Health Insurance in Mexico

Find out about government-funded healthcare in Mexico, how to register, eligibility and what medical costs are covered...

The National Health System (Sistema Nacional de Salud) is broadly divided into three levels of medical care (Primer, Segundo and Tercer Nivel de Atención). The different levels correlate to the degree of specialization of the institutions, with Primer Nivel corresponding to the most basic care.

  1. Primer Nivel de Atención: These are usually health clinics (Centros de Salud) and family medical centers (Unidades de Medicina Familiar) providing basic medical care and are where most medical issues are resolved. The centers are run by the various social security and health institutions. If a patient requires more specialized attention, patients are directed to the next level within the system.
  2. Segundo Nivel de Atención: This level constitutes the major state and national hospitals (Hospitales Generales, Regionales, Integrales), as well as specialist hospitals for areas such as pediatrics. The Segundo Nivel focuses on diagnostics, therapy and rehabilitation. Analysis and screening for cancers and diseases take place at this level.
  3. Tercer Nivel de Atención: The third level consists of a group of highly specialized hospitals equipped with advanced technology to treat rare and complicated illnesses. The centers consist of:
  • Centrós Médicos Nacionales (CMN)
  • Unidades Médicas de Alta Especialidad (Umaes)
  • Institutos Nacionales de Salud
  • Hospitales Regionales de Alta Especialided

Many of these hospitals are located in Mexico City, and other large cities.

Registration and Eligibility

Only legal residents are eligible for healthcare provided by the Mexican Social Security Institute (Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social – IMSS). Employers are obliged to register all employees with a social security fund into which both must pay regularly. The IMSS is the fund for workers in the private sector; it is possible to register family members to be covered for health insurance.

Legal residents may register with the IMSS independently. The annual costs depend on the age of the applicant.

Documents required

To register with the IMSS, go to one of the local offices with the following documents:

  • Passport and valid visa
  • Proof of address, for example a utility bill
  • Passport photos
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate if applicable

Any documents not in Spanish may need to be translated and apostilled or legalized (for Canadian documents).

The applicant fills in a questionnaire, which includes questions on pre-existing medical conditions. The IMSS does not always cover certain pre-existing medical conditions, such as cancer, and when registering with the IMSS a medical check-up may be required. Once registered, benefits are not automatic and are gradually phased in over time; for example, minor health issues will be covered immediately, but certain medication may only be included over two or three years. Women should be aware that pregnancy is not covered within the first ten months of registering.

The IMSS provides free telephone support offering information and advice on how to register:

  • Tel: 01 800 623 2323 (from 08:00-20:00)

Seguro Popular

Those not covered by the IMSS can access the basic health insurance known as Seguro Popular, a universal health coverage, which covers any services provided at a general hospital (surgery, treatment and medication). The insurance plan is valid for three years, and applications can be made at any Seguro Popular office provided that the applicant can provide proof of address, a CURP (personal identity) number and proof of identity (for foreigners a valid passport and visa). Seguro Popular covers everyone, regardless of pre-existing medical conditions.