Healthcare in Mexico

Mexico boasts an impressive and efficient healthcare system consisting of public and private schemes. The majority of Mexican hospitals are excellent and are staffed by highly trained and often English-speaking doctors. However, some nursing and care staff might not speak English.

Mexico has achieved universal health coverage and its public healthcare is used by most Mexican residents. Despite this, the private healthcare sector has grown considerably and is driven by increasing disposable income, the growth of medical tourism, and a demand for higher quality healthcare services.

Before venturing to another country, make sure you have a health insurance plan you can rely on. Our international health insurance plans offer comprehensive health cover for when you are in your home country and abroad.

Mexico’s public healthcare operates through the Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social (IMSS) and Seguro Popular systems. These cover patients for most medical services and prescription drugs. Those employed in Mexico are automatically enrolled in the IMSS system and their contribution to the scheme is deducted from their salary. Those who are not formally employed may voluntarily enrol in the IMSS system, in which case they will have to pay an annual contribution fee.

People who cannot afford the IMSS system must enrol with the Seguro Popular system. Fees for the Seguro Popular system are charged on a sliding scale depending on a resident’s income.

Although most doctors speak English, enrolling with Mexico’s public health system may be frustrating for expats as the application procedure, as well as most public healthcare administration, is in Spanish.

While public healthcare in Mexico is relatively good, the quality of services varies between hospitals and expats may experience long waiting periods for non-emergency and specialist procedures.

Most expats opt for private health care, which they finance through private health insurance. Although private hospitals are more expensive, they are better equipped, provide greater access to specialised procedures and generally provide higher-quality care.

Expats utilising private healthcare for non-emergency treatment will avoid the waiting periods that are commonly associated with the public system. Private hospitals also tend to have more English-speaking staff. 

For expats, it is best to invest in an international health insurance policy before arriving in the country.

Wherever possible, expats are advised to check with hospitals and insurance companies to ensure that their procedures will be fully covered. 

Pharmacies are prevalent in Mexican cities and most medications are available in Mexico. In major cities, 24-hour pharmacies can be found fairly easily. Not all pharmacies have English-speaking staff, so expats might prefer visiting pharmacies attached to larger hospitals, where there is generally a higher chance of English being spoken.

Although Mexico is mostly safe, some health risks do exist. There is a risk of contracting diseases spread via mosquito bites, such as the Zika virus, dengue fever and chikungunya. No anti-viral treatments are available for these infections, so prevention by wearing long-sleeved clothes or applying mosquito repellent is necessary. Although there is a low risk of malaria, expats should take anti-malarial precautions.

Expats should also see a doctor before travelling to ensure that basic vaccinations are covered, specifically those for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid. Covid-19 vaccinations should also be kept up to date.

911 is the general emergency number in Mexico. Not all operators speak English, so it might be useful for expats to learn enough Spanish to memorise key medical phrases and to be able to explain their location. Paramedics are relatively well trained and some private hospitals have their own ambulance services.

Ambulance response times vary by region and can be slow in certain areas. Consequently, many private ambulances operate in Mexico, which eases the demand placed on public emergency services. However, expats should be aware of the many ‘pirate’ ambulances that operate outside of industry regulations. These private ambulances charge huge fees and there’s no guarantee that their equipment, medication and vehicles are up to standard.