Explore our guide on healthcare in Mexico
You need health insurance to be admitted to a private hospital in Mexico, unless you can pay in cash upon arrival. Without it, you’ll be refused by higher quality hospitals and the situation can quickly degenerate due to the serious lack of means in the public healthcare sector. Affordable international health insurance is available for expatriates on a modest budget.
|Healthcare expenditure per capita and per year
|Annual indexation of health expenses
|Hospitalization reimbursement rate, Fund for French Abroad (CFE)
|Number of insurance companies available
|Annual cost of hospitalization coverage for a 30-year-old
|Annual cost of hospitalization coverage for a 50-year-old
The Mexican healthcare system is quite similar to that of most other OECD countries, in theory. Indeed, there is a social-welfare organization, IMSS, and the principle of complementary insurance. The Mexican social-welfare system is compulsory for all private-sector employees, and it is generally the employer who takes care of signing up (it’s also possible to do it yourself on the IMSS website, to get your own certificate and insurance number). You must contribute for at least four weeks before you can claim reimbursement.
Local physicians have good qualifications, especially since many of them also train in the United States – although training Mexican training have little to envy, as they themselves welcome and train American physicians. So, it’s not difficult to find a quality English-speaking physician in the major cities, especially the most tourist-oriented ones.
In the major Mexican cities, healthcare facilities are internationally renowned. The hospitals in Mexico City, Monterrey, and Guadalajara, for example, are very modern and meet the standards of international hospitals. However, many other facilities will have limited resources or fall far short of the safety standards expected of a hospital, especially in rural areas.
Expatriates (about 30,000 of them French nationals, for example) and employees with medium to high salaries often choose to sign up for private insurance. This grants you a freer choice of physician and place of care. In contrast, if you choose local private health insurance, you will have to acquaint yourself with the insurer's healthcare network, and check if the hospital or physician you want is on the list. Expatriate health insurance won’t impose any network or physician.
Private healthcare costs in Mexico are often equivalent to those in some European countries – less expensive than in the United States, but significantly more expensive than in such countries as France or Germany.
They have increased substantially over the last 10 years, leading expatriate health insurers to rank Mexico in the top 20 most expensive countries in the world for health insurance. Highly qualified physicians and the higher standards of a private hospital or clinic can lead to a very high bill (for example, if you choose a "5-star" hospital).
When you are admitted to a hospital, you will have to make sure that you can pay the bill, as hospitals will require you to prove this before admitting you. You might be refused admission if you don’t have the financial guarantee of insurance. There will be an admission fee, and the bill often has to be paid up front.
For example, a day of hospitalization costs about €1,000, not counting the care, surgery, anesthesia, and examinations that are billed separately. Even if you have private insurance, it’s not uncommon for the hospital to ask for a pre-authorization on your bank card. It’s important to have your insurance provider’s emergency numbers on hand, especially when you consider that repatriation to France will cost at least €10,000. This is why it’s a good idea to take out repatriation insurance.
As far as general practitioner consultations are concerned, the rate varies between €16 and €23. A visit to the dentist will cost you between €18 and €47, and a crown replacement €234 to €468.
Pharmacies (primera clase and segunda clase) often offer some physician’s services on the premises. In the case of minor illnesses, you can consult the physician on site for a prescription.
In general, medication is quite expensive. Although medication made in Mexico can sometimes be less expensive than in Europe or the US, it’s a good idea to arrive with three months’ worth of any medication to take regularly.
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The compulsory Mexican Social Security Organization, IMSS (Insituto Mexicano del Seguro Social), provides healthcare coverage, medical assistance, social protection, and social services for all employees (in the private sector) and self-employed people.
For the poorest, the IMSS Solidaridad offers free medical care in clinics and institutes "de solidaridad." This is complemented by the social medicine plan: Seguro Popular.
IMSS covers the insured person, their spouse, their children (under 16 years of age, or up to 25 years of age if they are students), and possibly their parents, if they are living under the same roof. This Mexican social welfare offers preventive and curative benefits – coverage for hospitalization, medical care, surgery, and medication – and can also pay a partial salary for a maximum of 52 weeks in the case of illness or accident.
There are two distinct plans:
The mandatory IMSS: for Mexican workers and resident foreigners. Mexican workers are exempt if they only earn the minimum wage, and their employer pays their contribution. If an employee earns more than the minimum wage, their monthly contribution is approximately 10% of their salary.
The voluntary ISSSTE: (Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Sociales de los Trabajadores del Estado) for self-employed and public service workers, and for expatriates holding an FM3 (temporary resident) or FM2 (permanent resident) visa.
The IMSS is financed by employer and employee contributions and by a contributions from the State. Healthcare is free, without co-pays. However, your family physician is assigned at the time of enrollment (with no choice or change possible, except in special cases), and you must go to the dedicated neighborhood clinics and cannot choose your place of care.
Finally, IMSS will not cover certain medical histories, and will apply waiting periods to others. See the IMSS website for a list of exempted conditions.
On paper, this all sounds great, but in reality, the lack of resources severely limits access to care, and the standards cannot compare to what expatriates expect.
There are great inequalities in access to healthcare in Mexico, depending on whether you are in an urban or rural area.
Public hospitals in rural areas suffer from a lack of equipment, medicine, and physicians, which pushes these care centers to refer patients to public facilities in large cities. Public hospitals are then saturated, with considerable waiting times.
In general, public hospitals suffer from a poor reputation in terms of health and safety standards, for example with regard to blood transfusions.
To ensure that you find a hospital or clinic that meets your standards of care, it is recommended that you take out private insurance and choose private hospitals and clinics.
There are a large number of private hospitals and clinics in Mexico – two thirds of them. They offer quality services with modern medical equipment and physicians with international training, often in the US or Europe. These private facilities are the best option for quality care, but they are generally very expensive, and the cost of care is much higher than in most European countries. Most expatriate health insurance providers rank Mexico in the top 20 most expensive countries in the world for healthcare.
Insurance rates are not regulated in Mexico. This encourages insurers to prioritize profitability.
You will therefore find local private contracts with many deductibles and co-payments.
The deductible is the amount you must pay before you can begin to be reimbursed, and co-payments are the amounts you must directly pay for a given medical procedure.
The reimbursement limits of these insurances should also be taken into account, when we consider that a day of hospitalization can cost €1,000, excluding care.
Finally, you generally will not have a choice of care providers and will be forced to use the insurer’s preferred hospitals, pharmacies, and physicians. Make sure you check before you sign up which hospitals are covered by the policy you’re considering.
The high cost of healthcare makes it essential to purchase expatriate health insurance in Mexico, whether or not you have subscribed to the CFE (Fund for French [and EU citizens] Abroad).
The first advantage of expatriate health insurance in Mexico is that you will be covered locally, but also in your home country, and by extension in other countries you pass through for short stays.
Moreover, it will be easier to understand the expat insurance policies than those of a local insurer. There will be no deductible or mandatory co-payment, and the hospitalization guarantees are always intended to cover 100% of the costs.
Serious and/or long term illness and injury will be covered without any particular limitations – this is not the case in local contracts, where limitations are often strict and very difficult to assess if you are not an expert.
The additional advantage of an expatriate health insurance is that there is no imposed care network. You can visit the hospital/clinic that suits you best and choose your own physicians.
If you are hospitalized for more than 24 hours, your insurance provider can generally provide the deposit requested by the hospital and pay your bill directly.
In all other cases, you will have to pay up front. Today, insurers allow you to transmit your claims for moderate amounts (generally less than €1,000 per invoice) either directly via a mobile application, via a customer service platform, or sometimes by email.
It is no longer necessary to send original invoices for standard care, and digital transmission keeps processing times down.
Given the cost of healthcare, you should ideally choose a standard plan or plan with extra benefits to make sure you get enough reimbursement for consultations.
For tighter budgets, we recommend:
- An affordable plan that covers hospitalization and routine expenses with either a fixed deductible or a 10% deductible on certain expenses, and no vision or dental coverage. Such a plan will fully reimburse hospitalization and very adequately reimburse exam and pharmacy costs.
- For smaller budgets, opt for hospitalization-only coverage, the bare minimum needed to avoid getting yourself into financial trouble.
In Mexico, although the quality of care is good, hospitalization can quickly become expensive, and repatriation may be preferable; even more so if you are not in one of the country's major cities with the best hospitals.
This option should be seriously considered if you don’t have private insurance or if you are traveling temporarily – keep in mind that the cost of repatriation to France is at least €10,000.
The services of an assistance company can also help you find a physician or a health center.
Signing up for expatriate healthcare coverage is more complex than for a traditional health insurance plan. It is therefore advisable to apply about 30 days before your departure.
Our website will help you request a quote online and compare coverage options. An adviser can then help you with the entire sign-up process.
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