Travel, Living & Lifestyle in Mexico

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Health Care in Mexico

Health Matters

Mexico offers excellent private health care facilities. Private clinics and hospitals feature the latest modern facilities and are built to US-standards.

This guide highlights the key aspects of getting access to healthcare in Mexico for you and your family.

Health Emergencies in Mexico

When you move to Mexico, you should acquaint yourself with the local medical and health facilities available in your local area. Find out where your nearest hospitals and clinics are, as well doctors, dentists and opticians and keep their telephone contact numbers at hand.

You can find this information out from neighbors, friends, work colleagues or contact your local consulate who may be able to provide you with a list of local health facilities in the city or town where you live.

Although Mexico has a number of universal emergency numbers, numbers for specific emergency services vary by state and locality, so inquire about the numbers for the local police, ambulance and fire station and keep these handy by the home and office phone (and save them in your mobile phone).

The equivalent of 911 (or in Europe 112, 999) is 060 in Mexico. You can ask for the police, an ambulance or the fire brigade on this number.

Some insurance companies supply their own emergency contact numbers to policy holders and will connect you to an English-speaking operator.

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Mexico's Social Security System

Mexico has a Social Security System which is free at the point of delivery for Mexicans as well as foreign nationals with an FM2 / full immigrated residency status. Foreigners living in Mexico without full immigrated residency status (e.g. with a FM3 visa) may elect to purchase the IMSS health insurance separately.

Employees of Mexican companies pay a percentage of their salary each month to the service, which entitles them to access the system and also covers their salary (through the employer) in case of accident or ill-health. This amount is pay-able regardless of whether you pay for a private insurance plan separately.

Mexico's social security system is called the Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social, often abbreviated as just IMSS.

The level of care delivered by the IMSS depends, in part, on where about in Mexico you live: big cities have more resources but more people seeking them; villages and small towns have less people and also considerably less IMSS resources and expertise at their disposal.

For this reason, people in Mexico who can afford to do so, purchase separate health insurance policies which give them access to Mexico's private health care sector in the event of an accident or ill-health.

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Health Insurance in Mexico

Mexico has a plethora of insurance companies that, for a monthly premium, will provide you with private health coverage. In the event that you or a member of your immediate family are taken ill or suffer an accident, the insurance company will cover the medical fees.

How much is covered depends on what health care plan you choose to buy. The more cover you need, and the older you are, the more expensive the premiums will become. Other factors (such as whether you smoke or take regular exercise at a gym) may also influence the price of your premiums.

Most large companies provide a health care plan as part of their remuneration package. As with the USA, health insurance premiums have been rising dramatically in Mexico over recent years. It is in part due to the higher cost of medical care, higher cost of medicines and an increase in hospital fees. Having a plan through a large company offers a distinct advantage because the company covers the lion-share of the premium cost, and this means that you, personally, pay less and get considerably more cover under a corporate insurance plan than you would otherwise get on a privately-held plan.

If you don't work for a company that offers health insurance, then a private plan is your only other option. You should shop around for the best deal and find a plan that matches your individual circumstances, potential needs, and budget.

Companies offering health insurance in Mexico include: ING Mexico, GNP Mexico, Monterrey, Royal & Sun Alliance, MetLife and DVK.

In addition, Mexico's Banks offer health insurance products as part of their service portfolios although you should check the small print for any limitations.

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Doctors in Mexico

Mexico has many fine doctors and many also speak good English.

If you are in need of an English-speaking doctor in Mexico you may contact your local consulate as they usually keep a list of local doctors at hand.

Also asks friends, neighbors and work colleagues for recommendations of good local doctors.

Your insurance company may also provide a list of doctors and, even, may have a list of approved doctors you may contact as part of your insurance cover.

In an emergency, if you need the name of an English-speaking doctor, contact your nearest decent hotel; they will have the contact details of a local English-speaking doctor that they will have on hand for their guests.

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Dentists in Mexico

Mexico appears to have no shortage of dentists: simply ask a neighbor and they probably have or know a friend who has a dentist somewhere in their family tree.

A large number of Americans travel south of the border every year to have dentistry work undertaken. If you can find a good dentist in Mexico, you can have excellent work done for a fraction of the cost as the same work would cost to have done in the USA or the UK, for example.

As with doctors and other professionals, word-of-mouth recommendations are ideal: ask friends, neighbors or work colleagues if they know of a good dentist locally.

If you are insured for dental treatment, your insurance company may have a list of local dentists that you may contact for treatment.

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Opticians in Mexico

Mexico is awash with opticians and you should have no trouble finding someone to test your eyesight in most of Mexico's larger towns and cities.

Most of the opticians you'll find in Mexico are franchises which offer a complete eye-treatment service: from eye exams through to supplying glasses and contact lenses.

You will also be able to find local, independent, opticians some of which have been practicing for years and have a great deal of experience.

Eye Examinations: Eye exams are usually free provided that you purchase eye glasses or contact lenses, if you need them, at the same place. The quality of eye exams varies and you should try and select an optician that offers you experienced eye doctors and modern testing equipment.

Eye Glasses and Frames: If you need your eye-sight corrected, you'll have an enormous choice of glasses, frames, designer frames and frame styles to choose from. Frames and glasses are relatively expensive in Mexico, especially if you want brand-name designer frames.

Contact Lenses: Contact lenses are widely available in Mexico, including the monthly disposables. Daily disposables are available in fewer places and may need to be pre-ordered for later pick-up. Some of the larger Sanborns Stores stock a wide range of daily disposal lenses which they sell over-the-counter. Although contact lenses are available over the counter without a prescription, you should have 'contact lens eye test' undertaken annually when you wear contact lenses as the optician will check for infections or other issues which may arise with the use of contact lenses.

Laser Treatment: Laser Eye Treatment is available in Mexico. Talk to your eye doctor or optician about this. Prices for treatment are still quite high, as they are in most places around the world.

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Hospitals and Clinics in Mexico

Mexico's best hospitals and clinics are based in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey. If you are seeking specialist hospital treatment in Mexico you will probably have to travel to one of these cities.

Your insurance company may give you a list of hospitals you may make use of in Mexico or, if you have an open choice, then your local consulate will be able to provide you with a list of hospitals and clinics in the local area. Also talk with friends, colleagues or neighbors to ask them about local hospitals and clinics they may recommend.

Note that private hospital and clinical treatments are expensive in Mexico. You will need to have proof of private medical insurance or present a credit card with sufficient credit to cover several thousand dollars worth of treatment when you are admitted. Even if you have medical insurance, the hospital may still request a credit card imprint while the insurance policy and its details are confirmed; it can take up to 24 hours for this to happen.

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the investment of private clinics and hospitals in Mexico, especially in areas popular with tourists and foreign residents, particularly retirees. For example, a new medical center in Merida has been receiving extremely good reviews from retirees in the area: the center was built, in part, to provide services to the increasing number of foreign retirees living in that region.

The doctors, nurses and specialist healthcare professionals working at Mexico's private hospitals are exceptionally well trained and usually have access to the latest equipment, technologies and medicines. Although wealthy individuals still travel to the USA for some types of very specialist treatments (for example, Houston Texas is renown for it's world excellence in cancer treatments), you can expect very high levels of healthcare and attention at Mexico's private hospitals and clinics.

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Pharmacies and Medications in Mexico

Pharmacies are ubiquitous across Mexico; even the small towns have one. You'll always be able to find a 24/7 pharmacy somewhere locally in Mexico.

Before July 2010, you could buy almost any medications you ask for over the counter in Mexico—including a full range of antibiotics and powerful pain-killers that would only be available on prescription in the USA, Canada and Europe. Today, high-powered pain killers and antibiotics require a prescription from doctor before they will be dispensed by pharmacists. Contact a doctor in Mexico if you need to purchase these (now) controlled substances.

Because of the high cost of medications in the USA, many Americans are crossing the border into Mexico to buy their medicines. Some may be buying brand-names at discount prices; others may be purchasing generic brand medications.

A concept of 'discount medications' has gained popularity in Mexico during recent times, principally through the rise of companies like 'Farmacias Similares'—a pharmacy franchise which offers generic drug alternatives to brand-name drugs. The issue with generic drugs on the cheap is that their precise source may be unclear.

The Guardian, a UK-based daily newspaper, published an article about over-the-counter medication in under-regulated environments like India and Mexico. The article highlights some of the risks involved with self-prescription and, in particular, generic (possibly counterfeit) medications.

Even brand-name medications in Mexico usually cost less (not always) than they do in the US and Europe, so buying the 'real thing' when you do have to take medications in Mexico may not cost you much more (your insurance policy might cover the costs anyway) and will mitigate the risks of generic or deep-discount medications.

See Also: Buying Medicines in Mexico

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Register of Births and Deaths in Mexico

Each State in Mexico has its own official register of Births, Marriages and Deaths. In Spanish it's called the Registro Civil.

By law, all Births, Marriages and Deaths in Mexico must be registered with the Mexican authorities. Additionally, if you are not Mexican and your children are born in Mexico you may want to register the birth with your local consulate. Deaths of foreign nationals in Mexico may also be registered with the deceased's corresponding consulate.

Civil Registry Offices in Mexico

Each State in Mexico has its official registry office.

Download this Directory of Civil Registry Offices in Mexico (PDF) for a list of states and the corresponding details including a link to the State's official web site.

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General Health Precautions

When you first arrive to live in Mexico, you are likely to encounter a settling-in period in regard to your general health. Here are some pointers and links that may be helpful:

Medical Care

Getting Used to Higher Altitudes in Mexico: If you are not used to living at high altitude, and go to live in Mexico City, Guadalajara or one of Mexico's colonial cities, it will take some time to adjust to the thinner air. It's quite normal to feel more tired than usual, and you might also experience some headaches as your body adjusts to its new environment. Read the Blog, Breathing Easy in Mexico, for more details.

Getting Used to the Food and Drink: It may take you a while to adjust to the local food and drink in Mexico. Depending on what type of foods you are accustomed to eating, you may experience some intestinal discomfort, diarrhea, etc. as your regular diet changes and your body becomes accustomed to Mexican food.

Street Food in Mexico: Street food (including food sold at market stalls) can be quite tempting and is also a way that you can taste authentic Mexican cooking as the locals eat it. If you are living in Mexico, it may become one of the regular options for your daily meals. You should exercise care in selecting what street vendors you buy from, and what you eat there, because most likely your body will need to go through a period of adjustment as it's exposed to new bacteria. Choose places that come recommended by other people as having hygenic standards and where the food is always fresh. Be especially cautious with water-based drinks, and fruit drinks prepared with water as its base; ask for an alternative prepared with milk or pure fruit juices, or if you really would like to taste a water-based drink, ask the vendor to prepare it with bottled water. Some people come to Mexico and eat street food, never suffering much more than an occassional upset stomach (if at all); it depends on your body's digestive system, immunity, and how courageous you are with your eating habits!

Common Health Ailments in Mexico: For a good overview of general health in Mexico, including travel health matters, read the Mexico Travel Health Guide in the Mexico Essentials section on Mexperience.

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