For many expatriates moving to Merida, the issue of healthcare and health insurance is an important one. While the availability of inexpensive healthcare is not the only reason for moving to the Yucatan, it is a pleasant benefit for many.
The cost of private healthcare insurance is much more reasonable here than in the United States. Most expatriate health insurance policies are portable and will cover your expenses in any country. For those on a budget, Mexico’s public healthcare system is of special interest. While many Mexicans berate the system for its bureaucracy and less-than-the-best facilities, many Americans applaud the relatively low-cost access to routine care and medicine.
IMSS (pronounced “eems”) stands for Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (Mexican Institute of Social Security). It is the largest social security system in Latin America. As stated on its website, its mission is to promote “the health of the ensured working population and their families… through the rendering of medical preventive and healing services, of daycare centers, and economic and social services… “ IMSS provides hospitals, clinics, daycare centers, and even four IMSS-operated hotels that offer reduced rates to Mexican families for restful vacations.
Most Mexicans belong to IMSS by being employed. Employers must register all employees with IMSS and deduct a small monthly fee from their pay. IMSS coverage is also available to any resident of Mexico who is willing to pay on a yearly basis. The fee ranges from just over $1,000 pesos to just over $3,000 pesos. Expatriates who have FM2 or FM3 visas are welcome to join this program… and many have!
There are two places in Merida that serve as intake clinics for the IMSS system. As an expat with an FM2 or FM3 visa, you must go to one of these two places to sign up:
Pensiones (if you live north of Calle 59)
Calle 7 No. 432 X 32 y 34
Col. Residencial Pensiones C.P. 97217
Serapio Rendón (if you live south of Calle 61)
Calle 42 Sur No. 999 x 127 A y 131
Col. Serapio Rendón C.P. 97285
Once your documents have been submitted and approved, you will be assigned to one of the 10 IMSS clinics in Merida or the one clinic in Progreso. Upon arrival at the clinic, you will be given a personalized booklet, called a carnet, and assigned to a general practitioner at that clinic. This doctor will be your assigned physician for any medical needs you may have. You will schedule an initial meeting with him or her in order to get a checkup and assessment of your health.
If any further treatment is needed, your assigned physician will refer you to a specialist within the IMSS system. Most of the specialists have offices in one of the two IMSS hospitals in Merida. There are also IMSS hospitals in Uman, Motul and Tizimin.
Any treatment that you receive at the clinics or the hospitals, from general practitioners or specialists, will be covered completely by your IMSS insurance. If medication is prescribed, that medication will be free from the IMSS pharmacy within the hospital or clinic. If the medication is not available from IMSS, you may have to buy it yourself at a privately-owned farmacia (pharmacy). The cost of medicine at these pharmacies is relatively low.
The downside of depending on IMSS for all your healthcare is that you have no control over the doctors or specialists that you see for your problems. Sometimes the wait to see a doctor or to receive medication can be uncomfortably long. Certain things, such as eyeglasses and hearing aids, are not covered under the IMSS plan.
But with IMSS, you pay a relatively small fee once a year to cover most of the incidental medical costs that can add up over time. This includes preventative checkups and tests like mammograms, routine treatment for chronic conditions like asthma, and education about health issues such as diabetes or obesity. Expatriates we know who have signed up for IMSS have been pleased with the quality, experience and professionalism of the doctors and nurses attending them, most of whom also practice in private hospitals. A strategy some expatriates recommend is to purchase private health insurance with a high deductable for catastrophic coverage and let IMSS take care of the rest.
For complete instructions on signing up for IMSS, addresses and phone numbers of clinics and hospitals, and the other types of healthcare available in the Yucatan, go to the Knowledge Store and download the YES Personal Insurance Guide.