Most healthcare services are affordable in Mexico when it comes to physicals, labs and the normal day to day things that happen to us. But accidents and issues do happen on occasion, so it’s best to have an understanding of how the health care system works down here so that you can decide if you want to purchase insurance and to what extent.
Mexico has many fine doctors and hospitals. Many doctors speak English. Out of the top 100 countries in the world, according to the WHO (World Health Organization), Mexico ranks 61 compared to the USA that ranks 37 in health care. Canada ranks 30. Want the country that has the best health care according to the WHO? France. This ranking system is determined by the care process, access and administrative efficiency.
First, let’s talk about pre-existing conditions – as this can make you completely uninsurable. Some pre-existing conditions are usually excluded or included with a deductible load for that specific condition only.
The cost will depend on your age and previous conditions. You will need to speak with a provider to determine your exact cost. In general, the cost of a health care policy is 50-70% less than your average US private health insurance. For example, I am 53 years old with no pre-existing conditions and my health care is estimated to be $1100 USD for the year with a $5000 deductible.
If you’re over 60, you’ll need to take a health care exam.
If you’re under 60, you will need to complete a health questionnaire.
I have an emergency. What do I do?
First of all, emergency numbers can vary between states, so you’ll need to do a little research depending on where you’re going. We suggest saving these numbers in your cell phone.
Mexico recently adopted a national “911”, but many of those calls go to the police or fire department. If you are in need of an ambulance to bring you to the hospital, the fastest way to get one is to call a private ambulance service. You need to tell the ambulance service which hospital you wish to be brought to (this should be part of the research you do prior to arriving).
Also, when you arrive at the hospital, they will ensure you are stable and will immediately process payment, even if you have insurance. At the very least, you need:
- Credit card with $3,000 USD available
- Cell phone and charger
- Passport and visa
- Your general practitioner contact info
- Family contact info
How do the costs compare to US healthcare?
Some costs will sound relatively inexpensive. For example, the cost of an MRI is about $4000 pesos, roughly $210 USD. That’s a far cry from the $15,000 USD bill in the US. However, it’s a compound fracture can add up quickly – to the tune of $13,000 USD. The number one claim filed in health care in Mexico is for cardio issues. A heart stent can set you back $10,000-60,000 USD.
What if I end up at the hospital but I don’t coverage or healthcare in Mexico?
Once you are stabilized, the billing office will come to see you about payment for your treatment. They will give you the estimate and you must pay to proceed with your treatment. If you cannot pay, your treatment ends here and you will be responsible for services to that point.
How does my Medical Evacuation plan work here?
A medical evacuation plan is NOT a health care plan, it’s a transport service that you purchase in your current country. In order to use this service, you have to be in a stable condition. Any expenses you incur to get you to a stable condition will be owed to the hospital. The only way to get this portion covered is to have healthcare in Mexico. You will NOT be transported to your country if you cannot be placed in a stable condition. So, for example, if you are admitted to the hospital for appendicitis, you’re going to have to have it removed at the hospital since this would be a time-critical event.
How does my Medicare work here in Mexico?
Medicare is only for use in the US. If you have Medicare Supplement Insurance, you can use this on the first 60 days of your trip – so if you have planned a 6 month stay, your insurance isn’t usable for the entire stay. If you pair this with a Medical Evacuation plan, you must also prove to have an emergency health threat, your limit is capped at $50,000 and 80% is covered.
Is there free healthcare in Mexico?
Every Mexican citizen is guaranteed no-cost access to healthcare and medicine. If you become a permanent resident and are employed full-time by a company registered in the IMSS Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social) system, you may qualify for IMSS. However, the process of becoming a resident is to determine whether or not you will be able to afford to live here – they do not want you to become a burden on their system. If you are a foreign resident but do not work here, you may elect to purchase IMSS for a modest monthly fee.
The demand for services through the IMSS system usually exceeds the supply of resources available – be ready to make compromises. You will have to go to a regional hospital to get treatment (they will not admit you to a private hospital). You will wait a long time to be seen and you’ll need to be able to speak or have someone with you who can speak Spanish.
Will I be able to have my prescriptions filled?
There are usually pharmacies open here 24/7. You can purchase most prescriptions here over the counter, without a prescription from your doctor – with the exception of powerful pain-killers and some antibiotics. A local doctor can prescribe these.
Many of the over the counter prescriptions you would normally need a prescription for in the US or Canada and cost significantly less here. ‘Farmacias Similares’ is a popular pharmacy that offers generic alternatives to brand-name drugs.