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Guide to Healthcare in Mexico

18 Expats Talk about Healthcare and Health Insurance in Mexico

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Sep 13, 2021

Summary: Expats living in Mexico talk about healthcare, proximity to hospitals and specialists, quality of medical care in Mexico, availability of prescription medicines and more.

William Russell Expat Health Insurance

Expats in Mexico offer insight into the quality of healthcare in Mexico, proximity to hospitals, cost of health insurance and more.

What are medical services in Mexico like?

When we asked expats and global nomads about the quality of medical care in Mexico, they replied:

"Yes, but the quality is not uniform. However, as this area is growing in population (both Mexican and expat), new medical facilities are being built that should improve the quality, access and expense," commented an expat living in Lake Chapala, Mexico.

"Yes, I get 100% medical services such as Doctors, Hospitals, Operations & Medicines for free through the ISSTE system. My Wife was an English teacher at a Federal School so I was able to enter the system as her spouse," said another expat in Apizaco.

"We have not had to use hospital services as of yet. However, Guadalajara has exceptional hospitals that are affordable and an hour away. Local dentist and medical services receive high marks from those living here any length of time," remarked another in Ajijic.

"We have several hospitals here and are only 3 and a half hours from Guadalajara which has as good medical care as anywhere in the world. We had a friend who spent 3 weeks in intensive care in Guadalajara and the total cost was 35,000.00 dollars. Think of that in the US.. and she is well now," explained one expat.

"You can get meds easily without a prescription at local pharmacies. Many doctors speak English. Great private care too," commented an expat living in Puerto Penasco-Rocky Point, Mexico.

"Unfortunately, we do not have great options for people with serious issues - like cancer. But diabetes and high blood pressure, although serious, can be cared for here. Our issue in Huatulco is we do not have a private hospital, so we rely mostly on the Red Cross and the Marine Hospital.," said another expat in Huatulco.

"Medical care is readily available in our area and we have a very nice private hospital called Hospitan. Another private hospital - not as well equipped - CostaMed. The doctors all speak English and as we have Global Health insurance, we have the option to choose any hospital or doctor we wish. Private hospitals are really the only way to go if you expect the type of facilities and services that you would receive in the United States. As Playa Del Carmen is a smaller community, many times you will need to go to Cancun for specific needs. They have several private hospitals - Galenia, a larger Hospitan. If you have a chronic medical condition you might want to check with either hospital to make sure that the resources you will need are available," remarked another expat in Playa Del Carmen.

"Be sure to have travel insurance... helps to speak Spanish to communicate more freely with the caregivers, however someone there will speak English," explained one expat in Puerto Vallarta.

" It depends on finances and age. If you're a professional moving to Mexico for business reasons, then you'll no doubt be given a private insurance plan. For those still young, private insurance is cheaper than in the USA but still ultimately unaffordable. Those working for public or private sector employers should automatically be enlisted in the IMSS which is our national system free to the user. Roughy equivalent to the UK's NHS, if you need something major it is excellent. For minor problems you may care to go private. Besides the IMSS, if you're not working you can enroll in the govenment's Seguro Popular system which is probably a bit inferior to the IMSS but again will protect you against major events. Next, I recommend paying monthly to subscribe to a private ambulance/outpatient service such as EMME. The price is reasonable and they come quickly with a fully equipped ambulance and medical team. They also have an outpatient walk-in centre open until late. Most pharmacies have an attached doctor available during work hours (sometimes morning only) and you can get a quick consultation either free or at insignificant cost - very useful if you need an antibiotic because these need a prescription now. ," said another expat in Monterrey.

"Make sure to join the national system and also subscribe to a local emergency ambulance service," remarked another expat in Monterrey.

What do you think about the cost of medical care in Mexico?

" TEst 8 RIST. My massage visits are wonderful and reasonable 500 pesos for 75 minutes! My insurance companies pay those to a limit as long as the receipts show all necessary info... so check with your insurance company what is necessary. Many Mexicans don't or can't write properly, so make sure they spell your name correctly and have all the info correct, even the date as on one of my receipts the girl put 2010 when it was 2017 and my insurance company refused it even though I had submitted many receipts together and it was an obvious er," commented an expat living in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

"I pay cash for doctor visits (approx $10) I found my doctor through a friend/referral. I dont have to wait many weeks/months for an appointment, I get right in," said another expat in Puerto Penasco-Rocky Point.

"I have private Best Doctors. It was accepted for a hip replacement and cataract surgery. I'm in a group plan," remarked another expat in Chapala.

"I had such a profound experience when I did NOT have health insurance, that it actually propelled me to work for a company that specifically offers private insurance to expats. About 16 years ago, I was hit by a taxi cab while crossing the street. I ended up in a public hospital and all I can say was I felt better out of that hospital than in it. The conditions were beyond terrible. So I went on a search for private health insurance which allowed me to use any PRIVATE hospital and covered me when traveling and in the US. If something really major happened, I would want to be treated in the US. So my insurance covers me anywhere in the world and I am able to choose where I get treatment, at any private hospital. The price is a fraction of what I was paying in the US - even with my employers portions. I am 50 and my husband is 58, we have a $1000 deductible and we pay about $2900 for the year. If anyone needs assistance, I am happy to help. I am technically "retired" so I am not trying to push anyone into insurance. I just know the challenges I had personally to sort through finding a policy with sufficient coverage at an affordable price," explained one expat in Huatulco.

"Unfortunately, when I moved abroad I was hit by a taxi. I was taken to a public hospital. That experience was life changing... I had never seen the conditions that I saw there - bathrooms with no soap or tp - group recovery rooms - disorder. I immediately realized the importance of have PRIVATE health insurance, and went on a mission to find suitable insurance for my family. As we love to travel I found insurance that allows us to be covered ANYWHERE in the WORLD including the US - at a fraction of the price we were paying when living in the US. We can choose ANY HOSPITAL OR DOCTOR that we wish. The policy is in English, the office is located in Playa Del Carmen with courtesy translation service, and there is an in-claims department, finally they are partnered with an international law firm. I felt that was soooo important to myself and my expat friends, that I asked for a job selling this insurance. I have been retired for 15 years, but got into this business because it is something that I feel passionate about and know that all my expat friends need," said another expat in Playa Del Carmen.

"Ask for receipts as many places don't issue one.....my health insurance would not cover my pedicures even though I went to the hospital for medical pedicures as the person doing it was not the officially accepted PODIATRIST. My massage visits are wonderful and reasonable 500 pesos for 75 minutes! My insurance companies pay those to a limit as long as the receipts show all necessary info... so check with your insurance company what is necessary. Many Mexicans don't or can't write properly, so make sure they spell your name correctly and have all the info correct, even the date as on one of my receipts the girl put 2010 when it was 2017 and my insurance company refused it even though I had submitted many receipts together and it was an obvious error. There are many walk in clinics with doctors, but quality is questionable, so stick to well known ones in your area. Similaries are good and lower cost. I also lived in Mexico for 2 yrs and worked and had the local Seguro Social medical coverage... covers basics. I speak Spanish so it worked out ok, but it was a bit of a drive and a different process... so when I felt stressed I just used the local private clinic and paid 500 pesos to see the doctor," remarked another expat in Puerto Vallarta.

What are emergency services like?

When we asked about emergency services, members in Mexico wrote:

"2 miles to a hospital, 2 blocks to a Red Cross (Cruz Roja) and 2 blocks to a fire dept with ambulance. Call 911. and www.rockypoint911.com for services," commented an expat living in Puerto Penasco-Rocky Point, Mexico.

"Hospital San Antonia is 1 1/2 miles from our home. There are two more within a few miles. We have Cruz Roja. I've only been to one of the hospitals here and have been pleased with the care. There are more hospitals in Guadalajara which is one hour + or- from here," said another expat in Chapala.

"The public hospital, the Red Cross, and the Marine hospital are all right next to each other on the main road in town. It is best to call for an ambulance from the Red Cross by dialing (958) 587-1188. For a fee of $40 USD a year, you will have free ambulance service," remarked another expat in Huatulco.

"Again,the best hospitals are PRIVATE - CostaMed and Hospitan. They are both located on the main highway that runs between Tulum and Cancun. In case of an emergency you simply dial "911". Of course, depending on your emergency, a patient may be brought to one of the hospitals mentioned above until stabilized and possibly moved to Cancun -where there are larger facilities and more medical equipment," explained one expat in Playa Del Carmen.

"We live in PV 6 months of the year in our condo there and are just a 5 minute walk from 2 private first rate hospitals, Medasist and CMQ in downtown Puerto Vallarta. You can literally walk in and be seen immediately by a doctor in Emergency. I was admitted for 2 days in 2015 for bronchitis. I had a large private room with a window, couch, large bathroom and everything was absolutely spotless and shining clean... floors etc. Nurses uniforms new and clean also. I speak Spanish so I was able to communicate with all my caregivers. The food was excellent, delicious actually. The lady at the front desk, who was also in charge of activating insurance quickly and efficiently coordinated with my insurance provider so that I was not out of pocket at all in the admission stage where they normally ask for a credit card. I was recommend insisting at this stage that the hospital contact your insurance company to take care of all costs or you will end up paying something and having to claim it back. For a 2 day stay, my bill was around $2355 USD," said another expat in Puerto Vallarta.

"I live about 10 minutes from the hospital zone which is crammed with care facilities of every kind. One of the best is the Muguerza. There are many. Care is as good as anywhere in the world. The national system has specialist hospitals such as maternity, skeletal, cardiac, etc," remarked another expat in Monterrey.

Are their specialists in the area or do you need to travel to see a specialist?

"They can have surgeries here, or at other larger hospitals just 5 hours away, or go to the U.S. which is a 3.5 hour drive to Phoenix or Tucson hospitals," commented an expat living in Puerto Penasco-Rocky Point, Mexico.

"Many of the docs lakeside also work in Guadalajara. I have no idea what other expats do. I would not return to the U.S. at this time. I have no insurance there and the country is in upheaval," said another expat in Chapala.

"Expats tend to travel to Mexico city for major health issues. This is about a half hour plane ride. It is important though to have PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE with Air Ambulance service," remarked another expat in Huatulco.

"If I had the option, and I DO because I have international health insurance, I am covered in the US as well as anywhere in the world. Without a doubt, if physically possible, I would go to the US for anything major. If I was unable to travel back to the US, many people use the faculties in Cancun and Merida simply due to the fact that these are more populated areas and as a result have better equipped hospitals," explained one expat in Playa Del Carmen.

"There are many specialists in Puerto Vallarta and you can usually make an appointment within 2 days and the cost is about 500 pesos (less than $50)," said another expat in Puerto Vallarta.

Are most prescription medications available in Mexico?

"No prescription needed, get insulin over the counter, amazing. Insulin is about $7 per vial, many medicines available over the counter and low prices," commented an expat living in Puerto Penasco-Rocky Point, Mexico.

"Yes. Farmacias are plentiful and in expensive. Medications are way less expensive than in the states. For certain drugs prescriptions are needed. There are also Farmacias similar generics," said another expat in Chapala.

"Common prescriptions medicines are available locally and we have an abundance of pharmacies here. Most medications do not require a prescription with the exception of antibiotics. There are generic options here and prices are quite low compared to the US," remarked another expat in Huatulco.

"Common prescriptions in the US do not require prescriptions in Mexico. There is an abundance of pharmacies everywhere in Mexico. Prices can vary greatly so it pays to shop around. Similares Pharmacies only offer generic brands and offer a further discount on Mondays. In general the cost of medicine is much cheaper in Mexico. All antibiotics require a prescription. ," explained one expat in Playa Del Carmen.

"Farmacia Guadalajara is a chain, so you are reasonably sure of the quality of the drugs and since their prices are standardized, chain-wise, you are reasonably sure that you are not paying the gringo price at one of the tourist pharmacies. Many common drugs available. Also Freddy's on Olas Altas," said another expat in Puerto Vallarta.

"Most medicines are available without a prescription except for psychotropic and antibiotics. Generic medicines are freely available, this means that medicines in general cost a fraction of the price you'd be charged in, say, the USA," remarked another expat in Monterrey.

"All hospitals and clinics are 10-15 minutes from any point in the city. Many. many medical options to choose from. They have both public, which might be a long wait, and private, substantially below USA costs," commented an expat living in Merida, Mexico.

"We have several hospitals/clinics in town. But it is important that you go to a PRIVATE HOSPITAL. Expats will not be accustomed to using a public hospital in Mexico and I do NOT recommend it. The private hospitals are clean, take the patients right away, easy to get appointments without waiting for months, doctors speak English, doctors have an extra certification to work there, and overall you will have very good experience...as long as you have health insurance! I ran into an issue of not having health insurance and ended up in a public hospital. Not an experience I want to repeat. So, I now have a policy that allows me to choose ANY PRIVATE HOSPITAL OR DOCTOR ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD. My coverage also includes the US - but this is an option. I am paying a fraction of the price that I paid in the US. I love to travel and this insurance gives me piece of mind. If you need info please let me know," said another expat in Playa Del Carmen.

"We have one major private hospital in Playa. This is a really important thing to me as the public hospitals are not up to par with what expats are accustomed to coming from the US, Canada or Europe. The care is really outstanding in the private hospitals with most doctors speaking fluent English. They are also required to have an additional level of training to be able to work in a private hospital. I have been retired for 15 years but I actually sell international health insurance to expats which allows us to use ANY PRIVATE hospital or doctor in the world. I got involved in this because I was hit by a taxi cab about 15 years ago while traveling and ended up in a public hospital. The conditions were so bad - no soap or toilet paper in the bathrooms - 50 people in a group room..... I never wanted to be in that situation ever again. That was when I went quest for international health insurance. It is something critical to have," remarked another expat in Playa Del Carmen.

"3 miles, there are 2, there is a Red Cross ambulance 2 blocks from my house and the fire dept (Bomberos) ambulance is 3 blocks away, we have a 911 system," explained one expat in Puerto Penasco.

"I am very close to the many pharmacies for medicines. Also there are bi-lingual doctors' offices in many places downtown. There are several hospitals nearby within a few miles. I have heard that the quality of care is very good. But, I have not had personal experience yet, thank goodness," said another expat in Playa del Carmen.

Do expats and global nomads in Mexico have access to public healthcare? What is it like?

"What a load of bull shit. First of all the information that was provided is out of date. Popular Seguro no longer exists. This is one huge Insurance scam," commented an expat living in Countrywide, Mexico.

"Yes, approx $400 per year. Yes public hospital. Pretty good care. Many urgent clinics too. I am an American citizen but a Mexico resident for over 14 years, and anyone can qualify for the system called "IMSS" There's a public hospital and IMSS hospital as well," said another expat in Puerto Penasco-Rocky Point.

"Yes there is public healthcare. Some expats take advantage of it. Seguro Popular and IMSS are undergoing changes. Enrollment is not really difficult. It may be free or low-cost, I think depending on income. The care is good, the wait is long. Most of us are of the age when the many of our conditions have existed before," remarked another expat in Chapala.

"Currently the Mexican heath care system is being revised by the new President MACRO. They are doing away with one of the options that is often abused by expats which is meant to be used by the poorest of poor Mexicans. This option I would never recommend regardless as the doctors in many cases have not finished their education and you are taking a huge risk. Then there is another option which employers are required to contribute a portion to your coverage. But, as expats the most popular option is to purchase PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE. Pre-existing conditions are usually not covered. Public hospitals are not up to the US standards in the majority of cases, which is why most expats choose to use PRIVATE hospitals with PRIVATE insurance coverage," explained one expat in Huatulco.

"As an expat, MOST people will purchase their own Expat Insurance which covers you in any PRIVATE HOSPITAL and allows you to use ANY DOCTOR you wish. Some policies can be quite expensive but others are actually very reasonably priced. For example a mother of 52 with two girls 11 and 13 pays about USD $1900 a year and the coverage INCLUDES the United States. only about $1000 EXCLUDING the United States. This is with a $1000 deductible. This is about the minimum starting point. But, the price of US coverage is just a FRACTION of what you would pay if you lived in the United States. Private insurance will typically exclude pre-existing conditions, but this is on a case-by-case basis. If you work in Mexico, you will have basic medical coverage called IMSS. All employers are required to pay into the system and it is like a socialized form of medical care for Mexico. It is BASIC because IMSS hospitals are not extravagant and will require you to produce a lot of paperwork and will also require a lot of time and patience. There is also health care for the poorest of the poor. In order to enroll you will be asked certain questions like - "is your floor dirt or tile", "do you own a tv"? If you have the means, I would recommend going Private as I can not recommend the public system or hospitals. If you are from the US, you will not be accustomed to the public hospitals and having to deal with the mountains of paperwork in Spanish. ," said another expat in Playa Del Carmen.

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Need health insurance in Mexico? William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000. Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Some of Joshua's more popular articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and 5 Best Places to Live in Spain. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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