Mexico offers excellent private health care facilities. Private clinics and hospitals feature the latest modern facilities and are built to US-standards.
Health Emergencies in Mexico
When you move to Mexico, you should acquaint yourself with the local medical and health facilities available in your local area. Find out where your nearest hospitals and clinics are, as well doctors, dentists and opticians and keep their telephone contact numbers at hand.
You can find this information out from neighbors, friends, work colleagues or contact your local consulate who may be able to provide you with a list of local health facilities in the city or town where you live.
Although Mexico has a number of universal emergency numbers, numbers for specific emergency services vary by state and locality, so inquire about the numbers for the local police, ambulance and fire station and keep these handy by the home and office phone (and save them in your mobile phone).
The equivalent of 911 (or in Europe 112, 999) is 060 in Mexico. You can ask for the police, an ambulance or the fire brigade on this number.
Some insurance companies supply their own emergency contact numbers to policy holders and will connect you to an English-speaking operator.
Mexico’s Social Security System
Mexico’s social security system is called the Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social, often abbreviated as just IMSS.
Mexico’s Social Securi: System is free at the point of delivery for Mexicans as well as foreign nationals with full immigrated residency status who are in full-time employment by a company registered in the IMSS system (payroll taxes cover heathcare – see below). Foreigners resident in Mexico who are not working (e.g. retirees) may elect to purchase the IMSS health insurance separately for a modest monthly fee.
Employees of Mexican companies (including foreign employees) pay a percentage of their salary each month to the service, which entitles them to access the healthcare system and also provides insurance cover for their salary in case accident or ill-health prevents them from working. The payroll tax that covers healthcare is pay-able regardless of whether you pay into private insurance plan(s) separately.
The level of care delivered by the IMSS depends, in part, on where in Mexico you live: big cities have more resources but more people seeking them; villages and small towns have less people and also considerably less IMSS resources and expertise at their disposal.
Seguro Popular is a nation-wide healthcare program that is designed as a safety net to cover citizens who are not enrolled or otherwise covered by the IMSS. The service is intended to ensure that all Mexicans, regardless of their socio-economic status, have access to some healthcare. Seguro Popular is most often used by Mexicans who are not in formal employment (and thus not covered by IMSS) and cannot afford the IMSS subscriptions.
Health Insurance in Mexico
Mexico has a plethora of insurance companies that, for a monthly premium, will provide you with private health coverage. In the event that you or a member of your immediate family are taken ill or suffer an accident, the insurance company will cover the medical fees.
How much is covered depends on what health care plan you choose to buy. The more cover you need, and the older you are, the more expensive the premiums will become. Other factors (such as whether you smoke or take regular exercise at a gym) may also influence the price of your premiums.
Most large companies provide a health care plan as part of their remuneration package. As with the USA, health insurance premiums have been rising dramatically in Mexico over recent years. It is in part due to the higher cost of medical care, higher cost of medicines and an increase in hospital fees. Having a plan through a large company offers a distinct advantage because the company covers the lion-share of the premium cost, and this means that you, personally, pay less and get considerably more cover under a corporate insurance plan than you would otherwise get on a privately-held plan.
If you don’t work for a company that offers health insurance, then a private plan is your only other option. You should shop around for the best deal and find a plan that matches your individual circumstances, potential needs, and budget.
Companies offering health insurance in Mexico include: GNP Mexico, Monterrey,Royal & Sun Alliance, MetLife and DVK.
In addition, Mexico’s Banks offer health insurance products as part of their service portfolios although you should check the small print for any limitations.
Doctors in Mexico
Mexico has many fine doctors and many also speak good English.
If you are in need of an English-speaking doctor in Mexico you may contact your local consulate as they usually keep a list of local doctors at hand. Also asks friends, neighbors and work colleagues for recommendations of good local doctors.
Your insurance company may also provide a list of doctors and, even, may have a list of approved doctors you may contact as part of your insurance cover.
Dentists in Mexico
Mexico appears to have no shortage of dentists: simply ask a neighbor and they probably have or know a friend who has a dentist somewhere in their family tree.
A large number of Americans travel south of the border every year to have dentistry work undertaken. If you can find a good dentist in Mexico, you can have excellent work done for a fraction of the cost as the same work would cost to have done in the USA or the UK, for example.
As with doctors and other professionals, word-of-mouth recommendations are ideal: ask friends, neighbors or work colleagues if they know of a good dentist locally.
If you are insured for dental treatment, your insurance company may have a list of local dentists that you may contact for treatment.
Opticians in Mexico
Mexico is awash with opticians and you should have no trouble finding someone to test your eyesight in most of Mexico’s larger towns and cities.
Most of the opticians you’ll find in Mexico are franchises which offer a complete eye-treatment service: from eye exams through to supplying glasses and contact lenses.
You will also be able to find local, independent, opticians some of which have been practicing for years and have a great deal of experience.
Eye Examinations: Eye exams are usually free provided that you purchase eye glasses or contact lenses, if you need them, at the same place. The quality of eye exams varies and you should try and select an optician that offers you experienced eye doctors and modern testing equipment.
Eye Glasses and Frames: If you need your eye-sight corrected, you’ll have an enormous choice of glasses, frames, designer frames and frame styles to choose from. Frames and glasses are relatively expensive in Mexico, especially if you want brand-name designer frames.
Contact Lenses: Contact lenses are widely available in Mexico, including the monthly disposables. Daily disposables are available in fewer places and may need to be pre-ordered for later pick-up. Some of the larger Sanborns Stores stock a wide range of daily disposal lenses which they sell over-the-counter. Although contact lenses are available over the counter without a prescription, you should have ‘contact lens eye test’ undertaken annually when you wear contact lenses as the optician will check for infections or other issues which may arise with the use of contact lenses.
Laser Treatment: Laser Eye Treatment is available in Mexico. Talk to your eye doctor or optician about this. Prices for treatment are still quite high, as they are in most places around the world.
Hospitals and Clinics in Mexico
Mexico’s best hospitals and clinics are based in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey. If you are seeking specialist hospital treatment in Mexico you will probably have to travel to one of these cities.
Your insurance company may give you a list of hospitals you may make use of in Mexico or, if you have an open choice, then your local consulate will be able to provide you with a list of hospitals and clinics in the local area. Also talk with friends, colleagues or neighbors to ask them about local hospitals and clinics they may recommend.
Note that private hospital and clinical treatments are expensive in Mexico. You will need to have proof of private medical insurance or present a credit card with sufficient credit to cover several thousand dollars worth of treatment when you are admitted. Even if you have medical insurance, the hospital may still request a credit card imprint while the insurance policy and its details are confirmed; it can take up to 24 hours for this to happen.
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the investment of private clinics and hospitals in Mexico, especially in areas popular with tourists and foreign residents, particularly retirees. For example, a new medical center in Merida has been receiving extremely good reviews from retirees in the area: the center was built, in part, to provide services to the increasing number of foreign retirees living in that region.
The doctors, nurses and specialist healthcare professionals working at Mexico’s private hospitals are exceptionally well trained and usually have access to the latest equipment, technologies and medicines. Although wealthy individuals still travel to the USA for some types of very specialist treatments (for example, Houston Texas is renown for it’s world excellence in cancer treatments), you can expect very high levels of healthcare and attention at Mexico’s private hospitals and clinics.
Pharmacies and Medications in Mexico
Pharmacies are ubiquitous across Mexico; even the small towns have one. You’ll always be able to find a 24/7 pharmacy somewhere locally in Mexico.
Before July 2010, you could buy almost any medications you ask for over the counter in Mexico—including a full range of antibiotics and powerful pain-killers that would only be available on prescription in the USA, Canada and Europe. Today, high-powered pain killers and antibiotics require a prescription from doctor before they will be dispensed by pharmacists. Contact a doctor in Mexico if you need to purchase these (now) controlled substances.
Because of the high cost of medications in the USA, many Americans are crossing the border into Mexico to buy their medicines. Some may be buying brand-names at discount prices; others may be purchasing generic brand medications.
A concept of ‘discount medications’ has gained popularity in Mexico during recent times, principally through the rise of companies like ‘Farmacias Similares‘—a pharmacy franchise which offers generic drug alternatives to brand-name drugs. The issue with generic drugs on the cheap is that their precise source may be unclear.
The Guardian, a UK-based daily newspaper, published an article about over-the-counter medication in under-regulated environments like India and Mexico. The article highlights some of the risks involved with self-prescription and, in particular, generic (possibly counterfeit) medications.
Even brand-name medications in Mexico usually cost less (not always) than they do in the US and Europe, so buying the ‘real thing’ when you do have to take medications in Mexico may not cost you much more (your insurance policy might cover the costs anyway) and will mitigate the risks of generic or deep-discount medications.