We recently received this question from one of our readers:
“I have repeatedly heard that Mexico is a country where Medicare is accepted. If so, it would be the only place outside of the States. Once and for all, is this true or just one more expatriate legend?”
The simple answer is: this is a legend. With only the rare exceptions noted below, Medicare is not accepted in foreign countries including Mexico.
Medicare is accepted only in the fifty states of the USA and the District of Colombia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Medicare will cover you on cruise ships provided they are within six hours of a U.S. port and the onboard physician treated you and determined you required emergency hospitalization (however, expect to pay the bill yourself and to submit a claim for reimbursement).
The other rare exception would be if you had a medical emergency while traveling in the U.S. and the nearest hospital were in Canada or Mexico. In that case you may be reimbursed for those hospital expenses. The same would be true if you were traveling through Canada on your way to or returning from Alaska.
While the notion of getting Medicare coverage in foreign countries is popular in expat communities, there will be no change to current policy in the foreseeable future.
Fortunately, many expats in Mexico qualify for government-sponsored IMSS health coverage under their voluntary program for about US$50 per month. Although it does not cover pre-existing conditions for the first two years, and has rules and regulations that may seem constrictive to expats, this no-frills coverage is comprehensive and is the same program that covers most working Mexicans.
Of course, there are private insurance options for those who can afford them, and special types of coverage designed specifically for expats such as evacuation insurance and coverage for part-time residents in Mexico.
You also might want to investigate the coverage offered through the many Medicare ‘gap’ programs, some of which offer international emergency coverage. The English Speaker’s Guide to Medical Care in Mexico offers a chapter and analysis of the various insurance options and suggests strategies that might work for you.
When planning your healthcare provision, Medicare is one option that you cannot rely on outside of the U.S.A. and its overseas protectorate states mentioned above.
See also: Healthcare in Mexico
Monica Rix Paxson is an expert in the field of Mexico healthcare. She is author of the English Speaker’s Guide to Medical Care in Mexico, and co-author of The English Speaker’s Guide to Doctors & Hospitals in Mexico – eBooks available for immediate download. She resides full-time in Mexico.