Health Care
Living Healthy in Mexico

Some are surprised at the quality of health care in Meixco. But the climate, diet and openness to alternative therapies all contribute to healty liing. In addition, Mexico is recognized throughout Latin America as a leader in cutting edge medicine, with world class hospitals and health care professionals. For medical tourism, Mexico is the logical — and best — choice for people from the US, Canada and Europe.
Health care in Mexico is provided via public institutions, private entities, or private physicians. Health care delivered through private health care organizations operates entirely on the free-market system, i.e., it is available to those who can afford it. This is also the case of health care obtained from private physicians at their private office or clinic. Public health care delivery, on the other hand, is accomplished via an elaborate provisioning and delivery system put in place by the Mexican Federal Government.

Public Health Care Delivery.

Public health care is provided to all Mexican citizens as guaranteed via Article 4 of the Constitution. Public care is either fully or partially subsidized by the federal government, depending on the person's (Spanish: derechohabiente's) employment status. All Mexican citizens are eligible for subsidized health care regardless of their work status via a system of health care facilities operating under the federal Secretariat of Health (formerly the Secretaria de Salubridad y Asistencia, or SSA) agency.
Employed citizens and their dependents, however, are further eligible to use the health care program administered and operated by the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (IMSS) (English: Mexican Social Security Institute). The IMSS health care program is a tripartite system funded equally by the employee, its private employer, and the federal government.
The IMSS does not provide service to employees of the public sector. Employees in the public sector are serviced by the Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Sociales de los Trabajadores del Estado (ISSSTE) (English: Institute for Social Security and Services for State Workers), which attends to the health and social care needs of government employees. This includes local, state, and federal government employees.
The government of the states in Mexico also provide health services independently of those services provided by the federal government programs. In most states, the state government has established free or subsidized healthcare to all their citizens.


Health care in Mexico is described as very good to excellent while being highly affordable, with every medium to large city in Mexico having at least one first-rate hospital. In fact, some California insurers sell health insurance policies that require members to go to Mexico for health care where costs are 40% lower. Some of Mexico's top-rate hospitals are internationally accredited. Americans, particularly those living near the Mexican border, now routinely cross the border into Mexico for medical care. Popular specialties include dentistry and plastic surgery. Mexican dentists often charge 20 to 25 percent of US prices, while other procedures typically cost a third what they would cost in the US. On average, an office visit with a doctor—specialists included—will cost about US$25, an overnight stay in a private hospital room costs about $35, and a visit to a dentist for teeth cleaning costs about $20. Some 40,000 to 80,000 American seniors spend their retirement years in Mexico with a considerable number receiving nursing home and health care.


With many physicians from the U.S. having received their training in Mexico, and with many Mexican doctors having received at least part of their training in the United States, the quality of Mexican health care has been reported to be comparable to that in the United States: "in general, health care in Mexico is very good…and in many places it is excellent". "Many people often arrive at the conclusion that because healthcare in Mexico is so cheap compared to the US, the quality of medical attention and knowledge about health care issues in Mexico must be lacking. This is completely false...Mexican hospitals [are] equipped to a first world standard with modern equipment and hygienic practices, [and] many Mexican doctors and dentists...received their training in the US"..

Hospitals in Mexico

Hospitals in Mexico range from small town clinics to third level government hospitals with prestigious research departments and cutting edge technology. The same can be said for private hospitals. In general, we have have found care here to be excellent and, in some ways, more humane than it is north of the border.

Private Care

Private hospitals do not accept insurance policies from north-of-the border and required a patient to pay upon release. Sometimes this is the case. They do, however, facilitate the paperwork for the patient's reimbursement.
More and more, private hospitals are accepting insurance policies for payment, but it is essential to ask at the time of admission or beforehand, if possible.
Hospitals expect a family member or friend to stay in the room with you, and a couch or cot is provided.
Many Mexican physicians do post-graduate training in Europe, the US or Canada and are fluent in English. Nursing staff tends to be less fluent in English. A dictionary tucked under the pillow isn't a bad idea.


Hospitals and clinics run by the IMSS (Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social) are available to all Mexicans and foreigners* who hold jobs. A portion of the salary is withheld to cover affiliation and the employer contributes a larger amount each month to complete the premium. In addition, self employed people and retirees may also join the system after taking care of the paperwork and paying the annual fee. Some pre-existing conditions may not be covered.
IMSS services cover doctors, diagnostic studies such as x-rays and lab work, hospitals and medical procedures, as well as prescription drugs. As with all socialized medical systems, the wait for care is usually longer than that in the private system. Many expats consider IMSS affiliation as a kind of major medical insurance should the need arise.

*Permission from the Immigration authorities is required for a foreigner to hold a job, and special working papers are needed.

Doctors & Dentits


While no one enjoys going to the doctor, it's good to know there are extremely competent professionals on hand when a medical need arises. Most hospitals have a list of specialists with practice privileges. So do the consulates. That's a good place to begin.


Expert dental work can be much less expensive in Mexico than it is elsewhere. Many of our readers make appointments for crowns, bridges, dentures and non-emergency peridontal surgery before coming down.

Elective Procedures / Medical Tourism

Medical tourism is growing in popularity, and procedures performed by highly skilled professionals can cost from 1/4 to 1/2 what they do in other first world countries. Cosmetic surgery, operations to correct obesity, hip and knee replacements and Lasik eye surgery are only a few of the procedures opted for in Mexico. Of course, cosmetic surgery prices and all other procedures vary per factors involved.

Health Insurance

While Medicare will not cover health care in Mexico, a number of private insurance policies cover emergencies for people traveling in Mexico. International insurance is available, as are policies underwritten by Mexican insurance companies.

International Insurance plans for foreigners in Mexico

It is advisable to have international health insurance while traveling or living as an expatriate. Having an international health plan gives a person, family or group a variety of choices when it comes to health care. For example, a person covered by such a plan can choose a private hospital or any approved physician for their care.
For persons living between countries, an international insurance plan may cover them in both countries and even worldwide. They can choose policy limits that can cover them for medical expenses up to $50,000 USD, with options for coverage for as much as $8,000,000 USD in medical benefits.
However, not having appropriate international health coverage might expose one or one's family to a significant financial liability and impede appropriate care.
Some things to consider:

Short Term International Plans

These can cover a person for up to three years outside their home country. If a person lives outside his or her home country permanently or for the majority of the year, see International Major Medical Plans below.

International Major Medical Plans

These insurance plans can cover a person for a lifetime if he or she is living in Latin America, Asia or Europe and can cover them in their home country too. Policies are renewable, usually for a lifetime. These plans and the short-term plans cover costs of hospital and doctors, medicine, local and air ambulance, reunion of family members, and offer 24-hour-a-day, seven days a week support. There are more benefits than what is mentioned here.

International Major Medical Plans

These insurance plans can cover a person for a lifetime if he or she is living in Latin America, Asia or Europe and can cover them in their home country too. Policies are renewable, usually for a lifetime. These plans and the short-term plans cover costs of hospital and doctors, medicine, local and air ambulance, reunion of family members, and offer 24-hour-a-day, seven days a week support. There are more benefits than what is mentioned here.

Life Insurance and Annuities - How they can work for your benefit

Life insurance (permanent and term) policies are available at discounted rates.
Permanent life policies may build cash value, which earns interest tax-free. Later in life, these cash values may be used to pay for such things as assisted living expenses or basic living expenses. Taking a portion of your savings (nest-egg) and purchasing a fixed annuity can be useful to provide a steady income at a safe guaranteed rate of return, for a period of time. Often these give you a rate of return better than some banks (CDs for example) and can provide an income to be used for living and medical expenses.
Usually insurers offering Fixed-Annuities to Americans will sometimes allow a foreign citizen to purchase these instruments.

International Life Insurance

Why do you need life insurance? Its main purpose is to provide cash to your family or business partners after you die. The money your dependents will receive — the "death benefit" — is an important financial resource. It can help pay the mortgage, run the household, and ensure that your dependents aren't burdened with debt. These proceeds could mean that they won't have to sell assets, homes, or rob retirement plans to pay outstanding bills or taxes. What's more, there is usually no federal income tax on life insurance benefits. Benefits from an international policy will be paid in U.S. dollars. With Latin America-based policies, the insurer would buy dollars to pay the death benefit or pay it in local currency. Life Insurance is a tool to protect partners who are in business together. Policies can be a place where one can borrow money. There are optional critical illness policies, disability income riders and long term care benefits that can supplement a life insurance policy.

Disability Income Protection

Usually this is an option that can be added to international life insurance policies, at additional cost. protect your income or paycheck, should you become ill and are unable to work.

Healthy Living & Traveling

Mexico's mild climate makes it easy to get outside and exercise almost every day. In addition, the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables are a wonderful substitute for processed foods. It's important to make healthy choices.

Traveling with Heart Disease.

If you are a patient with heart disease, you should still be able to enjoy travel. Knowing your limits and what to do when symptoms present can be lifesaving. If you have known athlerosclerosis (clogging of the arteries of the heart with cholesterol and plaque), make sure that you're in good condition before you undergo any physical stress associated with vacation travel. If you have had an uneventful stress test or negative angiogram (results that show good blood flow to the heart) within the past year, you can feel secure as long as you remain on your prescribed medication.
If, within the last six months, you have had a successful procedure to restore blood flow to the heart (bypass surgery, stent placements, or angioplasty), you should feel comfortable traveling. As with any major surgery, bypass surgery patients should wait two weeks after their procedure before undertaking any major travel.
Most of these procedures remain effective for much longer (5-15 years) if you stay on your medication and don't smoke, but as a precaution, patients should be evaluated for early complications or failures six months after their procedure.
If you have congestive heart failure or a history of arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) you can travel as long as your condition is controlled with medication.
Diabetes and heart disease can be a little more complicated; therefore, we recommend that all diabetics consult with a cardiologist to determine their fitness to travel.
Anyone with any concerns about these conditions should consult a physician prior to departure. Other significant risk factors for heart disease include:

Sunburn & Sun Safety

Excessive UVA and UVB energy from the sun causes the skin to burn, which can lead to pain and discomfort that will interfere with a fun vacation. The darker your skin is naturally, the more you are protected, but even very dark-skinned people can get sunburned. People with fair skin or many moles must be especially careful, as they are at an increased risk for developing skin cancer.
Don't be fooled by those clouds overhead or the cool breeze. UV light easily penetrates most cloud coverage, and a cool breeze can fool you into thinking you're not getting much sun. Infants are particularly vulnerable to sunburn, as their skin is thin and lacks protection against the sun's rays. Never use sunscreen on children under the age of six months, which means infants need to be kept out of the sun at all times. If you plan to go into the water, be sure you use waterproof sunscreen. Many waterproof formulations will last for about an hour in the water, and can be especially useful if weather is hot and you become sweaty. Make sure you reapply each time you leave the water, even if the brand says it's unnecessary.
Important note: if you have sensitive skin, avoid sunscreens with PABA, a common ingredient that can cause irritation; instead try a formulation with titanium dioxide (a non-irritating, non-chemical compound).

What to do if you get sunburn

If you get a sunburn that causes your skin to blister, you have developed a second-degree burn and may need medical attention. Less severe burns can be painful, itchy, and make your skin feel tight. Take a cool (not cold) bath or apply cool compresses to relieve the pain. Ibuprofen (Motrin), aspirin, or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help, if you have no contraindications for their use. Apply an aloe vera gel or a topical moisturizing cream to reduce the burning and drying that comes with bad sunburn. If you have a bad burn that is very itchy, you may get some relief from 1% hydrocortisone cream or topical sunburn relief products such as Solarcaine.

Sunscreen and SPF

Following careful guidelines can help you reduce your risk. The best way to prevent sunburn is to always wear sunscreen with SPF protection. The higher the SPF, the more protection you get. To calculate the amount of protection you will get from sunscreen, multiply the amount of time it normally takes you to get sunburned by the SPF of the sunscreen.
Therefore, if you normally burn in 20 minutes and you wear SPF 20 sunscreen, you will be protected for 20 minutes x 20 SPF, or 400 minutes (6.67 hours).
Despite this scientific formulation, weather conditions, sweating, and activity can reduce the effectiveness any sunscreen, so be sure to reapply after two or three hours.
You can also take additional measures, such as wearing protective clothing and sunglasses, staying in the shade, and avoiding sun during its most powerful hours from 11am to 3pm Excessive and repeated sun exposure can also damage the cornea of the eye and lead to early cataract formation.

Water Safety
Mexico Beach Water Pollution Advisory

Due to industrial contamination, sewage and unfavorable ocean currents, coastal seawater often contains high concentrations of unhealthy bacteria, known as enterococci. This bacteria is found in the feces of most humans and many animals. Among the most antibiotic resistant bacteria isolated from humans, enterococci can commonly cause diarrhea, skin, ear, wound, and urinary tract infections, among other illnesses.
To reduce environmental and health risks and to generate public awareness, the Mexican Ministries of Health, Navy, Travel and Environment have collaborated to develop a system, in accordance with criteria set by the World Health Organization (WHO), to monitor the cleanliness of coastal seawater. According to the established criteria, seawater that exceeds 500 enterococci per 100 milliliters is considered of sanitary risk.
Monitoring efforts were initiated in 2003 for a targeted 181 recreational beaches in all of Mexico's 17coastal states. In the first trimester of 2004, according to federal reports, 20 of these 181 public beaches were determined as a sanitary risk. To conform with the Transparency and Access to Government Information Act, this information is available to the public from the Secretary of the Environment's webpage, It is however not yet available in English.
The 1st semester reports for the year 2006 show no reports of beach water at sanitary risk. Still though, monthly sampling indicates that contamination is not necessarily the result of built up polluting but instead of random events. If you are concerned with the quality of the beach water at your beach, we recommend you contact the tourism department for updated reports and avoid swimming in questionable waters.

Swimming Safety

Northern Baja: Many beaches along the Pacific coast of Baja California are not suitable for swimming. Red beach flags are clear indications that you must not swim, but under varied systems in use in Baja, so are yellow, green and blue flags. The only real go-ahead sign is a white flag – and even then, remember there are no lifeguards – and often beaches may not be marked at all. Do not interpret the absence of a beach flag to mean conditions are safe, but instead check with locals, a hotel concierge and (in the case of Ensenada, for example) with the tourist office.
Southern Baja: For the same reason that the region is a surfing Mecca, many beaches on the Pacific side of Baja Sur are not at all safe for swimming, especially not for children or the elderly. Sharp declines on shore lines, rough surf, strong currents and undertows and dangerous rip tides make it unwise to swim anywhere other than a pool. Even on beaches considered to be safe – and where you may see other swimmers – check both the warning flag system and ask for local advice on conditions before braving the waves. The Sea of Cortés is safe for swimmers.