Public health care options for expats living in Mexico

By Ian Taylor Clement

One of the most important aspects of preparing to live in Mexico as a foreigner is to have a strong understanding of what your health care options are and how to weigh pros and cons of each, based on the specifics of your personal situation– age, prior ailments, family history, lifestyle habits, budget, etc.

Mexico’s public health system was revolutionized on January 1, 1944, when a new branch of the federal government began to operate. This organization, named the ‘Instituto Nacional del Seguro Social,’ was spearheaded by the Lázaro Cardenas’ administration, and placed great emphasis on the well-being of the Mexican people, regardless of their social or economic status.

The IMSS, as it is known, covers the Mexican population for a variety of social needs including work-related accidents, maternity, disability and unemployment.

IMSS also covers non-citizens who live in Mexico as foreign residents of Mexico. The expat community is able to benefit from these affordable and very comprehensive services at a fraction of the cost one would pay for most policies offered within the private health care sector. IMSS hospitals and clinics provide state-of-the-art treatment. If the necessary medical procedure is not available in the town where the patient is located, IMSS will transport the patient to one of its hospitals that does perform the procedure.

While there are many worthy social causes deserving support here, it is my belief you should start at home, by enlisting domestic employees in the system. When one signs a domestic employee into the IMSS, not only does the new title holder benefit from the coverage, but his/her spouse, children and even parents may be secondary beneficiaries of these health entitlements.

Along with IMSS insurance for which a monthly payment is made (proportionate to the salary of the employee), an employer may choose to make a bi-monthly payment for a worker’s INFONAVIT fund, which is a point system that allows for purchase of a home with an exceptionally low interest rate. This gives people the option to someday become homeowners and enjoy all of the benefits that home ownership entail.

For those looking for a more basic health care insurance, the Seguro Popular policy is an excellent option for both Mexicans and foreigners residing in Mexico. Seguro Popular is an insurance policy that is completely subsidized by the government and has no cost whatsoever to enlist in. It covers emergency room visits and minor ailments. The comprehensiveness of this policy does not add up to that of IMSS health insurance, but at zero cost to the policyholder, this is to be expected.

Whether you are thinking of insuring yourself and family or your employees, IMSS and Seguro Popular are two public services that Mexico offer to protect citizens and residents. Before choosing a private policy, I believe it is a wise decision to look into these national services to see if one is a more cost-effective and potentially equally valuable option.

Ian Taylor Clement has lived, worked and studied in San Miguel de Allende for more than 20 years. Living in the US and Mexico during his childhood, he learned Spanish and English. In 2009 he graduated with a degree in law from the Universidad de Leon, San Miguel de Allende Campus. He is a licensed, practicing attorney who specializes in the legal needs of the expat community.

Pila Seca #3, Centro, Office phone: 415-127-0894 and 415-152-7782, Cell: 415-153-2223,


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