An expat guide to healthcare and health insurance in Mexico
Are you researching an expat health insurance for Mexico? It is important to inform yourself on the local healthcare system first.
Whether you are moving to Mexico or you are already living there as an expat, read our guide to the Mexican healthcare system, your different options of medical insurance for Mexico and an overview of the average cost of local healthcare.
- Total Population (2015): 127,017,000
- Gross national income per capita (PPP international $, 2013): 16,110
- Life expectancy at birth m/f (years, 2015): 74/80 years
- Probability of dying between 15 and 60 years m/f (per 1 000 population, 2015):161/82
- Total expenditure on health per capita (Intl $, 2014): 1,122
- Total expenditure on health as % of GDP (2014) 6.3
Healthcare in Mexico
Healthcare in Mexico has the reputation to be excellent whilst being affordable compared to other countries. To give an idea, costs are estimated to be 25 to 30% lower than in the United States. This makes Mexico a destination of choice for medical tourism.
However, when living as an expat in Mexico, subscribing to the national healthcare system exclusively might not be sufficient. Although public hospitals are of good standard, they are often overcrowded, especially in big cities. To avoid waiting lists, it is advisable to make use of the private sector. Therefore, an international health insurance for Mexico might be the best solution to help you manage your health care costs.
The Mexican health care system is called IMSS (Instituto mexicano de seguro social). It is mainly for employees in the private sector. Those working in the public sector have their own healthcare system. For the unemployed and retired, healthcare is handled by the Ministry of Health through the “Seguro popular”.
Seguro Popular and IMSS are available to citizens and expatriates who are temporary and permanent residents.
Mexicans doctors are usually highly qualified, many having been trained in the United States. Many American doctors also train in Mexico, which highlights the quality of the medical training on offer.
Public hospitals in Mexico
While large cities like Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey have many modern hospitals (and each of these cities boasts at least one internationally acclaimed hospital), in rural zones the available care is limited and there is often a lack of equipment. Many people are therefore sent to hospitals in the cities to be treated for certain conditions. Consequently, these hospitals become saturated and waiting lists can be very long.
Private hospitals and clinics in Mexico
Mexico has many renowned private hospitals and clinics, especially in the larger cities. The medical equipment is modern, they have state of the art technology, and the healthcare personnel are international.
The care in private hospitals is cheaper than in countries such as the United States or certain other Western countries. However it is important to bear in mind that hospitals in Mexico can refuse to accept patients who cannot offer a financial guarantee, even if the patient has medical cover in place. They may ask patients to sign a credit card voucher.
Before patients are discharged all hospitals bills must be paid. This can mean that you may end up staying more nights than necessary in the hospital until payment had been received (either from you personally or your insurance company). It is therefore strongly advised to have a local medical insurance in Mexico or an international health insurance when using private healthcare.
Expat Assure helps you to find the expatriate medical insurance for Mexico that best suits your profile and needs. Contact us today to request your free an non-obligatory health insurance comparison.
Access to the Mexican health care system for foreigners
Your right to access the Mexican health care system will depend on your residency status.
Non Resident: If you are visiting Mexico for a short period, you will not have access to the Mexican health care system and will have to subscribe to travel insurance issued in your country of residence.
Resident: As a resident in Mexico (temporary or permanent), you apply to the IMSS either on a voluntary or compulsory basis, depending on your employment status:
IMSS compulsory enrolment:
If you are an employee in the private sector, you will be enrolled in the IMSS on a compulsory basis. Employers must enrol their full time employees in the IMSS by law, be they Mexican nationals or foreign residents. The IMSS is financed by contributions made by employers and employees, as well as a contribution from the State.
IMSS voluntary enrolment:
You can enrol in the IMSS on a voluntary basis if you are self-employed, retired or if you don’t work but not if you are a full-time employee.
It’s important to note that the IMSS applies waiting periods or excludes some pre-existing medical conditions to people applying on a voluntary basis. The IMSS can even decline your application.
If you have a pre-existing medical condition, you may want to opt for the Seguro Popular (providing you are eligible) or look for a private insurance that will accept your application (although they might exclude your pre-existing medical conditions).
How to subscribe to the IMSS?
You can begin the application on the IMSS website or at your local IMSS office. All the application process is in Spanish. You can find the list of documents you will have to provide here. The list is in Spanish so here is the translation:
- Your marriage certificate, if applicable
- Your passport
- Your CURP (Clave Única de Registro de Población), which is a personal ID code number allocated to both citizens or residents of Mexico.
- Proof of payment of the first premium
- Birth certificate
- Proof of address
- Completed medical questionnaire provided by the IMSS
You must provide the original and a copy of the different documents.
Cost of the IMSS
The price for annual enrolment depends on your age. The annual fee is approximately 7000 pesos (280 pounds or 370 dollars) per person and renewed annually. You can get the current rates from the table on this page.
Whether you are covered with the IMSS or the Seguro Popular, healthcare in Mexico is free and there is no co-payment.
The main downside is that you are not free to choose your own doctor (except in specific cases). You are not covered abroad, in the private sector or in your home country. If you want to be able to see the doctor of your choice, and in order to be reimbursed, an international private health insurance in Mexico is the best option.
International health insurance for expats in Mexico
Most foreign residents who can afford to do so will take a private medical insurance plan in Mexico that gives them access to private doctors, clinics and hospitals. An international health insurance for Mexico is often a better option for expats than a local health plan. It allows you to be treated in the hospital and with the doctor of your choice, not only in Mexico but also abroad (within the zone of cover of your insurance policy).
Moreover, if you leave Mexico and move elsewhere, your international health insurance may be able to follow you, unlike a Mexican health insurance which is only valid locally.
It is important to note that an expat insurance in Mexico will not exempt you from subscribing to the IMSS if it is obligatory for you. The private insurance policy will simply cover you on top of the IMSS.
If you would like wider financial protection in the event of stopping work due to an accident or disabling illness, Expat Assure can also advise you on expat life insurance for Mexico and income protection. To find out more, please, read our page on income protection and life insurance for expatriates.
What is the best health insurance for expats in Mexico
The best health insurance in Mexico for another expat might not be the best for you as everyone has different needs and criteria.
In order to find which one is the best health insurance in Mexico for you, it is important to consider several aspects such as your medical history, your age, your specific needs in terms of medical cover, your situation in Mexico, alongside other parameters.
How much does health care cost in Mexico?
The cost of private healthcare in Mexico is generally cheaper than in the United States or in Western Europe, however some highly specialised doctors may charge higher tariffs.
Cost of a GP consultation: typically, a visit to a GP or a specialist costs between 350 and 500 pesos (£15 – £22 / 21€ – 29€). A home visit is usually around the same price.
A consultation with a dentist: 400 – 1,000 pesos (£18 – £43 / 23€ – 58€). Having a crown fitted: 5,000 to 10,000 pesos (£215 – £429 / 292€ – 585€), teeth cleaning is about USD 28.00.
One night in hospital in an individual room is around 3,000 to 5,300 pesos (£129 – £228 / 175€ – 310€).
The deposit requested in private hospitals when entering as an emergency patient is around 14,000 to 25,000 pesos (£601 – £1,073 / 819€ – 1,462), depending on the type of treatment/surgery that you need.
Prescription medicines made in Mexico are usually half the price than in the United States or in Europe.
What is the cost of private health insurance in Mexico?
Such as with any type of health insurance, the price of medical insurance for expats in Mexico varies greatly depending on the age, the medical history, the family composition of the applicant as well as other factors.
If you would like to have a precise estimation of the cost of international health insurance for Mexico, which applies to your specific situation and needs, we can prepare for you a personalised comparison of different international health insurance plans. Contact us today for your free health insurance comparison.
*Exchange rate February 2015
Be sure to have your immunisation schedule up-to-date (diphtheria/tetanus/polio). However it is also recommended to be vaccinated for hepatitis A and B, typhoid and rabies by the NHS Fit-for-Travel website.
Yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for travellers over 1 year of age arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission and for travellers having transited more than 12 hours through the airport of a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.
All emergencies: 066
Fire brigade: 068
The price of common medicines, like aspirin, is much lower than in the UK and it is possible to buy them individually which can work out to be much cheaper if you only need a few instead of a whole box.
Theoretically, many medicines are available only through prescription. In reality, these regulations are not always adhered to for certain medicines like antibiotics or strong pain killers which can be easy to get hold of without first having to see a doctor.
If a person buys medication without a prescription, but would usually have required one, it is their responsibility if there are any problems. Insurance companies will only reimburse medication if they have been prescribed by a doctor.
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