By SIERRA J. RUSSELL
First of a two-part series
Debates about health care date back to early editions of the Aztec Press. The December 1976 issue covered a range of health concerns, with a primary focus on costs.
One article featured an interview with a representative from the Arizona Department of Insurance, an organization that helps patients understand details of their insurance policies.
The office is still available to answer questions today. Information is posted here.
T.E. Morales Jr., then-deputy director of the Tucson branch, said in the 1976 article that many policy holders do not completely understand their coverage.
“When claim time comes around, they find out that they do not have the coverage they thought,” Morales said.
Many coverage conflicts arose from pre-existing conditions, he added.
Another 1976 article examined the benefits and drawbacks of going to Mexico for medical care.
At the time, the estimated cost of delivering a baby at St. Mary’s Hospital in Tucson ranged between $500 and $600. In Nogales at the Del Socorro hospital, the estimated cost was 2,500 pesos or $127.
Current charges for a conventional delivery run about $9,775, according to the International Federation of Health Plans. A cesarean section averages about $15,041.
The 1976 article quoted Connie Showalter, a Head Start social worker in Nogales.
“Expectant mothers of Nogales, Arizona, use the Nogales, Sonora, facilities because it is twice as inexpensive and the hospital has insurance that allows a person to pay a little at a time,” Showalter said.
Some ‘70s students considered Mexico a more affordable route to earning a medical degree.
“A number of my friends who could not enter the college of medicine at the U of A attended medical school in Mexico,” Pima Community College medical student Roxanne Nowicki said.
Nowicki was satisfied with the treatment she and her family received from their doctor in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico.
“Ninety per cent of his patients are American,” Nowicki said. “And he prescribes an unknown drug that is not sold in America, but works miracles.”
New drugs that were typically tested in the United States for 10 years before they were put on the market only had to undergo tests for one year in Mexico, she added.
Some Mexican patients traveled to the United States to receive treatment. The U.S. facilities were better equipped for complicated procedures such as heart surgery and transplants.
“A great many persons who live in Sonora come to Tucson to receive their medical care,” Tucson surgeon James Klein said.
“In addition, many Mexican physicians come to our country for specialized post-graduate education and training,” Klein added. “Those who return to Mexico to practice are as fully competent as an American physician in the same branch of medicine.”