Friday, January 15, 2010

IMSS - The "Public Option" in Mexico (Days 3,4,&5)

Day 3 - Back to the German Consulate (and a gamble)
Tuesday saw us returning to the German Consulate to pick up Indra's translated and certified birth certificate.  When we had visited before, Magdalena, who helped Indra, also offered to translate and certify my birth certificate as well.  Not being German, I politely declined.  Instead I contacted several of the translators from the list provided by the U.S. Consulate, and attempted a few phone calls, but no one seemed too anxious to assist me.  So Tuesday, I decided to take Magdalena up on her offer.

Of course the "gamble" was going to be submitting a birth certificate from the U.S. bearing the official seal of Germany.  It was Magdalena who suggested that as long as it had a seal and looked official, that would suffice.  She did the translation on the spot, the consul certified it, and I left with this:

Singing, Deutschland My Deutschland, we headed home, fairly confident that the next day we'd be welcomed with open arms at the IMSS office.

Day 4 -IMSS North Office and an unpleasant surprise.

On Wednesday morning we headed back to the IMSS North intake office to present our credentials.  Alejandro, whom we had met on our first trip, recognized us and told us he hoped we weren't upset with him for making us go back and get the translated birth certificates.  Of course we weren't, we assured him.  We understand the difference between rules and those who have to enforce them.
We got our number and sat down to wait:

So we waited, eyes cast up at the flat panel screens, waiting for our number to be called.  About 45 minutes later, it was.  Window #7.  We told the man at the window what we were up to and he was confused over the fact that although we share the same address, we are not married.  He was blunting attempts by us to present our hard-earned paperwork and then his eyes brightened.  At the IMSS North office, they handle only applicants who live in Merida.  Residents of other cities in the state need to go to the IMSS South intake office.  See ya, folks.
This is another example of not relying on everything you read on the web.  In this case the information was posted, very recently, by a company in Merida which charges expatriates to assist them with such things, that either IMSS North or IMSS South office would process anyone.  Before we left, we were each given a form to list our medical histories which is also required.

 A few words about T.I.M.

If you are moving to, or planning on moving to Mexico, be prepared to roll with the punches.  By example:  Last week I took a couple of our outdoor chairs to a local carpenter for some repair work.  He assured me that they would be ready the next day. The next day came, I went back, and the chairs had not been touched.  "Tomorrow at 6 p.m.", he told me.  So the next day I went back and still the chairs were not ready.  "Tomorrow for sure", he assured me.  We went back today and they were done.  Now, in the States, such customer service would be met by red-faced, screaming anger at the least by many; at the most, it would be a trip to Judge Judy for a sarcastic tongue lashing.
But here, you learn to just look at each other and say, "T.I.M".  Translation, "This Is Mexico."  Much better for the blood pressure. 

So it was at IMSS North.

DAY 5 - IMSS South and Success!!

IMSS South was a fair distance from Progreso and, according to the map, the easiest way to get there was via the Periferico, a freeway that more or less circles the city.
If you're going, take the Calle 42 exit.  IMSS South is directly across from a very large military base.  As you approach it, there is a side street on the south side and this is where we found the office.

"Sur" meaning south.
We checked in at the reception desk, told them what we were up to, and were promptly handed another one of these:

So far, so good.  We took our seats, (which are quite comfortable, by the way) and let our gaze drift to the trusty flat panel...

Please note that the notification is in English.  Believe me when I tell you, this is the only thing you will see in English here.  Or at most government offices for that matter.  Mexico's attitude is, "You live here, learn the language!"  No coddling. bilingual nonsense here.  Difficult?  You bet.  That's why Indra and I are attending Spanish classes twice a week.
The place was crowded, just like the other office, but the efficiency is remarkable and the seating was seldom half-full.

Our number was called in about 20 minutes and we were again directed to Window 7.  Fortunately last night Indra took the time to carefully arrange all of our copied documents into two folders to facilitate things with a minimum of clutter on the counter.  At the window, the woman in charge proceeded to fire off a string of questions in Spanish and began to look at our folders.  Noticing our slack-jawed looks of confusion, she called down a young man named Israel Cantos who became our angel.  He spoke pretty good English and it turned out the same confusion over our living arrangement was causing a problem here.  He explained to the woman the situation, and in a few minutes he told me that we would each need to write a letter explaining our sharing the same address without God and the Church's blessing.  Or something to that effect.  
At this point I sarcastically blurted out, "Do they have to be notarized at the Embassy?", briefly abandoning the T.I.M. credo.  Sensing our frustration, Israel said, "I'll write them for you."  Can you believe it?  He did, the woman in charge approved them, we signed them (and a lot of other papers).  And a new form was presented.  Because Indra is listed on all the utilities, and it's her house, we had to complete a form that listed me (I'm not making this ups) as Indra's "concubino".  Yes, I am Indra's concubine, or Mexico's way of saying, "Larry is Indra's bitch." Then Israel asked us to take a seat for about 20 minutes and we'd be good to go.  It was more like an hour and a half.  T.I.M.
During this break, Indra decided to use the restrooms and came back insisting I include the following report which is deference to any women who may be reading this:  At IMSS North, there were no seats on the toilets (common here), no toilet paper and no way to dry your hands after washing them.  At IMSS South, all three were available.  Much better.
So, we people watched...

Notice the man yawning.  That sums up the waiting.
Eventually, Israel called us up to sign a few more papers and presented us with our bills for our annual fee.  My German certified, U.S. birth certificate passed the test.  T.I.M.  This fee had to be paid today by closing time at 2:00 p.m.  That gave us about 2 hours to get to the bank and return.  When dealing with government agencies you soon learn that they do not handle money.  You take their bill and pay it at any bank, they give you a receipt, and that's what you present to the agency.  Cuts down on light fingers in the till, I suppose.  Also we were told to get two copies of everything we were given.
One amazing thing was, contrary to most government offices (like immigration) copies of visas, passports, etc. are always compared to the originals.  We were not asked to show originals of anything.  Strange.

Being we were in a totally unknown (to us) part of town, finding a bank was difficult but we eventually did.  Back at the IMSS office there are copy stores across the street so we beat the deadline with 45 minutes left to spare.  Israel was glad to see us and upon getting our payment receipts, we were issued these:

This is a temporary insurance card (featuring yet another flattering photo) that we will present, along with a stack of other papers, to the clinic in Progreso on February 1.  At that time we will get our physicals and be assigned a primary physician just like an HMO.  That doctor would, if needed, refer us to any specialist we might need.
This is the IMSS clinic in Progreso on Calle 27...

So there you have it.  Like most expats here, the IMSS insurance would not be used for the everyday stuff like a case of the sniffles or a case of "Hustle and Flow" one might get from eating bad tacos.  For that stuff we go to the private clinic.  But for more serious and expensive problems, we'll go to the IMSS clinic.

More later,



9kids said...

What a great description of your IMSS inscription experience. I hope you'll document your first visit to the Progreso clinic as well ~ we have private insurance now, but are debating switching to the to hear how it goes!

Joanne said...

Wow Larry - you're a kept man!

Thanks for all the detail. One of these days we may apply for IMSS too.

Ron said...

Thank you for these posts!!!

Wonderful informative stuff

BigAssBelle said...

"Yes, I am Indra's concubine, or Mexico's way of saying, "Larry is Indra's bitch."

Tramp. :-)

Too funny. So will there be more? Are you going to carry on with the physicals? I am fascinated by this.

Larry said...

Yep, physicals are Feb. 1. Hope to get pics for a followup.

bajaJohn said...

That was an excellent post. Very informative and lots of details. I thought I was looking at a DMV waiting area here in the States when I saw that picture of the waiting area. If someone decides to retire in Mexico... they will have to go through this process.

Larry said...

One doesn't have to go through this process, it's an option for those of us who can't afford private insurance. But if you want to get on the program then yes, this is what you need to do. And it could change at any time. That's why there is so much outdated information out there.

el_toloc said...

Today, while "surfing" I came upon the last installment of your "adventure" and read it without realizing (at first) that there were 2 previous installments. By chance (and since I kept reading expats posts) I came upon installment 1 & 2 and after reading them, I re-read installment 3, and I have to say I loved it. The part I liked the most was your picture of Dick Chenney being x-rayed (never seen that picture before and it was hilarious). Anyway, that was a great (three part) post and one that leaves a lot of lessons for those interested on IMSS. Thanks for the article.

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