They just opened a new public hospital in the Jocotepec municipality (just to the west of Ajijic) between Ajijic and the city of Jocotepec that can be anybody. This hospital is part of Seguro Popular.
There are three types of insurance coverage here. Seguro Popular is a national health plan, for which you can sign up immediately and be covered for free for a three-year policy, irrespective of any pre-existing conditions. If you do need a surgery, for example, if you were in a car accident and they wanted to put some titanium pins in your knee, the surgery would be free and the medicine would be free but they’re going to charge you for the titanium pins.
A different level of care called IMSS (Mexican Institute of Social Security) also exists. Foreigners can buy their own health policies through IMSS. IMSS provides a little better quality of care than Seguro Popular.
You can also be covered under your own, private medical insurance policy. I’m 45 and I pay about 13,000 pesos (US $765) a year for a full coverage medical policy. I also buy IMSS, for which I believe I paid $200, or about 3,000ish pesos a year. I keep dual policies just in case I get some crazy rare disease and the insurance company doesn’t cover me adequately. So this way I have kind of a double choice.
My infant daughter is also on IMSS as well as a private policy. For most minor things, for example, you fell and broke your leg or you get into a minor car crash in the Chapala area, they’re going to take you to the Red Cross. They’ll do x-rays, and they’ll charge under 500 pesos (about US $29.50) for most things. You can break your arm and walk out of there paying 1,500 pesos (about US $88) for x-rays, cast, and all related items. If your condition is more serious, they will transfer you to other hospitals in Guadalajara, about an hour away. There are some other clinics in the Chapala area and in the Ajijic area too that can take you if you are bleeding or injured or you just fell off your bike, etc.
There are also private doctors here who can see you for regular medical visits and for which you might pay between 200 and 800 pesos (US $12 to $47). The higher range is if you’re going to have an appointment with a specialist. The lower range is if you’re going to see a really cheap Mexican doctor.
If you’re sick and have a cold in Mexico, you can sometimes get free medical care. Many of the pharmacies will have their own private doctor to attend to you with the hopes that you will buy your antibiotics or medicine in that pharmacy. Some provide the medical service for free and others will charge you 30 pesos (less than US $2). So you’re paying under $2 to see a doctor to get a prescription to walk next door and have it filled.
Here are some examples to explain the difference in medical care between Seguro Popular, IMSS, and a private hospital. I used to work in the courts in Chapala and had two coworkers. One guy was in a motorcycle accident and had Seguro Popular, which provides services at close to no cost. I went to visit him in the civil hospital in Guadalajara and it was like out of a World War II movie. There was a huge airplane hangar with beds 3 feet apart, nothing between the beds for privacy and rows of beds as far as I could see. The women had sheets hanging between the beds that were also 3 feet apart. And you had to walk through the women’s wing to get to the men’s wing, so much for their privacy.
Another friend was in the hospital for a spinal injury. He got transferred to a ward of the Civil Hospital where there were 3 beds in the room and there was a divider between each bed. Another guy I worked with at the courts crashed his car and had some bad injuries. He was at the IMSS hospital where they had 3 people sharing a room. A lot of times in the public hospital at the Civil Hospital or the IMSS the people need to bring their own toilet paper and there’s no place for family members to sleep; no chairs of maybe one if you are lucky.
In contrast, in the private hospitals you almost have what looks like a mini hotel room with a reclining chair so some of your family members can sleep next to you. They also provide parking and a higher quality of care and they’re going to provide everything you’ll need during your stay there
The people I saw who had Seguro Popular insurance received basic care; probably a little bit dirtier looking inside and they wouldn’t receive the frills you might get in a US hospital. In the Civil Hospital, while the beds might be not super new and it might look primitive, they’re going to have a lot of the world class equipment for tests and for surgery. IMSS might have a little better quality in care, might have the equipment that the Civil Hospital has in Guadalajara. Relative to private hospitals, San Javier is a local hospital here that is really nice and has good equipment, at a price. It has nice white walls and really super clean like any hospital you’d expect in the finest cities in the US or Europe. They have the machines for testing and intensive care unit; everything you could ever want.
With public insurance, you might have to wait weeks or months to get elective or certain surgeries, so a lot of people who have the financial capabilities just choose a private doctor. Not all private hospitals are expensive. I went to one facility where someone was treated which was run by nuns. It was more of a humble place but they were still able to get everything done quickly and not pay the price of the marble palace hospital.
The care in San Javier would be as good or better than you would get in an average hospital in the US. In general for healthcare here in the Chapala / Ajijic area, everything is on par but it just depends on where you go. A lot of it depends on where you get treated. Some people want to use the IMSS or Seguro Popular. Other people want to use the private system.
The only issue here with regard to the private insurance is that, for a lot of people due to age or pre-existing conditions, private insurance becomes cost prohibitive so as a result, people use the public health plans. IMSS has had financial problems recently, so they’ve been rejecting a lot of new applicants who are older foreigners, seeing them as a potential drain on the system, but we get them accepted through Seguro Popular, so they have some sort of insurance.
(San Javier Hospital, Guadalajara, Mexico, pictured.)