Now that my husband and I have our permanent visas and are living in Manzanillo, in the area called Salahua (sometimes also spelled Salagua), we have proceeded with the objective of obtaining access to the Mexican public health system – IMSS (Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social). It isn’t what I would call complicated but it is tedious and requires quite a bit of running around and trips back and forth to various offices. I can only imagine that any foreigner seeking healthcare in another country is going to run into similar bureaucratic processes. So, if you decide to proceed down this avenue, be aware that you will need some assistance with Spanish if you are not capable and a vehicle is essential unless you have someone to drive you to numerous destinations. There is some excellent information about IMSS on the internet. If you are set up to do so, I recommend a website at:
The website is focused in the Lake Chapala area and covers a broad list of topics from driving in Mexico to the legal systems and various general topics of interest to expats.
Our first step in the process involved finding the IMSS office building. It is located one block south of the General Hospital on the Salahua valley road called Avenida Elias Zamora (same main avenue as the Coca Cola plant/ Valle de las Garzas) on the East side. It’s a modern, air-conditioned building. You will be greeted at a reception area and given a numbered ticket to wait your turn in the waiting areas. There are numerous wickets, somewhat like a bank, and you will be called to one of them.
When you explain you are applying for social security medical (voluntary medical) coverage at the IMSS, you will be given a form to fill out there. The form includes a list of pre-conditions that will not be covered. If you do have any of these, you will not be accepted or may be accepted with exclusions (though not likely).
Luckily the young woman serving us spoke a bit of English and I worked very hard at speaking my somewhat stilted Spanish. We each managed to complete the task and were given a list of fees and were told to go over to a nearby bank to pay the annual levy up front before we could proceed. We were also informed that once the process was underway, if we were not approved, the cost would not be refundable.
The annual costs are as follows:
AGE ANNUAL FEE in pesos (MXN)
0 – 19 yrs. $2,250.00
20 – 29 yrs. $2,700.00
30 – 39 yrs. $2,850.00
40 – 49 yrs. $4,000.00
50 – 59 yrs. $4,250.00
60 – 69 yrs. $6,150.00
70 – 79 yrs. $6,450.00
80 yrs. plus $6,500.00
TIP #1: The bank would not accept credit cards so we needed to return with cash. Be sure to have a copy made of the receipt for yourself. IMSS wants a copy for their office files. There was a store that made copies for us beside the bank (Banamex) located on the West side of the Valle de las Garzas road, across from the General Hospital.
TIP #2: You will need copies of your passport, FM3 or permanent visa, electrical or telephone bill as proof of residence (preferably in your name) and a copy of CURP number which is basically your social insurance number in Mexico (our permanent visa cards contained our CURP numbers).
We then proceeded back to the IMSS main office with our receipts and copies in hand and once again waited our turns for a wicket. Providing these to the woman then allowed us to proceed to the next step which we were told was to go to a clinic with our documents that she had kindly sorted out for us. At that point, we thought we were going to be referred to a physician. We asked where the closest clinic was to our residence which turned out to be clinic #17 past the Auditorium and not far from the bus depot. It is definitely a distance from the IMSS offices and thus our recommendation to be driving a car.
At clinic #17, we bumbled our way around and ended up at a desk where we were told we would need to have blood tests done. We were given a short list of the tests required. Also we were told we must provide three small photos (infantile) of ourselves like those for our passports or visa cards. We were unprepared for this. Again we asked for direction to an appropriate laboratory and were told there are many. Living on the beach in Salahua, we asked about the Echauri Hospital near us and were told that would be fine. Since it was a Friday afternoon and we were told we must fast (no comida) for eight plus hours, we waited until Monday morning to check in with our instructions at the Echauri Laboratory (second floor). The laboratory costs were $536.00 pesos each. Results of the tests were available for us before 5 pm that afternoon, too late to return to the clinic that day.
TIP #3: Fasting of eight hours or more will be required for blood testing.
Over the weekend we rounded up the required photos. There are many places that will provide this service. I like a small studio just across the side street from the Cathedral in Santiago (four photos for $25.00 pesos). Farmacias Guadalajara can also do them.
TIP#4: You will be required to provide 3 photos for the clinic when you return with the results of blood testing.
The following morning, we headed for clinic #17 with our growing file of information. We fully expected that we would be sent to a relevant physician for physical examinations or that there were physicians working in the clinic for that purpose. Apparently we were wrong. The same worker took our lab results back to some offices out of our view and we waited. When she returned, we received our forms from her, duly authorized by the doctors in the back, and instructed to return them to the IMSS main offices. Mystified as we were, we were quite happy not to be submitted to physical exams though we wondered if there was still another step for that purpose on this continuing journey.
I’m delighted to report that, having scurried back to the main offices of IMSS, we were accepted for the Mexican system and informed that we could pick up our healthcare cards at the clinic on the 1st of the next month. That would be about two weeks away at the time of writing this article. We have yet to complete that particular step. We still need to establish contact with a local doctor but that will be our first agenda item upon our return from visiting family back in Canada. Our annual payments will be due the following year, in the preceding month before expiry.
TIP #5: If you have diabetes or a heart condition, you will likely not be approved.
TIP #6: Review the many details provided at the Focus on Mexico website noted in the article.
TIP #7: Detection of a chronic disease in the first six months of IMSS affiliation will likely lead to disqualification, with no refund of fees.