Healthcare in Mexico
Mexico boasts an impressive and efficient healthcare system, which consists of public and private healthcare schemes. Expats employed in Mexico will need to contribute towards a mandatory public health insurance, where contributions are derived from their salary, their employer and the state. The majority of Mexican hospitals are excellent and are staffed by highly trained and English speaking doctors. Despite this, not all nursing and care staff speak English.
Mexico has achieved universal health coverage and its public healthcare is acceptable for most Mexican residents. Despite this, the private healthcare sector has grown considerably and is driven by increasing disposable income, the growth of medical tourism, and ease of access to higher quality private healthcare services.
Public healthcare in Mexico
Mexico’s public healthcare operates through the Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social (IMSS) and Seguro Popular systems. These cover patients for most medical services and prescription drugs. Those employed in Mexico are automatically enrolled in the IMSS system and their contribution to the scheme is deducted from their salary. Those who are not formally employed may voluntarily enroll in the IMSS system, in which case they will have to pay an annual contribution fee. People who cannot afford the IMSS system must enroll with the Seguro Popular system. Fees for the Seguro Popular system are charged on a sliding scale depending on a resident’s income.
Although most doctors speak English, enrolling with Mexico’s public health system may be frustrating for expats as the application procedure, as well as most public healthcare administration, is in Spanish.
While public healthcare in Mexico is relatively good, the quality of services varies between hospitals and expats may experience long waiting periods for non-emergency and specialist procedures.
Most expats opt for private health care, which they finance through private health insurance. Although private hospitals are more expensive, they are better equipped, provide greater access to specialised procedures and generally provide higher quality care.
Expats utilizing private healthcare for non-emergency treatment will avoid the waiting periods that are commonly associated with the public system. Private hospitals also tend to have more English-speaking staff.
Pharmacies and medication
Pharmacies are prevalent in Mexican cities and most medications are available in Mexico. There are 24 hour pharmacies which can be found throughout Mexico. Not all pharmacies have English speaking staff, so expats might prefer visiting pharmacies which are attached to larger hospitals, where there is generally a higher chance of English being spoken. Some pharmacies have medical clinics attached to them, in which doctors can provide medical consultations.
911 is the general emergency number in Mexico. Not all operators speak English, so it might be useful for expats to learn enough Spanish to memorize key medical phrases and to be able to explain their location. Paramedics are relatively well trained and some private hospitals have their own ambulance services.
Ambulance response times vary by region and can be slow in certain areas. Consequently, many private ambulances operate in Mexico which eases the demand placed on public emergency services. However, these private ambulances often charge large fees.
For roadside assistance, many expats rely on the ‘Green Angels’, which is a bilingual and tourist-orientated service that provides mechanical, first aid and general emergency assistance. They can be reached at 078 from a Mexican number.
One popular methodology is to buy private insurance with a high deductible and pay out of pocket for regular non-catastrophic services. Here is an example that would apply for a spinal issue:
Initial consultation with orthopedist + examination + follow-up visit: $800 pesos ($43.24 USD)
MRI of lumbar spine without dye: $9,082 pesos ($490.91 USD)
Total Actual Cost (Mexico): $534.16 USD
So, how much would this have cost in the U.S.? According to Mayo Clinic’s online price estimator to determine what the out-of-pocket costs for the same services without insurance would be in Rochester, Minnesota:
Office visit, new patient: $415 USD
MRI of lumbar spine without dye: $3,427 USD
Total Estimated Cost (U.S.): $3,842 USD
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