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My Medical Experience in Merida

On April 17, 2011, I was admitted to Star Medica Hospital in Merida to undergo surgery to repair a very large hiatal hernia. The procedure known as Nissen Fundoplication was performed laparoscopically by Dr. Jose Luis Araujo Barrera. My surgery, hospital stay, pre-operative tests, lab work, medical consultations, recommendations, post-operative care and recovery have been nothing short of phenomenal, far exceeding my expectations. This is due, in no small part,to the talented hands and skills of my excellent surgeon, Dr. Araujo.


First, a little bit about me. My name is Carol Ann Elliott. I am a 66-year-old expatriate from Florida, now residing in the state of Yucatan, Mexico for the last three years (as of May 2011). I have always been in excellent health and have had no surgeries or major illnesses, unless you want to count my tonsillectomy when I was seven years old. I have had three children, all natural childbirths.

Prior to My Surgery

One year prior to my surgery, I had been living and traveling in Oaxaca and Jalisco, Mexico, for several months. Blood tests done in Guadalajara in April 2010 indicated that I should see a hematologist as soon as possible. When I returned to Florida in May 2010, a hematologist confirmed that I was suffering from severe anemia and immediately hospitalized me for two days. I was given four pints of blood and three units of iron. An endoscopy revealed that I had bleeding ulcers which were aggravated by a very large hiatal hernia. Medication was prescribed to help heal the ulcers, treat the anemia and Nissen Fundoplication surgery to repair the hernia was advised. The total bill for my hospitalization was in excess of $38,000 USD.

Investigating Other Options

After consulting a highly recommended surgeon in Florida (with whom I was not impressed), I decided to investigate medical options available to me in my adopted home, Merida, Mexico. Over the past few years, I have had positive experiences with the medical community in Merida, treating minor issues and providing well-care exams. Via the internet, I read comments and testimonials posted about Dr. Araujo and his Associate, Dra. Maria Eugenia Icaza, a gastroenterologist. My first contact with Dr. Araujo was in July 2010, via email one afternoon. I sent him questions regarding Nissen Fundoplication surgery, asking him about his qualifications and experience. To my astonishment, I received a personal email response that evening that addressed all of my questions and even offered advice and additional information.

Consultation and Colonoscopy

In the fall of 2010, I returned to Merida and scheduled an appointment with Dra. Icaza for a consultation. She recommended a follow-up endoscopy to determine if the ulcers had healed. Blood work was ordered and I was scheduled for the procedure the next day. The endoscopy confirmed that the ulcers had healed and Dra. Icaza also recommended Nissen Fundoplication surgery to repair the very large hiatal hernia that had not gone away. Total cost of the consultation including the endoscopy and lab work was less than $400 USD.

In January, 2011, I returned to Dra. Icaza for a routine follow-up colonoscopy. Again, this procedure went smoothly and I was very pleased with the care I received. Dra. Icaza is a very capable, caring and personable physician. Total charges for this procedure were less than $400 USD. I was repeatedly reminded how refreshing it is to be able to obtain quality medical care by excellent doctors at reasonable costs.

Surgery at Star Medica

Due to the constraints of my Mexican health insurance, it was necessary to wait until April 2011 for insurance coverage of the costs of my surgery. I consulted with Dr. Araujo and he ordered pre-operative blood work and a barium swallow X-ray to assist him with my surgery.

I was admitted to the Star Medica Hospital on the Saturday before Palm Sunday with surgery scheduled for Palm Sunday morning. My admission the night before went smoothly and I was taken down for surgery at 7:30 in the morning and gently transferred from my bed to the surgical bed. I was administered anesthesia for surgery. The next thing I knew I was on my way back to my room. Surgery was completed in approximately 2.5 hours and I remained in recovery for 2.5 hours.

I cannot begin to express how impressed I am with the quality of care I received. The surgery and all the procedures before and after surgery went exceedingly well. This is due, in no small part, to my excellent surgeon. My recovery has also been unbelievably easy. I had only minimal discomfort after the surgery, and no pain. I was given pain medications and antibiotics for only two days post surgery, along with intravenous solutions. Although I was given pain medications, I was awake and alert during the day and I rested well at night. There was a drainage tube inserted to allow excess fluids to escape, and I had five small incisions which healed very quickly. I had no problems at all swallowing and started a liquid diet the evening after the surgery and moved up to soft foods before being discharged from the hospital.

Star Medica is a modern, very clean hospital equipped with up-to-date technology. Support staff in the hospital were pleasant and accommodating. My blood pressure, pulse, drainage tube and incisions were checked regularly. My room was cleaned daily and trash emptied three times a day; linens were changed daily. My spouse remained with me overnight sleeping on a sleeper couch in the room. He was provided fresh linens daily as well.

The Care of a Good Doctor

During my five-night stay at Star Medica, Dr. Araujo checked on me, sometimes twice a day and always with a smile and positive words of encouragement. On two occasions when he was busy performing emergency surgery, he sent his very capable assistant, Karla, to check on me. Also, Dr. Araujo gave me his cellular phone number with instructions to call him 24 hours a day, anytime, if I had any problems, questions or difficulties with the language or with understanding the hospital staff.

Finally, before being discharged from the hospital, Dr. Araujo provided me with color photos and a DVD of my surgery. Watching the DVD impressed me all the more with Dr. Araujo’s skill. I feel very fortunate to have chosen him to perform the surgery. In fact, should another medical necessity arise in the future, I will always begin my trip with Dr. Araujo and his associates guiding my journey.



For more information on Star Medica, visit their website.
If you would like to ask Carol more questions, you can reach her by email at caelliott6 [at] gmail [dot] com.

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25 Responses to “My Medical Experience in Merida”

  1. Congratulations on having found wonderful surgeons and on having come through your own surgery with flying colors. I could not be more delighted for you, knowing as I do all of the things that can and do go wrong even under the best circumstances.

    It was very thoughtful and helpful of you to have shared your experience with everyone. I need to have an endoscopy, as well as a colonoscopy, done myself and your article gives me more options than I had before I read it. Thank you very much and continued good health to you!

  2. I’m happy to read of your experiences in Merida. Being a retired physician, finishing medical school in Guadalajara and post graduate work in Canada and New Jersey, it pleases me to see how well your procedure went.
    A new bilingual magazine, Travel Mexico, published in D.F. mainly for the tourism market, is one my partner, Yndiana Montes and I write for. I write a monthly medical section and last month it was covering medical tourism, specifically the Yucatan region. I would be very interested in having input from any ex-pats who have utilized the system and could give me feedback.
    I’ve used the dental and radiologic system with excellent results. I am interested in obtaining a list of primary care and specialists for a directory of who to use in Merida.
    My partner and I will again be spending three months or more in the Yucatan region, beginning November. I can be reached at wlmmd [at] yahoo [dot] com…phone: 609-314-8562.

  3. A very interesting article except the author neglects to state the cost of her actual surgery in Merida, having already stated the quote she was given in Florida.

  4. Thanks for sharing your experience. Please tell us more about the insurance you mentioned. Is it specific to the Star Medical Hospital? We haev our home in Merida and can’t wait to move permanently.

    Dave Brody & Joanne Liegner

  5. Thank you for a most informative and enlightening article. I am a Canadian who lives in beautiful Merida part-time and have heard from friends and colleagues not pleasant stories about their experiences when in hospital in Canada despite the fact that they all had been treated in a city internationally recognized as a venue of medical teaching. I have heard many good reports about the Star Medica Hospital and especially the dedicated skill of Dr. Araujo. Should I ever require hospitalization I will definitely keep Star Medica first in mind.

  6. Mrs Elliott; Thank you for sharing your medical experience. I am an eighty one years old retired person residing the past two and a half years here in Merida. In may of 2010 I had a very delicate and highly successful right eye operation performed by Dr Daniel Belaunde at Star Medica Hospital. The total cost was ten thousand pesos or about $ 875.00 U.S. dollars. I submitted the total cost to my U.S. Medicare health coverage and within thirty days I received the entire $ 875.00 dollars back. This operation would have cost at Kaiser Permanente in California about $ 12,000.00 dollars !! Yes !! Merida, Yucatan has excellent health insurance facilities. If in doubt just purchase health insurance the minute you arrive and wait till you become acquainted of a variety of highly qualified doctors and hospitals here in this beautiful part of the world including top of the line dentists !!!

  7. A most interesting article. Thank you Carol. I’m glad that you are on the mend. As others I would like more information on the medical expenses here and how insurance kicked in. Tom Jones

  8. If only our experiences in America were so fabulous and inexpensive!! I work in the medical field and its very reassuring to hear of such great care being given in the Yucatan. Thanks for sharing your story!

  9. Great medical experience! We also have been to Dr. Araujo’s office in Merida. He told us about his years working in Boston Massachusetts. It is good for the Merida community to have a doctor like him.

  10. A wonderful place to have endoscopies and colonoscopies is Dr. Fernando Peniche at the Centro de Endoscopia in Garcia Gineres. He has done both colonoscopies and endoscopies on my husband and me, and we were so pleased with the care and cost too! You can make appts at 925-0387.

  11. In response to a question regarding the costs of my surgery at Star Medica, the total charges were less than $5,000 USD – my cost was approximately $1,600 USD to cover my deductible and co-pay. Those charges were for everything related to my surgery and hospital stay – the surgeon’s fee, anesthesia, hospital charges and five nights in the hospital. I have insurance with MetLife Mexico with a $15,000 MXP deductible and 10% co-pay. I submitted all the paperwork to the insurance company prior to my surgery. Once the procedure was approved, I was advised what my costs would be and I submitted the insurance paperwork to the hospital upon my admission. The insurance company paid the approved amount directly to the hospital and I paid the outstanding balance at the time of my discharge from the hospital. The process is quite different from what we are used to in the US but is quite straightforward and easy.

  12. Sadly, my experience has been anything but positive. For nearly two months I have been trying to schedule a medical procedure at Star Medica in Merida. My requests for information through Star Medica’s website go unanswered, my direct emails to Dr Araujo go unanswered, the medical companies who want to arrange my trip are phishing for information, not being helpful. All told, the experience could not be more frustrating and unproductive. hopefully you will not share my experience.

  13. Dan, we had someone contact Dr. Araujo and tell him you were trying to reach him. Hopefully, that will help.

  14. Thanks “Working Gringos”, it did. You have restored my faith in Meridanos.

  15. De nada…

  16. This is a very interesting and informative site. I am also in need of an operation for a hernia. I live near Merida. Can anyone recommend some of the top surgeons and options in Merida for this procedure. Thank you in advance

  17. Bill, while I’m sure that you can find competent physicians for the services you require, I must wish you better luck garnering cooperation from Merida’s medical community. I know many if not most Meridanos are helpful and considerate: however, my recent experience did not include that experience, save for “working gringos”

  18. My wife and I have plans on moving to Merida Mexico in the very near future. We live in Florida now. This country is being torn apart by this administration. We want to move. Can we still use our Medicare as insurance in Merida?

  19. George, no, you cannot use Medicare in Mexico. There is a movement afoot to try to change that, but so far, there has been no progress. So if you like Medicare, you’ll have to stay in the United States. But don’t worry, the Administration that you don’t like will change soon and then maybe you’ll like it there again :-)

  20. Hi George/Josie Reyes. I think that above “Jose A Herrera” reported that he paid his medical bill and sent the receipt to Medicare which paid his bill in full through a reimbursement. I do know for us, the British Columbia Medical Services Plan will reimburse up to what BC hospitals charge if one has notified BC MSP they are leaving the country. One cannot be gone more than six months a year, except with special permission that can be extended to two years (every five years).

  21. Thanks for that insight!

  22. Can you recommend any websites to get price quotes on medical insurance?

    Thanks a lot.

  23. yes, you can call John McGee at and tell us you heard about him on Yucatan Living. He specializes in medical insurance for expats and is very knowledgeable.

  24. Thanks for the great info and website. We are a couple, husband age 67 and wife 53, living and retired in Florida. We’ve traveled around the world multiple times (my husband once to Merida many years ago) and do not want–nor need-an upscale lifestyle. We are seeking a simple life. Both of us speak Spanish and have contemplated moving to a Latin American country, but we wanted to wait until our child had graduated from college. That time is almost here!

    Although we are both in the best of health, our biggest concern is healthcare, as my husband has Medicare A&B and wants access to his benefits “just in case”. I am a self-pay for Florida Blue Cross at over $550 USD- a month, and that is a high deductible of $2500 plus doctor’s visits of $40 each time. I have looked into pricey expat insurance (with dual US coverage) and it is still $500 a month, so nothing goes up in price for me. Since Merida is so close to Florida (Cancun flights are many and cheap) we thought that may be a better option than say, Ecuador or Panama.

    I’m sure we are not the only ones in this situation.

    What are the differences/benefits between being a frequent visitor, a temporary resident, and a permanent resident? If every departure from MX triggers a fresh new 180 day window for the next visit, why would one choose to become a permanent resident? Would it be just as beneficial to be a temporary resident? I’m eager to hear about the private health care plans–I guess I need to call John McGee.

    Again, thank you.

  25. Kim, if you plan to travel back and forth that often (many people don’t), then you probably can be a frequent visitor with no problems. The only thing I can think of is that you will get charged additional taxes if you sell a home in Mexico… but it sounds like you are a long way from that at the moment. We are not experts on the current visa laws… for that, we suggest you contact one of the companies that specializes in expat visas (there are a few in Merida). The price of expat health insurance can be high, but most of your medical expenses in Merida will be pretty low. So far, you cannot use Medicare in Mexico, but there is a group of people trying to make that happen. There are many reasons to choose Merida over Panama or Ecuador, and location is certainly one of them. But it has its own unique culture, climate and environment… so we highly suggest trying it out for awhile before you totally commit. But then, it sounds like you know that already :-)


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