The Mexican healthcare system is divided into the three tiers, all aimed at a specific audience depending on both socioeconomic status and whether or not your employed. There has been considerable governmental effort to make sure everyone has access to some semblance of healthcare, but even with these options, 14.5% of Mexicans have no health insurance and many are forced to give up their health insurance because the premiums become too expensive to pay.
The lowest level, Seguro Popular, was implemented in 2003 as an attempt to cover Mexicans regardless of their employment status. It was designed as a nation-wide safety net. As of 2019, it is being replaced by the Institute of Health and Wellbeing.
The middle tier comprises the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) and the Institute for Social Security and Services for State Workers (ISSSTE), both public health institutions cover anyone with a job. It is free at point of service, meaning that you do not need to pay when you utilize medical services. This is because payroll taxes cover health insurance. It is also possible to purchase IMSS health insurance if you can afford it, but the quality of care provided depends heavily on where you live. They are generally overwhelmed and do not have the resources or staff to properly attend patients.
The top tier is private insurance, which is generally the only way a person can afford to go to private hospitals. Those who can afford it stick to private insurance. There is a wide range of insurance companies available. Be aware that premiums can get very expensive depending on the plan you choose, pre-existing conditions, age, etc. If you’re an expat, it is always best to have an international health insurance plan that will cover you in Mexico.
Health care in big cities is world class, especially in Mexico City, as long as you’re properly insured. Private hospitals will not admit you into the emergency room if you do not have proof of insurance or a credit card with essentially no limit, and will not discharge you until all bills have been paid. Make sure you arrive to the hospital with all the required documents and information.
A divided system
Each system maintains its own network of hospitals, doctors, pharmacies and health related centers, which cannot be accessed by those belonging to another system. This fragmented system leads to serious issues affecting the quality of care of the patients. The unemployed experience the lowest level of care, while the national security system varies between high quality care to less consistent care, especially in rural areas.
The private system provides the highest level of care. Private hospitals in Mexico attract large numbers of people, especially from the neighboring United States, who wish to access the top quality healthcare at a considerably lower price than in their home countries. Care in this system needs to be paid for by acquiring health insurance. If you are sufficiently covered you can get high-quality treatment in all major Mexican cities. Doctors are usually well-qualified and many of them speak English. Facilities and equipment in private clinics are up to date and the service is excellent.
Expats and insurance
If you move to Mexico you should make sure that you have sufficient insurance cover for the treatments you might need during your stay. Most foreigners (and most Mexicans who can afford it) prefer to take out a private health insurance policy. Expats looking for admittance to a private hospital need to check whether foreign insurance is accepted.
If you do not have private health insurance or enough funds available to be admitted in one of the private hospitals, in an emergency you might end up in overcrowded hospitals and might have to wait for a very long time if you need a special treatment. Keep all of this in mind when planning your trip to Mexico, and make sure you are covered for all eventualities.