How does health care in Mexico stack up with what expatriates are used to back home? In terms of quality, accessibility and affordability, the answer is very well, according to a majority of expats contacted for a recent survey on the topic.
Healthcare in Mexico: A Research Study found that more than three-quarters of surveyed expats are satisfied with the health care they receive in Mexico while almost one-third of respondents said their health care costs are less than a quarter of what they were in the United States or Canada.
Completed by 1,129 expats, the survey also reveals the areas of Mexico where foreign residents experience the best health care and have the healthiest lifestyles.
The study was conducted and published by Best Places in the World to Retire and is the third in a series of survey reports about Mexico. Previous reports explored expats’ expectations about moving to Mexico and the cost of living in the country.
The first question the survey posed was: How would you rate the quality of health care in Mexico compared to your home country?
While 29.7% of respondents said it is “about the same,” 23.2% said that it is “somewhat better” and 20.1% said that it is “much better,” accounting for a combined total of 43.3% of all respondents.
Just 15.9% of respondents rated health care in Mexico as either “somewhat worse” or “much worse” than in their home countries while a further 11.2% said they had no opinion on the subject.
The survey pointed out that the positive to negative ratio among respondents is well above two to one.
Chuck Bolotin, vice-president of Best Places in the World to Retire, highlighted that most expats use the private health system in Mexico although he added “it is possible for an expat to qualify for public health care in Mexico, and quite a few do use it.”
Foreign residents of the Lake Chapala area are most satisfied with the quality of health care in Mexico, according to the survey, with a combined 69.4% of respondents saying that it is “much better” or “somewhat better” than in their home countries.
The survey noted that the area is within an hour’s drive of Guadalajara, a city it said, “is generally recognized to have very good and modern hospitals.”
Mexico City offered the next best level of care with 64.3% of respondents saying it is “much better” or “somewhat better” than their home countries followed by the state of Yucatán, including Mérida (52.1%) and the greater Mazatlán area (50.6%).
Respondents’ comments reflected the overall high levels of satisfaction with the quality of medical services.
“A tiny bit less advanced, but much better attention and care. Doctors give you their own phone numbers,” said one female respondent originally from the United States.
“Doctors have time for their patients here,” said a San Miguel de Allende resident, reflecting a sentiment that was shared by several other respondents.
One user of the public health care system commented that “once you get past the bureaucracy, the medical care is excellent.”
Responses to the survey’s second question — how would you rate your access to health care in Mexico compared to your home country? — were also largely positive.
Over 58% of respondents said that their ability to access health care is “much better” or “somewhat better” while only 12.8% said access is “somewhat worse” or “much worse.”
The Lake Chapala area, Mazatlán, Puerto Vallarta and Yucatán lead the way in terms of accessibility, with around half of all residents from those areas saying that health care access is “much better” than in their home countries.
“Access to health care in Nova Scotia [Canada] is so bad that there is no comparison to be made. I might have waited a year for an MRI in Nova Scotia and here it was two days,” a Baja California resident said.
One respondent cited the fact that many doctors make house calls as a factor that improved health care accessibility.
Another advantage of Mexico’s system is that medical costs are significantly lower than in expats’ home countries, particularly the United States, the survey said.
In response to the question, “How would you rate the cost of health care in Mexico compared to your home country?” almost three-quarters of respondents said that it is either “less than a quarter of the cost” (31.6%) or “from half the cost to a quarter of the cost” (40.7%).
Only 7.8% of respondents said that health care costs more in Mexico than in their home country, although the figure rose to 18.8% among Canadian respondents and fell to just 2.6% among those from the United States.
The survey said that it presumed that “these differences are primarily the result of Canada having a state-run health care system.”
One respondent commented that low costs extend to veterinarian services for pets while another said that “pharmaceuticals are much more competitively priced and in many cases the manufacturers are the same.”
Comparatively low prices for medical services also attract a lot of short-term visitors to Mexico. Dental tourism is particularly popular.
Health insurance costs are also generally lower in Mexico, according to expats’ responses, with only 7.9% saying that medical coverage costs more than in their home country.
However, almost half of respondents said that they had no opinion on the subject.
The survey said that it suspected that result was largely due to those respondents having no health insurance in Mexico and cited several reasons why including:
• The low cost of health care in Mexico makes it less necessary to purchase insurance.
• Respondents still have health insurance in their home countries.
• Some may have pre-existing conditions that a Mexican insurance company would exclude so some of these expats may choose to go without.
“Who needs health insurance here when [medical care] is so affordable?” a Quintana Roo resident from the United States commented.
In response to the survey’s fifth question — overall, how satisfied are you with the health care you receive in Mexico? — almost 60% of expats polled said that they are “very satisfied.”
A further 19.5% said that they are “somewhat satisfied,” meaning that there is an overall satisfaction quotient of 78.8%.
Only 3.9% of respondents said that they are “somewhat dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” while 7.1% said they are “neither satisfied or dissatisfied.”
More than 70% of Mazatlán and Yucatán residents said they are “very satisfied” with the health care they receive, closely followed by residents of the Lake Chapala area (69.8%).
“Very prompt, modern and professional service and a very reasonable cost. Canada and the U.S. could learn a lot about efficient health care from Mexico,” a Canadian resident of Mazatlán said.
However, some other respondents were less impressed.
One cited an experience in a “dirty hospital” while another said that “medical standards for doctors in Mexico are lower than in the U.S.”
In addition to canvassing opinions about health care, the survey also asked respondents to rate their health-related lifestyles compared to their home countries, considering factors such as eating, exercising and weight management.
Bolotin said that the question was included “in order to judge the relative need for health care as increased or decreased by lifestyle.”
Just over 40% of respondents said that their lifestyle in Mexico is “much healthier,” 31% said that it’s “a little healthier” and 23.5% said that it’s “about the same.”
That left only 4.4% of respondents who said their lifestyle is “a little less healthy” and 0.7% who said that it is “much less healthy.”
Increased opportunity for exercise and access to inexpensive, fresh food were the most frequently cited factors that contributed to healthier lifestyles.
However, it wasn’t all good news on the lifestyle front, with a few respondents commenting that their alcohol consumption had increased since they moved to Mexico.
The number-one place with the healthiest expat lifestyle is Mazatlán, followed closely by the state of Yucatán and the Lake Chapala area, the survey said.
Finally, the survey posed the question: how worried are you about not being able to receive the health care services that you may need in Mexico compared to your country of origin?
The survey said that the question was included “to test the notion that health care in Mexico may be viewed as acceptable for non-challenging illnesses, but that our respondents would want to return to their home country if something more catastrophic happened.”
However, 55% of respondents said that they are “not worried at all.” A further 24.4% admitted to being “a little worried” while 12.7% said that they have “about the same level of worry.”
Just under 8% of respondents said that they are “a little more worried” or “much more worried” about the possibility that they might not be able to receive the services they need.
The survey has a theoretical margin of error of + / – 2.91% based on an expat population in Mexico of 500,000.
The full survey can be downloaded here.
Mexico News Daily