Part 1 in our series about health care options in La Paz, Mexico
We get lots of questions about healthcare options in La Paz. This post is an update of an article originally published in the Vista Properties Newsletter.
- What would happen if I got sick while visiting or living in La Paz?
- Is medical care here expensive?
- Is it modern? Is it safe?
- What kind of health care services can I get here?
The answers to these questions can really affect a person’s decision to move to Mexico.
Following is the first in a series of articles written by expats who have made the move to La Paz about their experiences with the healthcare system here. Healthcare in Mexico is definitely tiered based on price. As with every system, there are both positives and negatives to consider for each option.
In this series we’ll cover:
Option #1 Seguro Popular: public healthcare option
Option #2 IMSS: Employer funded and/or paid option
Option #3 Private Hospital Care
Option #4 Private Insurance
Option 1: Seguro Popular (Public Health Insurance)
Back in 1992, Mexico created a program to provide health care for anyone who does not qualify for employer-supported medical insurance. There are pluses and minuses to the system, but it remains a great way to provide you and your family access to wellness. Known as Seguro Popular, or public insurance, it forms part of the social health protection system administered by the Secretary of Health and the National Health Commission.
Expats in Mexico on either a permanent or temporary visa are eligible for this same coverage at a very low cost. It is a basic, no-frills option, but no one is denied on the basis of pre-existing conditions. Here in La Paz, the hospital associated with Seguro Popular is the Hospital General Juan María Salvatierra on Avenida de los Deportistas.
We thought you might like to hear about Seguro Popular from someone in our community who has used it. Thanks to our friend and local Comitan resident, Warren Jorgenson, for sharing his experience:
In our preparation to retire and move to La Paz, Mexico, we did a lot of research on the medical system and capabilities of the Mexican healthcare system. We were amazed to find the major hospitals and even the smaller private ones have the same advanced equipment that we were used to seeing back at our trauma center in the USA. We were even more surprised when we started talking with a few doctors and ambulance paramedics to find out that the advanced technology also was out in the ambulances. We found that doctors go out of their way to find out the root cause of your problem, spending much more time than we are accustomed to for an office visit. And, if you can’t get to the office they will come to your home. It is strange to have a surgeon come to your house to check on you and also remove your stitches while he is there.
Now you are probably wondering what all of this great care costs. We had the same question when we came here. To give you an example, my wife and I both worked for state government in the US, so we had really good insurance. When we retired in 2010 we got the bad news: our insurance premium for just the two of us was going to be $1,438 per month, ouch! Now for the good news…
When we got down here to beautiful La Paz and started looking for insurance, we were directed to the Segura Popular program, the public insurance for all Mexican citizens. Foreign residents are required to pay a small annual fee based on their ability to pay. To sign up, we met with some very nice people who asked a few questions about our finances. We found out that our insurance rate was going to be the highest that the Seguro Popular program had. Yes, in 2011 the highest rate was 1,417 pesos or about $123 US for the entire year! In 2017 the same coverage cost only $83 due to the strength of the US dollar.
Now you might be wondering if Seguro Popular is worth it or not? Is it any good?
In 2016, my wife fell and smashed the knuckle on the top of her left femur. We went to the big hospital in La Paz and met with the leading surgeon for these types of injuries. She spent 11 days in the hospital. Nine (9) hours in surgery! This was a large six digit hospital bill. I asked for a few extra tests to be done that were not covered by the insurance, and after getting a discount with my Mexican seniors’ card, the total bill when we left the hospital was $83.10 US!! It would have been $0.00 without the extra tests.
Any person taking advantage of the Seguro Popular system must learn the norms of hospital protocol and what the hospital expects of the patient. For example, one is expected to bring his/her own pillow and blankets. During the day, patient care is A1, but staff is reduced during evening hours and at night you are expected to have a family member stay with you to help with basic nursing routines. Once you know these things, you will find the service great. We would rate the quality of service to be an A.
A month after surgery, my wife was walking well, without pain in her hip or bone. Eighteen months later, she continues with no pain at all from her hip injury and pin repair.
So is Seguro Popular insurance worth it? I guess you will have to decide that. To us it was and is a retirement savings account savior!!
– Warren Jorgenson, Comitan resident