In the past few years Mexico has made great strides toward its goal of universal health care coverage. As Mexico tackles making health care accessible to all its citizens, expats and visitors are attracted by the variety and affordable costs of medical services and prescription drugs in Mexico. Some retire to Mexico to enjoy a more laid-back lifestyle while taking advantage of the affordable health care, and others travel to the country specifically for medical treatments.
Mexico’s health care system is made up of three tiers. Those who have the means to pay for private insurance may do so, or enjoy private medical care on a pay-as-you-go basis. Salaried workers are covered by IMSS (Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social), Mexico’s government-run social security institute; retired people and the self-employed may also enroll in IMSS for an annual fee, and many expats living in Mexico are enrolled. A decade ago, the rest of the population, nearly half of Mexico’s 110 million inhabitants, had no health care insurance. Those not covered by other health services may now sign up for and receive health care through a program known as Seguro Popular.
Private Care and Alternative Treatments
Mexico has an extensive system of private clinics and hospitals with modern facilities, well-trained physicians, and equipped with the latest in medical technology. Private medical care in Mexico is available at a fraction of the cost of the same procedures in the US, and does not require long waits. A consultation with a general practitioner runs about 500 pesos (less than $50 USD), specialists may charge a few hundred pesos more.
An excellent low-cost option available to all is offered by Farmacias Similares, a chain of drug stores selling generic drugs: most have a clinic with in-house doctor offering consultations for just 30 pesos. Here patients are attended to, often by recent med-school graduates, and the generic drugs prescribed are a fraction of the already low cost of brand name drugs.
For under $300 USD a year, Mexican residents who are not enrolled in the Seguro Social system through their place of work can sign up for coverage independently. The cost varies according to the age of the insured person. Some pre-existing conditions are not covered in the first two years, but otherwise consultations, preventative checkups, procedures, hospital stays and prescription medications are covered.
Seguro Popular “popular insurance” was launched in 2003 with the goal of providing universal health care coverage. The poorest were enrolled first, with coverage gradually extending to all of those not covered by other types of health insurance. Seguro Popular offers access to over 250 medical interventions and the respective medications at Centros de Salud and public hospitals throughout the country. Seguro Popular also covers several specific costly interventions, such as treatment for cancer in children, HIV/AIDS, cervical and breast cancer. According to Mexico’s Ministry of Health, over 90% of Mexico’s population is now covered, and Mexico is on track for universal health coverage by 2012.
Traditional Medicine and Alternative Therapies
Traditional medicine and alternative therapies are widely available in Mexico. Traditional medicine practitioners, whether known as curanderos, hueseros, parteras, or chamanes, in many cases come from a long line of healers who have passed down their knowledge of medicinal plants and herbs. Mexico is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world and it is extremely likely that there are many plants with healing properties which have not yet been recognized by modern medicine, but have been in use by native healers for generations. Alternative therapies have a wide appeal, whether used in conjunction with allopathic medicine or alone, and Mexico is an excellent location for trying out traditional treatments such as undergoing a “limpia” (ritual cleansing), a temazcal steam bath, or healing massage.
It’s no surprise that with the wide array of health care options in Mexico, and taking into account its low cost, that increasing numbers of people from the U.S. and Canada are traveling to Mexico where they know they can receive high quality medical care at affordable prices. Clinics catering to medical tourists have sprung up along the U.S. border in places like Tijuana and Algodones, and in popular destinations such as Guadalajara and Cancun. Many of these clinics also provide travel assistance and concierge service to aid patients in their travel plans. Whether for dental work, cosmetic surgery or other procedures, Mexico presents a viable option for those seeking affordable, quality health care.
For a humorous look at expats seeking out Mexico’s affordable health care options, watch this clip from the Daily Show:
Marca País – Imagen de México, is a joint public and private sector initiative designed to help promote Mexico as a global business partner and an unrivaled tourist destination. This program is designed to shine a light on the Mexico that its people experience every day. Disclosure: I am being compensated for my work in creating content as a Contributor for the México Today Program. All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared here are completely my own. Visit Mexico Today on Facebook and Twitter.