Healthcare System in Mexico

Understand what to expect from the Mexican medical system if you're moving there to live and work or to retire…

The Mexican medical system is a combination of public and private institutions. While public hospitals are much more affordable, better care and shorter waiting times can often be found at private facilities. As in many countries the experience of patient care tends to be much better in private hospitals, so those who can afford them will choose them for everything but major life-threatening conditions. The major public hospitals are well equipped and staffed, and are often preferred for emergency situations and major surgery.

Many doctors and specialists, especially in the private sector, are trained abroad, often in the US. As a result many speak English. This is less true in the public sector, although many doctors and specialists work part time in the public health sector, and part time as private practitioners.

The Ministry of Health (Secretaría de Salud) is in charge of regulating the national health system and providing care for those without insurance. Each individual state has its own health services (Servicios Estatales de Salud – Sesa), which are regulated by the Ministry of Health.

Mexican labor laws (Ley de Trabajo) require all employees to join and pay into a social security fund. There are a number of different institutions to choose from depending on whether the employee works in the private, public or military sector. The largest by far is the Mexican Social Security Institute (Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social – IMSS), which caters for private sector workers. The second largest is the public sector social security institute – ISSTE (Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Sociales de los Trabajadores del Estado).

Public hospitals and clinics will still provide care for those without insurance, if payment is made up-front. In the event of an emergency, IMMS and Red Cross (Cruz Roja) will provide care on the expectation that payment is made before the patient is discharged. For low-income families, the Ministry of Health (SSA) has set up a social security fund to protect those unable to afford any healthcare, known as the Seguro Popular de Salud – SPS.

Private health insurance is available from national and international companies. There are numerous private hospitals associated with these companies, which provide a very high standard of care. In Mexico, only around five percent of the population has private medical insurance, although most residents will also be covered by some form of public healthcare.