It’s easy to think of all the wonderful times you’ll experience as an expat in Mexico. But what would you do if “wonderful” turned into a “get medical care in Mexico” emergency?
Where would you go? What would you do? How would you pay?
Did you know that Mexico has some of the best hospitals and clinics in the world?
In fact highly qualified doctors-to-be come from all over the country and from other nations to train in Mexico’s first-rate medical schools. Today every midsize and large metropolis is home to at least one internationally renowned hospital.
As an expat in Mexico, you need a physician whom you can trust. The best way to find such a skilled individual is to ask around for referrals. Other expats are usually very happy to share their good – and not so good – experiences regarding healthcare providers in Mexico.
That’s what we did after our move to Huatulco Mexico. There is a great expat community here that is quick to point new residents in the right direction. We’ve found that the questions below will help you get started with your “find a trusted healthcare provider in Mexico” search:
- How quickly can you get in to see the provider?
- Are phone calls and emails returned promptly?
- Where is the physician/practice located?
- Will he/she make house calls?
- Is the physician a specialist or does he/she provide general care?
- What is the best way to get there?
- With which healthcare facility is the doctor affiliated?
- When x-rays and lab work are needed, can they be done on-site?
You can read my blog post My First Surgery in Mexico for the answers to many of these questions.
The next question you may have is “How much will this cost?”
Let’s Talk Money
Did you know that healthcare in Mexico is much more affordable – and safer – than you might think? Naturally, prices vary depending on the nature of the visit, but you can count on these healthcare estimates:
- Physician/specialist visit or house call – $30 to $50 US
- Dental visit for cleaning – $35 to $60 US
- Overnight stay in a private hospital room – $50 to $80 US
- Lab tests – a third less than in the US
- CAT scan – a quarter less than in the US
Now let’s talk about health insurance Mexico coverage.
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Health Insurance in Mexico
Many expats sign up for the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (IMSS) national health insurance. It’s approximately $400 US per year and typically covers medical, dental, vision, hospitalization and prescriptions. And all you need is a valid resident visa and a willingness to live with these possible inconveniences:
- Most IMSS physicians are government-employed. They typically do not have the same medical “pedigree” as fellow colleagues working in private facilities.
- Many of the doctors and nurses speak only Spanish.
- You may have to wait anywhere from 12 to 48 hours to get an appointment or receive lab results.
- The overall orderliness of participating clinics may be less than what you’re used to back home.
- Although many of the prescribed medications can be filled on-site, you may wish to visit a local pharmacy to get scripts filled.
- If you have a serious or time-intensive condition, you may want to seek alternatives. Most cities have a Red Cross (Cruz Roja) that will offer services to foreigners in need of emergency medical attention.
Some expats, with resident status, opt to purchase IMSS health insurance and use it when they have a major medical emergency. For everyday healthcare issues, they pay out of pocket for a private clinic visit because the rates are so affordable.
Some expats purchase private health insurance from companies such as Grupo Nacional Provincial, MetLife Mexico and Monterrey-New York Life. Annual rates vary, but you can expect to pay between $700 and $4,500 US per year for a premium if you’re under age 64. Again, we recommend talking with other expats for private health insurance recommendations.
Prescription drugs manufactured in Mexico cost, on average, about 50% less than the same drugs cost in the U.S. In most cases, they are the same medications, manufactured in the same factories as those sold in other countries.
If you’re bringing U.S.-manufactured prescriptions with you, you may wish to talk to your doctor about stocking up on refills. However, you will likely be able to get the same kind in Mexico, and many are sold over-the-counter. (Exceptions include sleeping pills, strong pain-relievers, and narcotics).
Alternative Medical Treatments
As in other locations around the world, there are a number of alternative medical treatments and providers readily available in Mexico. Almost every community has some sort of natural healing practitioner:
Just be sure to ask for referrals when seeking alternative medical treatments. Not all “providers” are certified, so be sure to do your homework when it comes to finding high quality medical treatments.
If you’re seeking additional help regarding quality medical care in Mexico, alternative medical treatments and private health insurance, let us know. We’d be happy to share with you our experiences and get you on your way to living a happy, healthy life as an expat in Mexico. As I said earlier, I share more information on medical care in Huatulco, in my post – My First Surgery in Mexico.