Last updateFri, 13 May 2016 3pm

Patients’s rights: local lawyer provides a brief primer

A recent discussion reinforced the wisdom of an old adage, “Learning about living in Mexico is like peeling an onion. Just when you think you are done, you realize there’s another layer.”


The conversation with Chapala attorney Spencer McMullen centered on the rights of hospitalized patients. Some of the information blew popular myths and urban legends to bits. The cautionary tales and suggestions he related can help keep expats aware and prepared for hospital rules and regulations.

McMullen suggests that eventual hospitalization requires as much thought and planning as any other facet of life. Area residents should begin by reading their insurance policies and checking the following facts:

  • Is the policy paid and current?
  • Are the policy holder’s name and address correct?
  • Does this policy specify the use of certain hospitals?
  • Which hospitals can the policy holder use?
  • Does the insurance pay the hospital outright, or reimburse the patient?
  • Is there a dollar or peso cap per year, per incident or in total?
  • What is the deductible or patient co-pay? How or when is it paid?
  • Is the deductible paid per incident, or per year?

With this information in mind, expats next need to create a hospitalization contingency plan with the doctor, family members or friends and the advice of their attorney. This group of concerned individuals needs to be in agreement as to which hospitals will be used, and for what services – well in advance of the need, and how the bills will be paid. It’s wise to also review the medical portion of car insurance at this time to see if it requires the use of specific hospitals. In the case of a car accident it may be possible for a patient to be admitted to one hospital that is recognized by both insurance policies. This might give the patient the opportunity to exceed the limit allowed by the car insurance without being moved to another hospital recognized by the health insurance.

“The admission requests of area hospitals,” said McMullen, “may sound like hard core requirements. But according to the law, patients do not have to pay before being admitted to a hospital, they do not have to sign paperwork which has blanks for the amount owed, or the interest rate which will be charged.

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