Health & Safefy » Purchasing Medical Insurance if you are a Mexico Resident

Many expatriates think that moving to Mexico with their U.S. health policies provides sufficient coverage. After all, any major medical situation could be treated back home, while the local medical insurance would be exclusively for "minor" issues. This logic works fine as long as a "major medical issue" actually permits travel back to your home country for treatment. In most cases, this is simply not recommended, if not impossible.

Let's say that your health insurance policy covers international "emergency" claims and you are aware that Mexico is finally being brought up to world hospital service standards. But, what does "international coverage" really mean? Sometimes it is a reimbursement coverage (e.g., you pay first and then the insurance company pays you) capped up to a relatively small amount. Sometimes, it is coverage for "network" hospitals. In these cases, out-of-network facilities usually indicate major limitations in coverage.

Are the local hospitals members of your policy's network? What are your policy's requirements regarding health crises in a foreign land? Are air ambulance services included in your plan?

If answering these questions does not leave you with a good impression of your current health policy, it need not mean it is a poor plan. It simply indicates that it has been designed for your country's local market. And yes, many costs in Mexico are lower than at home. But when it comes to receiving emergency medical attention at one of Mexico's top hospitals, the experience will not be easy on the pocketbook.

The ideal solution does not require that you purchase a brand new policy better adapted for Mexico. Neither good health care nor health policies come cheap in Mexico. Thus, by buying a new policy, you will be paying twice as much for health coverage.

Ideally, your current health plan should be complemented with a supplemental international health policy that functions as "top-up" coverage after a certain amount, usually $10,000 to $20,000 USD have been spent on your "basic" plan. International health policies are those that offer similar services, regardless of where the claim is taking place, including at home! They also include air ambulance services should evacuation become necessary.

For those without any coverage, complete policies can be purchased with lower deductibles (e.g. $250 to $5000 USD). If you visit Mexico for relatively short periods (e.g. up to 3 months), you may want to consider getting a TRAVEL INSURANCE POLICY. The best plans must make direct payments to hospitals worldwide and rely very little on networks. Plans that only work with pre-established networks of doctors and hospitals often result in delayed care and added bureaucratic red tape.

Health Insurance Plans with International Coverage

There are a number of health insurance plans with international coverage. The two best known companies in Mexico are International Health Insurance (IHI) from Denmark and Amedex Insurance Company from the U.S. Basically, their plans differ in the fact that Amedex requires a 2-day prenotification of programmed hospitalizations and has a network of hospitals in the U.S. (free choice of facilities in the rest of the World). IHI is free-choice worldwide and does not require prenotifications, which makes it more flexible (and a bit more expensive). Both are ready to make direct payments to hospitals worldwide.

As for national companies, ING – Comercial America, Grupo Nacional Provincial, and Royal and Sunalliance, among others, offer plans with international coverage at costs similar to those of the international corporations. Generally speaking, they are bound by hospital networks both in Mexico and abroad.

Your best choice is to contact a local insurance agent for guidance as to the most appropriate alternatives, according to your budget and


Authors: Robert H. Page, MD and Curtis P. Page, MD are authors of the MEXICO: Health and Safety Travel Guide and the Healthy Traveler Regional Series.