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Healthcare in Mexico

Hi,

how does the healthcare system work in Mexico ? Is it efficient ?

What are the main differences between public and private sectors?

Is it recommended to purchase private health insurance in Mexico?

Thanks in advance for sharing your experience !

Julien

Overall, I have some experience with Mexican doctors for about 25 years now. My wife and I presently use the government program "Seguro Popular". I have been very pleased with the medical doctors who always spend much more "one on one" time with me than any U.S. doctor's. They limit labs and tests to only what I agree is necessary. Their experience and knowledge, even the younger staff, has never led me wrong. I am very comfortable consulting with doctors in Mexico, more so than U.S. doctor's. And the price is right, based on our present low income, it is free. Medication is usually given to patients (free) right there in the clinic which has it's own "pharmacy". Always have seen me the same day in the clinic, but to see specialists I need a per-approval note from the clinic physician and need to make a prior appointment. The doctors speak English, but since I majored in Spanish in college, I prefer to discuss my health in Spanish There is no comparison to be made with the so-called U.S. health "system" which, in my opinion, is broken and without hope of ever achieving the efficiency of the Mexican system.. As far as red tape and paperwork in the Mexican system, I don't ever need to fill out any forms or even sign my name (after the initial application for health care was processed). I have also consulted with Mexican specialists in the past from 2001 to 2006 before signing up for the government program "Seguro Popular" and paid around $50.00 U.S. for an initial visit (cardiologist, urologist, dermatologist, etc.) These private consultations allowed, at times, for almost a full hour of one-on-one time with the attending physician. Amazing and probably the way it used to be in the U.S. back in the 1950's and 1960's when my godfather was a General Practitioner. I highly recommend using the Mexican health care system, either public or private. It is the same good news with Mexican dentists, they also have my trust and confidence.

Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social  (a.k.a. IMSS) is the government owned institute of social security and healthcare.
it's famous for its incompetently slow services and endless queues. They make you wait for whatever time they like you to even in an emergency situation saying there are no doctors available or no rooms available and etc.


It's strongly recommended to have a private insurance for the medial expenses because hospitals are ridiculously expensive for its poor services (but better than the IMSS), also in some cases these insurances pay you for treaments in other countries.

I am from South Korea of which medicare system is world class and I know my standards are not easy to meet, but seriously, Mexico is the last place to fall sick.

go private unless you want to die and then be very very careful in who , 90% just want to suck money out of you until you die , 97% dont really know anything about medicine and maybe 3% are really good competent medicos. be very careful , my advise is never ever get sick or need a hospital

I have lived in Mexico for ten years and have paid into IMSS all that time but have never used it. I have a strong family history of heart  disease and keep a very close watch on health issues, therefore I inquired about local internists and have been seen by him since I arrived. The visits are less than $50 each and I'm very pleased with him, I was a nurse so I'm a bit particular. If I needed to be hospitalized I might use IMSS I understand the medical care is very good. One caveat is that a family member, or paid helper must stay with you 24/7, they don't have the resources for staff to get you water or attend to other non medical needs.
On two occasions I needed a specialist, went the recommended doctor in Guadalajara was very pleased with the treatment and the cost. If I were to have an illness and was stable enough I believe I would go to the states for treatment due to the afore mentioned bedside care situation.
Again I believe the doctors in Mexico are excellent.

I haven't heard of Seguro Popular is it available everywhere and how does it differ from IMSS? I see someone has mentioned this in another post so it may be the same as IMSS.

I have recently been dealing with the medical system here to obtain care for a family member. My experiences have been similar to Dibbons.  I am in a position to make a critical comparison because I am a recently retired medical professional.

The care I have observed has been excellent, respectful, skilled and in a inclusive manner.  The doctor speaks to me or my family member on the phone, rater than filter us through a secretary. All tests, medications and treatments are discussed. He has spent hours with us, not the 5-10 minutes you would expect in the U.S. He is very current ( not always assured in the U.S.), open to alternatives, and seems genuinely involved in the care. The cost of seeing him ( a specialist) is about 30$ U.S. per visit. You couldn't even get through the door in the U.S. for that cost.  The only problem I have seen is that not all pharmacies have every medication. When the hospital pharmacy didn't have a medication he ordered, he went down with us to discuss options personally. Far superior care compaired to the U.S.

This is one aspect of Mexico I am totally positive on. I simply go to see a local doctor, actually at the Similares pharmacies, and for $2.50 get a shot of B12 or for $4 my blood pressure and glucose level taken. That's right you get an exam for under $10. The prices are unreal compared to the US and the doctors are well qualified and really listen to you. I prefer the Mexican healthcare system over the US by far. The American system is way over-rated.

I agree with Will88 about the price of drugs it's hard to believe. When I had insurance through my work in the states the drugs we resonably priced but when you factor in the cost off insurance it's a no brainer. Also the cost of lab work is sooo reasonable. Certain drugs like antibiotics require a prescription but other things like BP meds do not requie a script and are very cheap.

I use the docs at Farmacias Similares to check my blood pressure and glucose, sometimes they listen to my heart and take my temperature.  I also go to them if I have a symptom that makes me uncomfortable enough to see a doctor immediately.  They've prescribed medication and recommended follow up at Seguro Popular in one or two instances.  I have a high level of confidence in everyone I've seen.  There seems to be a high rate of turnover, most of the docs being young or semi retired.  I've found it best to go early in the morning, before 10AM.  By 11AM, the number of patients waiting builds up and the wait to see the doc can be up to 45 minutes.  One negative point.  Lately, there has been a "shortage" of glucose test strips.  One morning I went to three different Farmacias Similares and no one had test strips.  One doc admitted that for some of the docs, the cost was prohibitive based on the price schedule posted.  Some charge as little as 20 pesos for BP and glucose, others as high as 40 pesos.  40 pesos is about $2.70 based on the last time I got cash out of an ATM.

I also have Seguro Popular.  There's no cost.  The docs are competent but it's a mixed blessing.  To see a doctor. I really need to catch a local bus to the health center 7 AM.  I get in line to take a number to get a token a 8 AM which gives me a place in sequence to see the doc assigned to me.  He seems to handle almost all senior citizens.  8 AM can actually be 8:30 or 9:00.  Winter or summer, you wait outside till you get your token.  My doc doesn't arrive till around 9:30.  Depending on my place in line, I might be done by 10:30 or 11:00. 
My doc spends as much time as needed to go over my complaints and prescribe medications or schedule lab tests.  With lab tests, if urine is required, I have to come back the next day with the lab order and get in line at the Seguro Popular office to get a chit that "pays" for the lab tests.  Then I get in line to have the blood drawn.  That whole process takes about an hour, hour and a half.  The nice thing is I can pick up the results at 4PM the next day.  To see the doc to go over the results, I have to come back another day and do the same take a number to get a token routine.

Referrals for things like ultrasounds can be an adventure,  I was sent to the General Hospital for an ultrasound of my prostate.  I arrived at 8 AM and at 9:30 they told us the radiologist couldn't make it.  We lined up to get rescheduled.  The new appointment was at 1 PM 2 weeks later.  That took place almost on time and the recommendation was to see the urologist.  That appointment took place 3 months later.  He arrived two hours late and I had to wait an additional hour for my turn to come.  He recommend a biopsy which could be scheduled 5 months later.  And so on.  I have been pleased with the courtesy, professionalism and competence of the docs and technicians but the only way I'd call it efficient is in controlling costs.

My husband and I have lived in Mexico for 8 years.  We have tried international health insurance but found it to be too expensive.  We currently have a combination of coverage.  In the US we have Medicare.  In Mexico we have IMSS which for $1000 USD (this year) we are covered at 100% for anything including prescriptions (written by one of their docs).  There are long waits for care as in any other national healthcare system but I have been told that they offer very good care for large things.  We have found the docs we have seen there to be interested in providing good health care.  Everyone is very friendly and helpful.  Only Spanish is spoken there.  We also have a Metlife policy for catastrophic care which includes things such as Cancer treatment and bypass surgery.  Care can be rendered in the US if it is not available here under this policy including air lift service.
Additionally, we pay out of pocket for some things.  We find healthcare in Mexico to be very affordable.  For example, a trip to the emergency room for an allergic reaction will run approx.  $300 USD.

justinmango  Sounds like you are talking about the U.S. That's what I would advise about traveling there.

maybe its just where i live , but its really like im saying here and ive been here 18 years .

justinmango :

maybe its just where i live , but its really like im saying here and ive been here 18 years .

Have you gone back to the states for any care in the last 2 years ?  It's changed drastically in the last 5-10 years. Perhaps the problems you have had here are in fact local, I'm not familiar with your area, But for the most part my experiences have been positive. Hope you find better care.

no , havent been back "there" in more than 8 years , but i have family in health care and it really depends where you are . i find the private people here in small towns are generally good , but i still insist that the social medicine is a joke unless you have pull or are in a large city and even then. i emply folks and by law have had s... social for 18 years and it is a corrupt and poorly run organization , un sanitary , ill equiped and badly trained .i had a worker who badly injured his finger and they put straight gauze directly on the seeping wound , it was horrible , i had to pay a private doc just so he wouldnt lose his finger . i doctor myself and thankfully never get sick.

justinmango :

no , havent been back "there" in more than 8 years , but i have family in health care and it really depends where you are . i find the private people here in small towns are generally good , but i still insist that the social medicine is a joke unless you have pull or are in a large city and even then. i emply folks and by law have had s... social for 18 years and it is a corrupt and poorly run organization , un sanitary , ill equiped and badly trained .i had a worker who badly injured his finger and they put straight gauze directly on the seeping wound , it was horrible , i had to pay a private doc just so he wouldnt lose his finger . i doctor myself and thankfully never get sick.

Ah, yes of course that must be the difference. We have been using private pay not the state insurance. It is probably like finding a clean well stocked bathroom. Unless you are paying in some way it's possible but  not  likely.

I have a place in "bordertown" Texas.  I have no real problem finding good docs under Medicare.  Once I get there, access and wait times are a lot better than Seguro Popular.  Evedn though my spanish is excellent, I don't want to chance misunderstanding.  plus out of pocket costs go on credit card.  Docs and hospitals in Zacatecas that take credit cards are few and far between.

Seguro Popular for free and coverage is for 3 years. Age or pre-existing conditions not a factor. You can join as a Temporary or Permanent Resident. Coverage is nation-wide.

IMSS is over $400 per year and renewed annually. If pre-existing conditions you do not qualify.

I have signed up hundreds for Seguro Popular in San Miguel.

saludos

Sonia

What program is best for someone who will only be in Mexico 4-5 months per year?   IMSS? private? Travel insurance?  I am fairly healthy, in my early 60's, but will eventually need more care if I continue to travel for that many months.

The first question is, "Do you/will you be traveling on a Tourist Card?  A Tourist Card doesn't allow you to sign up for Seguro Popular.  I'm not sure about IMSS but from what I've read, it doesn't specify "residente" status.  The cost is around 4500 pesos ($300) a year.  The quality of care is good and about the same with both programs.

Travel insurance has one big advantage, emergency air ambulance back to the US if that's important to you.  Or you can pay for it out of pocket if you need it.  It's worth checking prices.

I'm here pretty much fulltime as a "residente permanente" and I have a combination of Seguro Popular and US Medicare with Medigap.  If I need emergency transportation to the States, I guess my credit card with cover it.

Most travel insurance policies will only cover you for a maximum 3 months and there are many things written in the small print that they do not cover.
You would not want to be paying for air ambulance. Horrendous costs. Landing fees around $1000+, plus $20 per air mile, $325 per hour for medical staff plus equipment and drug charges.

So, Stumpy, what do you suggest for 4 months...?

Hmmmm, interesting variety of responses. Here's my 2 cents worth:

I moved to Mexico City from NYC where I enjoyed (and still do) health insurance. My job in Mexico City has major medical but mostly we are expected to use IMSS. I tried it once and won't go back. I am registered with the facility in Roma. The time I went there I waited 6 hours and finally was sent to the Emergency clinic downstairs and waited another 2 hours and was treated like a pariah. I refused to go back.  Not only, but the jerks wouldn't sign the paperwork needed for me to get paid for the day I spent waiting there. A day without pay. AND, the Dr. I finally saw said there was nothing wrong with me! I never did get paid for those days I took off. I kept going back with more paperwork and kept getting sent away with requests for yet more. IMSS was rude, inefficient and useless as far as I'm concerned. 

I have a cleaning lady in Patzcuaro where I keep a place for weekends. When she is sick she goes to the farmacia and talks to the guy at the consultorio. Usually she is sent off with vitamins. The idea of aspirin or cough syrup is foreign. I have spent oodles of money buying her over the counter meds when all she was sent off with were vitamins. I know, some will say that is enough and good practice. I think it is mean and cheap. Once, I KNOW she had the flu and was given vitamins. Really? An aspirin would have been just too much to ask to help with the aches and pains?

The last time I went to a specialist on my own dime in DF, I paid about $140 DOLLARS and about as much in buying the meds prescribed. I don't think that's a deal. It is certainly less than I would pay off the street in NYC but I have health insurance in NY so, frankly, this is NOT cheap for me since my copay in NY is $15 AND I go to the Dr. I want to go to. Yes, the Mexican Dr. was kind and spent a lot of time with me - TOO much time with me, in my opinion. But, I was sick and wanted to be in bed, not chat.

Back to my IMSS rant - uh, every month I have around 80 dollars deducted from my salary for this "service" that I won't use.

I am underwhelmed with the health care I have received here. I have also had dental work done. Indeed, it is cheaper than in the US but I'm still on the fence about the quality. But that needs to be addressed in a different thread.

So, I guess if you have no health insurance in the US or you lived in a place where the health care was mediocre (Farmtown, USA) then probably you are as well off, if not better, here than there. If, however, you have insurance in the US and are in a major metropolitan area, uh, I still believe that there is no comparison. I have a friend who comes from a family of doctors and she, herself, was a hot shot nurse in Boston. She told me if she got sick she would get on a plane to the US and seek medical attention there. She also pays for health insurance out of her own pocket having understood as I did that the IMSS insurance is only the illusion of insurance. BTW, I believe her payments for coverage from a US health insurance company are 110/month with a 1,000 deductible. Just FYI.

If I were going to be here for the long haul, I too would buy private insurance. Of course, that implies that one can afford it. Many can't and I understand that. I just don't want people to believe that the IMSS is the answer to health care. It is not. Again, my experience was with the facility in Roma. Maybe it's better in Polanco or San Angel... Mexico being the stratified society that it is, I wouldn't be surprised but those uber rich Mexicans don't go to IMSS anyway.

Hahahahahaha. What a great story! I actually know two men who died of prostate cancer - recently - so the cavalier way in which they reschedule appt. for potentially life saving procedures is frustrating at best and dangerous at worst. Luckily you survived to tell the story. One man was diagnosed in February and we were at his funeral in July... Prostate cancer!

Patzgirl :

Hahahahahaha. What a great story! I actually know two men who died of prostate cancer - recently - so the cavalier way in which they reschedule appt. for potentially life saving procedures is frustrating at best and dangerous at worst. Luckily you survived to tell the story. One man was diagnosed in February and we were at his funeral in July... Prostate cancer!

Sorry Patzgirl, but your post left me with more questions than answers.  I'm confused, what do you mean by..."Prostate cancer!" ? Are you saying people don't die of it, or only in Mexico, or what ?  The standard treatment used in Mexico, as well as the U.S. is highly toxic, and it is the standard in both places. Given that it is slow moving generally, both the U.S. and Mexican approach is often a wait and see while applying androgen (Testosterone) suppression. That is exactly what I have seen here.  Also what did you think your house keeper should have received for a virus ? and How did you know it was a virus ?

These are interesting stories.  I am glad I asked about healthcare.   Again, if I am only spending 3-4 months per year I will most likely get private insurance (which is still fairly affordable unless I get the evacuation rider).    Any other suggestions are always welcomed!   Arlene

We live in San Felipe and have lived here for 9 years full time. We have IMSS and we have been treated well granted we only use it for shots and keep it for emergencies and it costs us 9000 pesos a year for the two of us. We have a private doc that we go to which costs $35 a visit. Love him. My wife is a retired nurse so understands him and he speaks very good English. Have had lab tests and they are all good. I also have the VA so.am good to go.

Hi Julien,

I offer an educational seminar in San Miguel de Allende on "How to Be Prepared for Medical Emergencies in Mexico". I have done extensive research on the topic and can tell you that Seguro Popular only covers 214 illnesses. You will also find that with any of the Mexican public health plans (IMSS, ISSTE, Seguro Popular) that the waiting due to overcrowding & the escalating of decision-making can lead to a frustrating and potentially fatal outcome.

Bottom line......If you can afford private health insurance, then by all means buy it!!

I represent Mexico Insurance Advisors. We offer a great international health insurance plan designed for Expats, which costs 30-60% less than other international health plans. The only requirements are that you must be a foreigner living a minimum of 6 months out of the year in Mexico and you must be under 75 years old when you apply.

Here is the link in case you are interested in reading more:
WEA International Health Insurance - weadirect.com/get-quote-prod/?ProducerCode=WE100127&PRD=Signature.

All my best,
Melanie

We might just as well predict the same for Obamacare in the US.

I have talked with several longterm expats in Mexico and all agree that for critical, emergency care the Mexican version of triage at IMSS and Seguro Popular is quick and accurate.

Just saying.  Still, for non emergency situations where prompt attention (1 week to 1 month instead of 3 to 6 months) could be the key to a cure, I'll go to the states where my home and Medicare meet my needs nicely

I have been quoted $400/mo. for private insurance in Mexico.  Is that out of the ballpark?

Anything for post 75 years old (in good health))?

Hi,

Mexican health insurance companies will accept new enrollees up to 62 & 64 years of age.

International health insurance companies will accept new enrollees up to 74.5 years of age.

Health insurance premiums are based on age and sex. I offer an international plan with full coverage in Mexico that is 30-50% less than $400 a month.

If you are over 75, you might consider an Emergency Medical Air Evacuation plan that would work as a bridge to your health coverage in the US or Canada. There are a lot of companies that offer this type of service. Not all measure up the same. I would be happy to speak to you about which companies I have found to offer the best benefits & services.

All my best,
Melanie

Hi,

Mexican health insurance companies will accept new enrollees up to 62 & 64 years of age.

International health insurance companies will accept new enrollees up to 74.5 years of age.

Health insurance premiums are based on age and sex. I offer an international plan with full coverage in Mexico that is 30-50% less than $400 a month.

If you are over 75, you might consider an Emergency Medical Air Evacuation plan that would work as a bridge to your health coverage in the US or Canada. There are a lot of companies that offer this type of service. Not all are packed up the same. I would be happy to speak to you about which companies I have found to offer the best benefits & services.

All my best,
Melanie

Hi Anne,

There is one company that offers health insurance in Mexico for people regardless of their age. I have presented quotes to clients in San Miguel de Allende. Nobody has purchased it, because the premiums are astronomical ($800 dollars and more a month).

Another option is to purchase an Emergency Medical Air Evacuation plan that would work as a bridge to your health coverage in the US or Canada. There are a lot of companies that offer this type of service. Not all are the same. I would be happy to speak to you about which companies I have found to offer the best benefits & services. Of course, you would still need to cover your emergency medical hospitalization costs incurred before you are air evacuated to the US or Canada.

Thanks,
Melanie

I've just found this thread, and it's very relevant to the plans my wife and I (both over 75) have to reside in Mexico - we're thinking around Lake Chapala - and live off our savings. We have no pensions or income. Because we're both healthy, we don't mind paying the going rate for medical treatment, which seems to be pretty reasonable, from the contributions on this thread. We're not US citizens, and would never want medical evacuation to the US. (Not without insurance, that's for sure!) We live in the Cayman Islands at the moment, and are paying insurance of about US$10,000 a year for minimal coverage. That's an expense that will kill us far sooner than any disease would!

What's the cost of with dental treatment, without insurance?

I'd be grateful for any information or comment.

A filling is about $50, plus or minus.
A two tooth fixed bridge about 150-250.
A root canal 200-400
A crown 125-250.
An extraction $100.
All those in USD.

Those are good prices, gudgrief. Thanks very much for the information. I may have more questions later.

Gordon Barlow :

Those are good prices, gudgrief. Thanks very much for the information. I may have more questions later.

I'll be happy to help in whatever I can.
Those prices were over the past year and are the best I can remember.  Prices vary quite a bit from dentist to dentist but are usually less than the copay would be under dental insurance in the US.

@MelanieInMexico 
The link you posted is bad... Do you have an updated link?

Moderated by Priscilla last year
Reason : Do not post your personal contact details on a public forum for your own security

I pay cash, health care In mx is cheep compared to US. Don't need health ins.

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