to go to the other location. Not a problem. Easily doable on another day. But the staff went on to explain that I would be best advised to borrow a utility bill and attend this clinic. Their reasoning was that fewer people come to this clinic so the care is better.
Fascinating! Basically I want IMSS in place in case of an emergency. And I am still covered for that even though I haven’t changed my address.
Now I have a new dilemma. Do I borrow a utility bill and attend the clinic on the malecon? Or do I register at the other clinic? Decisions, decisions………….
I thanked the staff for the their assistance and walked across the street to the beach. Ah, the comfort of the music of the waves and the feel of the hot sand beneath my feet.
I have faced a few challenges this past year. And four of them have something in common. They all begin with the letter “I”.
First came INM. Mounds of paperwork and unnecessary photocopies, redundant photos and fingerprints, and several visits to Migracion here in Guadalajara as well as a visit to the Mexican Consulate in McAllen, Texas.
Several months later, I was the proud recipient of a residente temporal tarjeta. But that was only the beginning!
Next it was time to apply for health insurance. What? That long complicated number on the tarjeta is not my CURP number? I need another number? Of course! More photocopies and photos! And then I magically receive this number on the internet days later.
On to IMSS. CURP number, documents translated from English into Spanish, photocopies, photos, malfunctioning computers in government offices…….. I think that about covers it.
If you want to read more about these experiences, check some of my past blog posts. The “It’s Complicated” series address the health insurance issue. “Finally” deals with the visa process.
In Mexico you can apply for an INAPAM card when you reach the age of sixty. This card entitles you to a variety of discounts, the main one being transportation for me. And they even gave me a new name on this card! And it has a lovely (not) photo of me as well as a fingerprint. By the way Kyle, your name and phone number appear on this card as an emergency contact. Please don’t change your number. I don’t want to go through this ordeal again either anytime soon. Too much paperwork and translated documentation. Oh, and thank you for being my number one son!
The fourth hurdle is the IRS in the USA. I have published two books with an American company. But I am a Canadian, a foreign author. Changes in legislation necessitate that I apply for a tax number or my publisher will withhold a ridiculously high percentage of royalties. A nuisance, but no problem. The form is completed and then submitted.
Weeks later I receive a letter informing me that they require additional information confirming my identity as a Canadian citizen. The two pieces of identification must contain photos. And they request original documents. No photocopies for this country. And the documents are my passport and my driver’s license.
So here I am living in Guadalajara and they expect me to forward these original documents to them. Anyone who lives in Mexico will clearly understand how ludicrous an idea this is!
The letter also provided a phone number in the contact info. But it’s Friday! Apparently the weekend starts early in Austin, Texas. Oh well, there’s always Monday………..
I arrive at IMMS Clinic 39 at 6:50 am. Hundreds of people mill about waiting for the doors to open. Nearby vendors are selling atole, pan and tamales. But that will have to wait. I am fasting for this blood test.
The doors open and I follow the crowd to the stairs. This time I don’t even attempt to check the elevator to see if it’s working. Miraculously there are only two people ahead of me at the lab. The clerk asks for my card. I tell her that I don’t have a card yet. That will come after the blood test. She shrugs her shoulders, takes my requisition and motions me over to a woman at a table with a multitude of tiny test tubes for urine samples. I’m prepared for this one. Pedro gave me the vocabulary and I purchased a “real” specimen container at the pharmacy, not like the test tube pictured below.
“What? You want me to transfer my sample to this tiny test tube and bring it back to you?” I ask incredulously. So off I go to the bathroom to perform this ridiculous task. When I return to the table, she takes the test tube from me and discards the remainder of the sample I had brought in. She then points to Puerta 2 where I need to go for the blood test. I walk into a room with about a half a dozen desks with technicians. I am taken immediately and Winnipeg technicians can learn from these Mexicans. I didn’t feel the needle go in at all, and there is not even a hint of a bruise.
Now it is time to get my card. Up the stairs I go to Ventanilla 3. What? It doesn’t open until 8 am? OK. I head downstairs to the street and get an atole and a pan. I then trudge back up the two flights of stairs. At 7:55 staff arrive and I am the first at the window. Everyone else in the waiting area flocked to Ventanillas 2 and 4.
Oh, we don’t need any photocopies. My passport, an original utility bill, my social security number and a photo will suffice. I am then given an identification paper with my photo stapled to it. I ask her if she needs to stamp the document that Oscar gave me at the other IMSS administration building. She says it isn’t necessary. Oh oh! Oscar will not be happy. He is expecting me to come back with a stamped document. And here at the clinic they tell me I don’t need to go back to see Oscar. Who to believe?????
So what do I do next? How do I find out the results of the lab work? Back I go to the director’s office. So apparently I need to go to Desk 10 which is only one more flight upstairs. And my identification paper is now stapled into a nifty little booklet with a horrendous amount of new Spanish vocabulary for me to master. After much discussion, I am given an appointment to come in to see a doctor on December 19th.
I guess if anything is terribly wrong I will be contacted before that. After all, they have my phone number. Yikes! I better head to Oxxo to put some credits on it! And I had better find that damn Blackberry! I usually use my iPhone for What’s App or Facebook that work off of WiFi. Maybe it’s time to ditch the Blackberry and get that iPhone unlocked…………..