Whether you're vacationing in Mexico, traveling there for work or choosing to retire there, you'll want to be sure that you can obtain affordable and high-quality healthcare when you need it. Accidents and illnesses can happen to anyone, but not all American health insurance companies will pay claims for Mexican healthcare providers. Knowing what will be covered and purchasing an appropriate insurance policy is a smart way to protect yourself while traveling south of the border.
American Health Insurance in Mexico
Although many medical procedures in Mexico can be very affordable, insurance can still be helpful in paying for emergency treatments or providing peace of mind while traveling. In the event of an unexpected emergency, your healthcare costs may still become prohibitively high. Carrying insurance helps guarantee that you will be able to find care at the cost and quality you need.
If you're traveling to Mexico for a relatively short period of time, your best bet may be to obtain travel insurance that will cover medical emergencies. Travel insurance is generally purchased for a specific trip, and you will receive a set level of benefits for healthcare costs or other emergency expenses, like the cost of an emergency evacuation.
Several companies offer travel insurance. These are a few of the best known:
- Allianz provides single-trip and annual plans with a variety of coverage options. The policy has a $25,000 limit for emergency medical care and $500,000 in limits for emergency medical transportation.
- CSA Travel Protection offers customizable policies with several coverage levels. Aside from emergency medical expenses, CSA also provides up to $250,000 of non-emergency medical care reimbursement in its deluxe plan.
- Travelex offers up to $50,000 in emergency medical expense coverage and up to $500,000 in emergency medical evacuation while traveling.
- TravelSafe offers bundled plans as well as medical-only plans so that you can decide the level of coverage you prefer. Medical expense plans can be purchased for trips between five days and three years in length, with customizable levels of protection.
The U.S. Department of Passports and International Travel lists several other travel insurers on its website.
Living and Working in Mexico
If you'll be staying in Mexico for longer than a few months, such as during retirement or for a job reassignment, you'll need a more permanent healthcare solution. Legal residents can apply for Seguro Popular, the universal healthcare program in Mexico. The cost of this coverage is based on a sliding scale, with premiums depending on factors like income and whether you own a home.
If you don't live permanently in Mexico, you'll need a health insurance plan that can be used in Mexico. If you live in a border state, it's possible that your insurance plan will already cover medical care received in Mexico. These claims may be handled on a reimbursement basis alone, or the insurer may communicate with the doctor in Mexico to make payment arrangements.
Several insurance companies offer international coverage for Americans living and working abroad:
- International Medical Group: IMG offers global health insurance in 170 countries. Group policies are available for employers and individual insurance is available for long-term medical travel and specialty insurance products. Specialty policies are designed with students, missionaries, adventure sports enthusiasts and others in mind. All policies can be customized to suit a policyholder's needs. Quotes are available on the IMG website, with the cost of coverage depending on the level of coverage desired.
- ihi Bupa: This company has offered international health and travel insurance for more than 30 years, and it services both individual customers and employers looking for group plans. The company is based in Switzerland but sells policies internationally, with a heavy focus in the Latin American region. All policies can be customized, with coverages and limits being modified to meet your needs or budget.
- SIMNSA: Sistemas Medicos Nacionales, S.A. de C.V. is a health maintenance organization (HMO) located in northern Mexico. It was designed to offer high-quality healthcare to Californians who prefer to seek medical care across the border due to the low costs. Policies are sold in large and small group health plans for employers to offer their workers. Individual plans are not available at this time.
As medical tourism to Mexico becomes more popular, more insurers in the USA may expand to provide coverage for Mexican doctors and hospitals.
Cost of International Health Insurance
The price of international health policies can vary substantially, even within an individual company. For example, the most affordable policy sold by ihi Bupa costs just $2,800 per year, with the priciest policy costing $19,000. Similar variance is seen in other insurers.
Several factors affect the cost of health insurance, including your age, the location where you'll be traveling and the coverages you wish to add to the policy. The best way to discern how much the policy will cost is to get a quote through the company's website or over the phone.
Mexico's Healthcare System
Mexico has long had a reputation for cheap healthcare, and the low cost of care in the country is one reason that many Americans travel south of the border. Mexican healthcare is provided through a combination of private and public institutions. Private healthcare is offered on a free-market system, available to anyone who can afford it; public healthcare is offered through a universal healthcare system put in place and maintained by the Mexican government.
Government-subsidized healthcare is only available to Mexican residents, not American visitors, but you do not need to be a citizen to use it. Private healthcare in Mexico tends to be quite affordable, with procedures generally costing much less than they would in the U.S. without a drop in quality. This means that it may be possible to pay for healthcare expenses out of pocket, utilizing private doctors and avoiding insurance altogether.
Choosing the Right Insurance
Whether you're planning a vacation or plan to retire in Mexico, having health insurance that will work across the border is a smart step for keeping yourself safe. Once you've assessed your needs and understand your budget, you can begin searching for an international insurance plan that will work for you.
You might want to start by contacting your current insurer; some health insurance providers do provide coverage for claims filed abroad or can point you in the direction of a company that does.