Mexico: Great Healthcare From 25% of the U.S. Cost

When I moved to Mexico, one piece of emotional baggage I left behind in the U.S. was worry over the cost of healthcare.

In Mexico, I have access to two affordable healthcare systems: public and private. In Mexico’s private healthcare system, costs—pretty much across the board—run 25% to 50% of U.S. costs for comparable services.

So, while folks in the U.S. can legitimately worry that an unexpected, costly illness can deplete their nest egg, I don’t. Like other expats in Mexico, I can budget for healthcare: It’s a manageable expense. And I haven’t had to scrimp on quality, either.

Mexico’s private healthcare is good to excellent, with wonderful individual doctors and specialists, many top-notch hospitals, and cutting-edge technology. Many doctors in the private system have done part of their studies abroad, in the U.S., Canada, or Europe. (Don’t be surprised if you find yourself chitchatting with your doctor about places in common that you’ve visited or lived in; it’s a nice ice-breaker at the start of an office visit…and these tend to be more relaxed and personal than office visits back home, too.)

Doctors’ visits usually run from about $30 a visit up to $45 or $50 for many specialists. (I was recently charged a paltry $20 by a specialist for a quick consultation.) Blood work runs $30 and up, depending on what you’re testing for. Specialty procedures like colonoscopies can run $300 or so, with mammograms and bone density tests running around $100. And in Mexico, all your medical records—including X-rays and lab results—belong to you.

Expat Kate Barron, who lives in Mérida, says that she visited one of the city’s top allergy specialists. “He was great, on time, and cheap,” she says. The cost: about $35. For quick treatment of minor ailments, you can also get a walk-in appointment with doctors on staff at discount pharmacies.

If you’re on a tight budget—or want a back-up health system—there is Mexico’s public healthcare. Expats on a valid residence visa can join either IMSS (Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, or Mexican Social Security System) or Seguro Popular. IMSS is the public system for employers and their employees; Seguro Popular is a relatively new system for self-employed Mexicans and others not covered by IMSS. The cost in both systems is tiered (in IMSS by age and in Seguro Popular by economic need), but expect to pay around $300 to $400 a year at most for coverage.

Public systems do have some downsides. You may have long wait times for appointments and for nonurgent procedures and surgeries. And you’ll find fewer doctors who speak English, so you’ll need someone to translate for you at appointments if you can’t manage in Spanish. But at this low price point, it’s hard to complain.

And Mexico’s health benefits aren’t limited to medical care. Given the country’s range of warm-weather climates (you’re guaranteed to find the sweet spot for you), living a healthy, outdoor lifestyle is easy.

“In Seattle, I had constant back pain,” says Denis Asahara, who lives on Mexico’s Pacific coast. “The cold, humid weather made it worse. Here, in much warmer weather, 90% of my pain is gone.”

“We love the constant warm weather here on the Rivera Maya,” says Michelle Marino in Playa del Carmen. “It’s generally in the 80s F. Living on the Caribbean is wonderful, and it feels like we just must be outside all the time. It’s almost always sunny and I’m never cold here.”

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