Gone were the glory days of my Teamster medical and dental plan. No matter which way the HealthCare pendulum would swing in the future it was clear I still had to fend for myself and that’s the long and the short of it all, lock stock and tomahawk. Other programs I’ve been in line to receive dental care were stagnant and by the time my turn came I would already be landfill pushing up daisies or Soylent Green. I had to come up with a plan since dumping $6,000 to $35,000 on implants, partials or other financially crippling solutions were out of the question. After all, I’m a journalist not Warren Buffet or Chris Dodd. Then one day I read an article about Medical Tourism.
Holy cow, the more I read the more I realized this had already evolved in to a lucrative enterprise. There were health clubs, Medical Tour Travel Agents, books, charts and even Medical Tourism corporations. Just like prescription drug and the health care debacle, there were already a bazillion middle men waiting to fleece you down whence you decided to “save” a few bucks and seek out affordable healthcare. After I greased all the eager palms I would still be dumping some major cash for my efforts and that totally sucked, for me anyway. I really can’t say these groups were all that bad for those who could afford them. It’s just that I was not one of those people who could afford the luxury I guess. So I decided to find my own dentist and cut out all the middle men. Besides it gave me something to write about that did not involve current politics. Believe me I am struggling to keep that part out of this story, holay!
I soon discovered that many of my friends have already spirited away to some foreign land for a myriad of medical procedures including dental care. Voila, I hit pay dirt and I began to write down names, numbers and countries where these “affordable” dentists were. There was a doctor in Uruguay who did dental implants, dentures and also had a side job of smuggling guns around South America, hmm. Then there was the dentist in Thailand who did remarkable work but with airfare, hotels, transportation and the cost of his work there was little savings if any at all. Add the fact Thailand is in the midst of revolution, Thanks but no thanks. I could stay home and be robbed without having to dodge bullets or be blown to smithereens in a drive by bombing. Umm, guess that would depend on which city I was in eh. At the very least my relations would not have to pay to ship my corpse back from Thailand anyway. Geeze, moving right along……….
A pal told me about his dentist in Juarez Mexico across from El Paso Texas. But when I learned about the box of decapitated heads down the street from the dentists office I was less than excited. Enter Nuevo Laredo, the recent murder of US Consulate employee’s and the most recent blood bath they just had, I’ll pass eh. There were other dentists that did not place me in mortal danger but they had some shaky credentials like the guy who was cheap enough but he required me to visit his office located down a dingy alley for consultations, asked for gas money then referred me to his cousin the dental “surgeon” and car upholsterer. Oh boy, let me rush. I was bemused by the “roving” dentist who traveled around in a dilapidated bus filled with jars of old teeth and played Led Zeppelin constantly. And if I was lucky I could possibly find him parked at a truck stop somewhere outside of Saint Louis MO. and puff some “medical” marijuana. My selections went down hill from there. Really, I don’t mind Led Zeppelin but I had visions of him blazing on acid while becoming one with my mouth, singing “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. A dentist with kaleidoscope eyes?
With such a wide variety of dentists to choose from I finally had to narrow down my prospects. I know it was tough but I had to eliminate a few from my list. Regardless of the country they did business in I had to make sure there was no communications issue, pending wars and they were members of this planet. They had to have an office with some semblance of hygiene and sanitation. I did not enjoy the idea of sitting on an old orange crate in a back alley with flies buzzing all around while some dude with dirty finger nails poked around in my mouth. Sorry, call me old fashion. Accreditation and certifications from a real dental school was an important part in making my selections. I also did some research on the finalists to make sure they were not on parole for killing their patients and they did not get their diploma from some mail order catalogue like the head of the California Air Resources Board did. I found that troublesome for some reason. The finalists all showed some promise to me. They all had legitimate verifiable credentials and spiffy offices. Some were more expensive and others were less expensive. There was no question these dentists were very good and well qualified.
My final choice was a dentist in Cuidad Acuna Mexico, just across the border from Del Rio Texas, *Dr. J.A. Ortiz Ramon D.D.S. He spoke fluent English, excellent professional staff and a very immaculate office with plenty of safe parking outside. There were no bullet holes on or around the building and his office was nestled in a quaint neighborhood. His credentials were just as impressive and he was a member of the American Dental Association as well as a member of the Chamber of Commerce in Del Rio Texas. Knowing previous patients also tipped the scales in my selection process. After a consultation we set the date for my dental adventure. I decided to stay in Del Rio Texas at one of the many motels that were available. It was a very nice town and not a stereotypical border town. Plenty of dining, quality motels and for UFO buffs this was also known as the “second Roswell”. Besides, food pornographer Anthony Bourdain (Travel Channel) began a culinary adventure in Del Rio and that made the town more appetizing for some ungodly reason. Cuidad Acuna was a very nice place as well.
Day 1, my appointment was at 8 am and I was there with bells on. There was no waiting and I was whisked to a room where his staff was waiting. Dr. Ortiz was very clear as to the procedures I was about to go through. He and his staff got busy and within an hour or so the initial phase of my dental work was done. It was already known I would spend three days since I had several things that needed to be done to my dilapidated mouth. That is why it is most important that you book a quality room with a pool and lounge. Since I was done by mid morning, lounging by the pool was a convenient and relaxing end to my first day. The second day began in the late afternoon and lasted a few hours or so. The dental staff was very attentive and I did not feel a thing during my extractions. There was no deadening of the sound though. It sounded like rubber rubbing on rubber. I was fitted, measured and refitted on the spot since Dr. Ortiz does all his own work on location. The third day was a snap since all he did was check how my fit was and made the adjustments according to my comfort. Then to my joy Dr. Ortiz informed me that his work was guaranteed and if I had any problems before my 1 year adjustment to come back free of charge at any time. That was a first.
For some people it would seem inconvenient to drive down to Mexico for an adjustment but for me this was perfect since I got $6,500 worth of dental work for the price of 2 and ¼ extractions. I saved $6,000 at the very least so I could find the time to drive to Mexico if I had any problems. It’s better than a week now, I am chewing on soft bone and gnawing on ribs though I had to learn how to eat with teeth in my mouth again. The great part of it all is the fact I can actually taste my food again. I did not realize how my old choppers tainted the taste of everything I drank or ate. Maybe I could have gotten implants for about $2,000 a piece like some people have suggested. False teeth may not be your cup of tea and if you can afford better, more power to yea. For this country bumpkin my $445 dental job improved the quality of my life without forcing me to mortgage my home in the process. And though Medical Tourism may not be for everybody there are some people who would benefit from this adventure so I guess this story is for you.
Medical Tourism has become an affordable alternative to some very costly and lifesaving medical procedures. There are some very renowned doctors who practice at a fraction of the cost of their American counterparts. If your healthcare provider can afford or cover it in the states, go for it. If you have an emergency go to the emergency room. But if you have the time and don’t have two food stamps to rub together make sure you have a passport handy since it is now the law of the land. You might be able to leave the good ole USA but getting back in will be a major problem if you don’t have one. You might end up re-enacting the final scene in the movie staring Cheech Marin “Born in East L.A.” and hooking up with coyotes or human smugglers, that would not be cool.
One more thing, if you did not want to drive into Mexico there is a border taxi service available. They have a secured compound to park your car in while you are in Mexico but keep your cool stuff in the motel safe, just in case, capice?. They shuttle patients to and from Doctor Ortiz’s office all the time. Just tell them you want to go to Dr. Ortiz’s clinic and they will do the rest. It costs $20 each way, not a bad price for the squeamish who fear driving in a third world country. LOL, the traffic is just like downtown Bangkok Thailand. Its every man for himself so make sure your auto insurance covers foreign countries if you do drive.
* Dr. J.A. Ortiz Ramon D.D.S.
Hidealgo y A. Serdain
Cd. Acuna, Coah., Mexico 26000
01-152 (877) 772-5595
Your Devil’s Advocate