So, the word is out; world-class, high-quality, top-of-the-line, state-of-the-art hospitals are available in many Mexican cities, and they cost a fraction of what similar hospitals do in the U.S. The logical conclusion; all expats – including those who couldn’t afford such service back home – go to fancy space-age hospitals where they pamper you above and beyond what’s necessary.
The impression is true to a certain extent – at least to the extent that pretty much any expat who wanted to could go to this kind of hospital. And plenty do … when the feel they need it.
Reality is much more varied …
This greatly oversimplifies the reality of health care in Mexico – even health care that’s suitable for and really used by Americans and Canadians living here.
The reality is this: health care in Mexico offers a wide variety of options, many of which are suitable for expats at some point or another.
The “local” clinics
Think about this; would you feel it necessary to go to a world-class hospital with the best equipment to check out a cut for stitches or a cold that has been going on a little too long? Probably not. Even if the price is relatively low, it would just seem like overkill. And besides that, it might just be an unnecessary “trip.” Even if that hospital’s only 20 minutes away in taxi, there might be a good local clinic right around the corner from your home that can do the same for even less money.
Consider this story from Glynna Prentice, a seasoned expat at International Living:
“I once needed to see a doctor when I was staying in the colonial city of Guanajuato, where I have a small house.
“I got recommendations for fancy doctors in Leon, a major city of about 1.7 million people less than an hour from Guanajuato. But in the end, for convenience, I chose to go to a small clinic in Guanajuato’s historiccentro, a short walk from my house.
“The clinic treated walk-in patients, many of whom clearly were not wealthy. The waiting area had plastic chairs and out-of-date magazines. But the doctor, whom friends had recommended to me, was a well-traveled, middle-aged woman with a bright smile and a very professional manner. She sorted me out in no time. And her bill? Just $20.”
The Public Insurance Option
Besides the local doctor’s practices which can offer very good service, a growing number of expats are using Mexico’s public insurance (IMSS) for their regular needs. For a flat rate of about $350 per year, it covers everything, including vitamins, eye glasses and sometimes even basic dental work. While their hospitals lack the state-of-the-art equipment of the private hospitals, they are clean and cover more than just the basics; the state-of-the-art private hospitals are always there for anything very major, and for everything else the costs are kept to a bare minimum.
I’ve given two examples of different options here. But the point is that you can find basic doctor’s offices that can offer a prescription for a minor infection, or do minor stitches; some that are are small, but specialized in specific health issues; large public hospitals; large private state-of-the-art hospitals and a dozen other options, which you can choose from at any time according to your needs.
Of course, not all the clinics and hospitals are good. But the majority will deliver what they promise, and be honest when something is beyond their scope, usually quite willing to recommend the best place to seek the treatment you need. Asking around you can quickly find out which hospitals or doctors (of all budgets) are reputable.
Glynna Prentice finishes her article with this simple and important observation:
“In general, I continue to use Mexico’s high-tech hospitals and specialists for my check-ups and medical tests. But it’s comforting to know that in Mexico I have a range of options, depending on my needs. And all of it at wonderfully affordable prices.”
That’s the key – “I have a lot of options – at wonderfully affordable prices.”
-by Thomas Lloyd