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Healthcare in Mexico is of a high standard and is affordable for expats. In fact, the quality and lower cost of Mexican healthcare have resulted in many US citizens, especially those who don't have insurance, going to Mexico each year to find cheaper treatment.
Mexico has universal healthcare, meaning its citizens and residents are entitled to free healthcare coverage, but there are different programmes depending on citizenship and employment status in the public sector. While public healthcare is affordable and relatively efficient, private hospitals are generally more consistent and offer specialised facilities and procedures.
Public healthcare in Mexico
Public healthcare in Mexico is subsidised by the Mexican government through the Secretariat of Health. Retired expats can also receive state-subsidised health cover, but coverage is not automatic.
Unemployed Mexican citizens receive coverage through a programme called INSABI, which expats are unlikely to use.
Citizens and foreigners working in Mexico qualify to receive treatment under the public programme, Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social (IMSS). It is funded by employees, employers and the federal government. Employees contribute part of their salary each month which is automatically deducted. This amount is then matched by their employer.
Workers who are formally employed by the Mexican government go through a separate programme, the Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Sociales de los Trabajadores del Estado (ISSSTE).
The quality of care provided by the state system varies considerably. Some hospitals and clinics are truly first-rate, whereas others, particularly in rural areas, are less consistent.
Private healthcare in Mexico
Although public healthcare is of a high standard and affordable, most expats still opt for private healthcare in Mexico. Specialised procedures are more accessible and waiting times are much shorter with private options.
Because many Mexican doctors complete their medical training in Europe or the USA, they are often fluent in English. That said, expats should not expect the same from nurses.
Health insurance in Mexico
Expats already covered by the national healthcare system who would like to access private healthcare should have additional health insurance to shoulder the high expenses incurred by this sector. Senior citizen expats often qualify for discounts on healthcare coverage in Mexico.
Expats should be aware that some private hospitals in Mexico do not accept international health insurance, and the patient will have to pay for their treatment upon release from the hospital. In this case, hospitals usually provide the paperwork needed for expats to be reimbursed by their insurance company on their own terms. Expats need to ensure that their Mexican hospital of choice allows this or accepts foreign insurance providers.
When selecting health insurance, expats must consider if it covers necessary costs for medical treatment and possible repatriation.
Pharmacies in Mexico
Expats should have no problem finding pharmacies in Mexico as there are many available around the country. Some pharmacies are open 24 hours and some offer clinics and consultations with a healthcare worker.
Expats who do not speak Spanish may prefer pharmacies linked to private hospitals where they are more likely to find English-speaking staff.
Health hazards in Mexico
Mosquito-related health hazards exist in Mexico, including the Zika- and Chikungunya viruses. Expats should refer to their GP or a professional healthcare worker for information and advice on these viruses. New arrivals should be sure to take precautions such as using mosquito repellent.
Mexico's landscape is diverse, and with Mexico City and other areas being at a high altitude, new arrivals may experience headaches and a lack of energy. Mexico City also struggles with pollution which can impact respiratory conditions, especially with the elderly and young children.
Expats should also avoid drinking tap water and having ice in drinks. Other factors to consider in Mexico are safety, violent crime and a risk of natural disasters.
Pre-travel vaccinations for Mexico
Expats should visit a doctor six weeks before leaving for Mexico to ensure that they have received the correct vaccinations. Although malaria risk is relatively low, expats should research mosquito-related diseases.
It is advised that expats make sure their routine vaccinations are up to date before travelling to Mexico. The following vaccinations are recommended:
Emergency services in Mexico
The general emergency number in Mexico is 911. Emergency services are available, although response times may be slow, particularly in rural areas.
In Mexico City, one can download the 911 CDMX app to one's smartphone as well as use emergency buttons attached to CCTV cameras.