The Truth About Mexican Healthcare & Mexican Health Insurance for Expats
If you’ve landed on this page, we are guessing you hesitantly googled “Health Insurance in Mexico,” or perhaps you stumbled onto us as you were looking for auto or boat insurance. Either way, you’re probably less than excited to be here. It’s okay. We get it.
Dealing with insurance ranks right up there with getting your tooth pulled and going to the DMV. And that’s the feeling you have when you’re dealing with insurance in your native country. The thought of dealing with insurance in another country (i.e. Mexican health insurance) could easily send even the most well-seasoned adventurer over the edge. Thankfully, there’s no need to stress… MexInsurance is here to eliminate all your angst.
We’ve sifted through mounds of information and want to share only the most important facts about health insurance in Mexico with you.
We’ve put together an easy-to-read MEXICAN HEALTH INSURANCE GUIDE below.
If you decide you need private insurance, our experts have done all the necessary vetting of insurance options so that we can offer you only the most reliable and user-friendly Mexican health insurance options.
You’ll be back to thinking about the important stuff— like figuring out which swimsuit to pack—in no time.
P.S. The guide below is Mexico Health Insurance 101 and is adequate for most Mexican visitors. But should you have more questions, we are always happy to give you next-level insurance details and further explain all of your options for health insurance in Mexico. Contact us here to address your specific concerns.
Your friends at MexInsurance
4 Simple (But Absolutely Necessary) Steps to Getting Quality Healthcare & Health Insurance in Mexico
Step 1. Understand the basics of the Mexican healthcare system and how health insurance in Mexico works
Healthcare in Mexico is both high quality and affordable. Mexican doctors are well-qualified, with many having trained abroad, and able to speak English. This has led to the country becoming a popular destination for medical tourism, especially for Americans who travel south of the border in search of cheaper medical care.
- Physicians: Mexico requires physicians trained in Mexico to go through an intense medical program that includes four years of medical school, a one-year internship, and a hospital residency.
- Dentists: Dental services in Mexico are generally good and typically less expensive than they are in developed countries. Dentists in Mexico often have the same equipment and use the same cutting-edge procedures that you would find in other developed countries including the U.S. Dentists in Mexico are required to be certified through the Asociacion Dental Mexicana.
- Emergency Services: Access to care and emergency services is more readily available in Mexico’s urban areas. Rural areas often have fewer options for care and the ratio of beds available per 1,000 residents is approximately half of what you would find in more metropolitan Mexican cities.
- Prescription Medication: There are two types of pharmacies in Mexico. One type offers all medication except regulated medication. Many medications that require a prescription in the US, do not require one in Mexico and can be purchased quite easily. The other type, which is more difficult to find, offers regulated medications such as narcotics and antibiotics. Generally speaking, doctors in Mexico are more hesitant to issue prescriptions for the regulated medications as well.
Mexico uses both a public (government-funded) and a private system to provide health care for its residents.
Basically, options for health insurance in Mexico can be broken down into three categories:
- IMSS: Public healthcare usually comes through the IMSS, Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social. If you legally reside in Mexico, it can be obtained through an employer or by voluntarily enrolling. IMSS is funded by a combination of contributions by both the government, the employee and the employer. Deductions are automatically deducted from monthly salaries. If you are self-employed, you can apply for IMSS insurance. Click here to learn more about enrolling in IMSS.
- Private Insurance: Private medical insurance policies can be purchased by an individual. This would consist of a plan of their choosing provided by a non-governmental agency that uses private medical professionals. Many ex-pats opt for international health insurance. These plans typically provide the same core benefits as a plan in the U.S. and often have many options available such as dental, vision, and even emergency evacuation coverages.
- INSABI: Public healthcare that provides health care to individuals who are not covered by IMSS or their own private insurance.
The upside to seeking out medical care in Mexico is that healthcare services in Mexico are cheap and of good quality.
The primary downside of the public healthcare system in Mexico is that wait times are often long and cumbersome because the demand for care far exceeds the supply. For example, the average wait time for a diagnostic procedure is 11 weeks and then it typically requires another 14 weeks of waiting if a surgical procedure is needed. Therefore, a simple surgical procedure may take six months to schedule. Whereas, those who have private health insurance in Mexico have significantly shorter wait times for appointments and procedures.
Due to this overcrowding in the public system, many ex-pats opt for private Mexican health insurance. In Mexico, the private system is separate from the public system. Therefore, private hospitals, specialist clinics, and general practitioners have much shorter waits for patients wishing to receive services.
*A note on language: Many Mexican health professionals speak English, yet most services are provided in Spanish. If language is of concern to you, it is helpful to know that most private insurance carriers offer customer service and help with the language barrier via phone or live chats. Cigna, our preferred Mexican health insurance provider, even offers case management services (see information below) for their customers. A case manager that speaks your preferred language can be assigned to you. Your assigned professional case manager is then available to help manage your care and help you navigate the Mexican healthcare system in your native language.
Step 2. Decide what insurance you need
Now that you understand the basics of how the healthcare system works in Mexico, you have a decision to make.
Which would work best for you and your loved ones— the public Mexican health insurance system (IMSS), or a private international health insurance policy?
At the end of the day, this is a personal decision and there is no legal obligation to get health insurance in Mexico (note: there is a legal obligation to get insurance for driving in Mexico)
But, we at MexInsurance are going to cut to the chase here and give you our heartfelt opinion…
If you can afford private insurance (which you probably can), get private insurance.
We pride ourselves in telling you the truth at MexInsurance even if it’s not to the benefit of our business. We will always tell you if you DON’T need insurance and, when you do need insurance in Mexico, we will only offer you the best. Unfortunately, this is not one of those cases where we can in good conscience tell you not to get private insurance.
Why? Because we don’t want you to be miserable, left uncared for, and confused in a foreign country.
Not only will you get better care if you have private health insurance in Mexico and avoid ridiculously long waiting lists, but you will also sleep easier and enjoy your time in Mexico knowing that if something unfortunate happens, you’re covered.
The last thing you want when you’re not feeling well is to feel uncertain about the care you are receiving and to be wondering how it will all be paid for. The best part of obtaining private insurance is that the cost is almost always significantly less expensive than a US medical insurance policy.
Still, if you can’t afford it (or you simply pride yourself in living on the edge and enjoy long lines), we are not going to abandon you. There is the IMSS, public health insurance in Mexico, option. It definitely is nice to know that Mexico has universal care available should you get sick or injured. More information can be found here on the IMSS page.
And if you’re simply unsure about which direction to go—private or IMSS—we encourage you to remember the old saying, “You get what you pay for,” and we believe you will find the answer that feels right for you.
Step 3. Obtain Mexican Health Insurance through an insurance broker you can trust (…even if it’s not us)
The Doctors are well-trained and the quality of healthcare in Mexico is very good
We know we are biased towards good insurance brokers and agents, but seriously… if you decide to pursue a PRIVATE policy, be sure to do the following to find an adequate Mexican health insurance policy:
• Get insurance through a trusted insurance broker/agent that is familiar with Mexican health insurance. You won’t pay any extra to have a broker. The advantage of a broker is that they are an added layer of customer service for you. A good broker should always be available to answer your questions and concerns before and during those times you need to use your policy.
• Be certain that your policy is issued by a well-established and trusted underwriter.
• Check your broker and the insurance company’s customer service reviews. When you are in a foreign country you want customer service that you can count on.
Step 4. Educate yourself in advance about health services that are available in the area of Mexico that you plan to visit.
A little information ahead of time can go a long way in the event of a health crisis in a foreign country. Knowing where to go when you’re not feeling well may save you from the big headache of trying to figure out where to go or which doctor is best for you. It can not only save you precious time but could also save your life in the unfortunate event of a life-threatening emergency.
Tips for finding healthcare in Mexico if you enroll in IMSS:
- You will be assigned to both a local clinic and a family doctor or GP (médico general). You are unable to choose a doctor in this system.
- Your assigned doctor will be your first stop for medical care.
- Your assigned doctor is where you will attend regular check-ups and get needed prescriptions.
Tips for finding healthcare in Mexico if you have PRIVATE insurance:
- Talk to the Locals! Ask ahead of time, what doctors are nearby. Find out if they are private or IMSS doctors. Get as much information as you can from people in your area about how to best access care.
- Do an internet search or look on Expat internet forums before you leave home and note options for care in the area you will be residing.
- Call or email your broker. Brokers are an excellent resource and it’s their job to help you out. They have a lot of answers and when they don’t, they can almost always point you in the right direction. (If you are a MexInsurance customer, you can also use our Live Chat feature.)
- Call your insurance provider directly or check their website for a directory of health professionals in your area.
- Download helpful apps. Most insurance companies now have apps that will help you find local healthcare providers.
- Check with your embassy in Mexico City or the consulate nearest you for a list of doctors who speak English.
IMPORTANT EMERGENCY NUMBERS
Although response time can be slow, in the case of an emergency, in Mexico, dial:
THE BEST Mexico Global Health Insurance: CIGNA
WHY MEXINSURANCE THINKS CIGNA IS HANDS DOWN THE BEST MEXICAN HEALTH INSURANCE FOR EXPATS…
Graphics are taken from Cigna Customer Guide – the top half of page 6 & 8; Cigna Sales Brochure – pages 4-7
HOW TO CREATE YOUR PLAN
Creating a comprehensive, tailored plan with Cigna is simple. It’s flexible, so you can choose and pay for only the cover you need.
- Our plans comprise of three levels of cover: Silver, Gold, and Platinum.
- In addition, you can select optional modules, including International Outpatient; International Medical Evacuation; International Health and Wellbeing; and International Vision and Dental which enables you the flexibility to create a health insurance plan that suits your unique needs.
- We also offer a wide range of cost-share and deductible options on International Medical Insurance and International Outpatient, allowing you to tailor a plan to suit your budget.