Health Care in Mexico

Pamela Thompson of HealthCare Resources Puerto Vallarta was the featured speaker at the Jaltemba Bay La Penita Rotary Club meeting this past Wednesday. She touched on many facets of the insurance conundrum for foreigners who wish to have some form of coverage while visiting Mexico. Here is an overview of the topics she discussed:

  1. The first thing you should do is to notify your respective consulate either in person or online to let them know that you will be in Mexico. Be sure to include the length of your stay and your exact location. This is a precautionary measure, so that in case of a disaster someone will know where to find you.
  2. It is important to remember that your medical records are your responsibility. Doctors and hospitals in Mexico do not keep your personal records like they do in the U.S. and Canada.
  3. Establish yourself with a local doctor or specialist so you have someone to go to when needed.
  4. Be sure to keep a brief medical history of yourself, i.e. prescriptions, allergies, past operations, cardiac issues, etc.
  5. Insurance companies in the U.S. and Canada typically do not cover you while in Mexico other than possible reimbursement if setup ahead of time. All outpatient services are required to be paid for in cash or by credit card at the time of service. Inpatient services may be paid for by your home insurer, however, you still must provide a guarantee of payment by cash or credit card at the time of service. An upfront deposit of at least $10,000 pesos is required for a hospital stay of 24 hours or more.
  6. Mexican health insurance is called IMSS/Seguro Social and is available for non-Mexicans. Foreigners can apply for this insurance, but keep in mind that there is a very long list of exempted procedures and pre-existing conditions that are not covered. Also, there can be a long wait for medical services because it is provided on a first-come first-served basis, no appointments. The IMSS system is intended for full time foreign residents only. That being said, some part time residents do apply for and are allowed into the system. The IMSS application process is pretty straightforward. You file an application and pay the one year fee and then take an extensive physical. If you are found to have any pre-existing conditions, i.e. high blood pressure, allergies or any physical anomalies, you will be denied coverage and your money will be refunded. There are many conditions that are not covered by IMSS for the first 24 months of coverage and others that are never covered. Pamela’s final comment on IMSS coverage – “The only consistencies with IMSS/Seguro Social are the inconsistencies.”
  7. Having air evacuation insurance for emergency situations is a good idea. There are various companies that provide evacuation services usually requiring a membership.
  8. U.S. Medicare and Canadian government insurance are not accepted for services in Mexico. However, your supplemental insurance may cover you while in Mexico on a reimbursement basis. Coverage varies, so please check with your carrier in advance.
  9. Purchasing travelers insurance is usually the best option for medical coverage while outside of the U.S. and Canada. There are many companies and many options available.
  10. Mexican private insurance and international insurance policies are also an option.
  11. U.S. or Canadian drafted Living Wills and Do Not Resuscitate orders are not legal documents in Mexico. When and if necessary, critical medical decisions can only be made by a blood relative, spouse, consulate or using a notarized power of attorney with a “Person of Confidence” in Spanish.
  12. Since 9/11 physical bodies are generally not allowed back into the U.S. or Canada. Cremation is the generally accepted procedure.

Pamela makes ongoing presentations covering a multitude of health issues. Check on her website for information.

You can also view our Travel Tips Guide: Medical & Travel Insurance for additional information.

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