Navigating IMSS – The Public Healthcare System in Mexico

Navigating IMSS: The Public Healthcare System in Mexico

As promised in our previous article named “Cost of Healthcare in Mexico: Myths & Truths”, in this blog article we’re going to explore the intricacies of Mexico’s public healthcare landscape, particularly the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (IMSS), which reveals a complex web of advantages and drawbacks.

Affordability vs. Limitations

While the cost of IMSS may seem reasonable, the devil lies in the details. One of the glaring disadvantages of relying solely on IMSS is the incomplete coverage it provides. Not all conditions are covered, which leaves individuals vulnerable to unforeseen medical challenges.

Quality of Care

Public health facilities may lack cleanliness, and the option to choose a facility is often limited. When you sign up for IMSS you are assigned to a clinic near the area where you live. You cannot choose where to be treated, nor have a direct consultation with a specialist. You need to see a GP first.

If you require hospitalization, you can’t stay there alone either, a friend or family member of the same sex must accompany you in the room.

Privacy and persona space

Shared rooms have become the norm in IMSS facilities, which also means sharing the same bathroom.

Language barrier

Because Mexico is a Spanish-speaking country, and IMSS’s users are, for the most part, Mexican nationals, the language barrier can pose additional challenges for English speakers.

More than likely, you’ll need someone to translate for you unless you speak Spanish fluently.

Remember that even if you know some Spanish, it’s medical terminology that will be discussed with the doctors and medical staff.

Self-Supplying Necessities

Due to the implicit limitations of the Public Healthcare system in Mexico, patients or their families must be able to self-provide basic amenities like toilet paper, soap, towels, etc. 

Pre-Existing Conditions and Eligibility

IMSS is very similar to insurance companies when it comes to pre-existing conditions. When you apply for IMSS, you will need to provide certain information, including information related to your health.

Pre-existing conditions might be a roadblock to accessing the necessary healthcare.

Here is a list of some of the pre-existing conditions that are not covered and would disqualify you from enrolling in IMSS:

  • Malignant Tumors
  • Mental Disorders
  • Kidney Problems
  • Degenerative Diseases
  • Diabetes 1
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Pulmonary disorders


In the evolving landscape of health care in Mexico, IMSS stands as a notable player with its blend of somewhat affordability and limitations.

Prospective policyholders must carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages, considering factors beyond the price tag to ensure that their healthcare needs are met effectively.

But to avoid all these circumstances it would be worth looking into getting private health insurance before or while you’re in Mexico.

We will Discuss the advantages of having Private Health Insurance in our next article

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