How Much Does It Cost to Be Treated at a Public Hospital in Mexico Without Insurance?

Photo source: iStockphoto

I recently wrote an article about my unexpected visit to a private hospital in Mexico to get stitched up after I slipped in the shower at a resort.

In case you missed it, here it is: My Trip to the Emergency Room in Mexico

That article prompted many readers to ask me how much it would have cost to go to a public health facility. Which is a very good question, so I’ll attempt to answer it today.

Before we begin, it’s important to point out that Mexico has different types of public facilities.

Some local hospitals and clinics are operated at the state or local level, like the general hospital in Playa del Carmen, while others are operated at the federal level.

When it comes to state and local facilities, obviously prices can vary. After all, there are 31 states and one federal district. However, if we focus our attention at the federal level, things get a whole lot easier.

IMSS Hospitals and Clinics

El Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, or IMSS for short, is a government institution that is tasked with providing healthcare (among other services) to people who are enrolled in that public program.

Many foreign expats choose this healthcare option when they become permanent residents of Mexico. It’s not free, but many people find it very affordable and prefer the level of care over other public health insurance options like Seguro Popular.

IMSS operates over 6,000 family clinics and 390 hospitals. If you spend much time in Mexico, you’ll inevitably come across one or more of their facilities. Just look for this logo:

Even if you don’t have public health insurance, you can still be treated at an IMSS facility; however, you’ll have to pay.

Fortunately, you’ll have some idea what you will expect to pay because IMSS has a set fee schedule.

The most recent one was published in el Diario Official de la Federación on March 22, 2019.

Cost Breakdown by Type of Facility

***Remember, these fees only apply to people who are NOT covered by the appropriate public insurance program***

The original fee schedule is a few pages long, so I decided to just list a few of the common fees below.

You can see the original PDF document (in Spanish) here: 2019 IMSS Cuotas Para No Derechohabientes

Medical facilities are broken down into three levels, and some fees vary by level:

Level 1 Medical Facilities

Provides basic medical treatment, check-ups (e.g. clinics)
Type of ServiceCost in PesosApprox. Cost in Dollars (19:1)
Medical Consultation$783 MXN$41.21 USD
Dental Consultation$832 MXN$43.78 USD
X-Ray$346 MXN$18.21 USD
Ultrasound$546 MXN$28.73 USD
Physical Therapy Session$964 MXN$50.73 USD

Level 2 Medical Facilities

Provides more specialized medical care that includes internal medicine, surgeries, obstetrics and psychology (e.g. hospitals)
Type of ServiceCost in PesosApprox. Cost in Dollars (19:1)
Emergency Visit$1,164 MXN$61 USD
Basic Hospitalization (daily rate)$8,333 MXN$438 USD
Intensive Care (daily rate)$37,410 MXN$1,968 USD
MRI$4,199 MXN$221 USD
Surgical Procedure$22,829 MXN$1,201 USD

Level 3 Medical Facilities

Handles the most serious injuries and/or illnesses that require specialized care and advanced technology
Type of ServiceCost in PesosApprox. Cost in Dollars (19:1)
Emergency Consultation$3,089 MXN$162 USD
Heart Catheterization Procedure$42,864 MXN$2,256 USD
Radiation Treatment (per session)$2,077 MXN$109 USD
Chemotherapy (per session)$7,034 MXN$370 USD

Don’t assume that government operated hospitals and clinics will be your best option financially. Several news outlets in Mexico have reported that prices for many medical services are often lower at private facilities.

Let’s Wrap This Up

I’m not sure how long the IMSS fee schedule will be in effect.

The new president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), has promised to revise the public healthcare system in Mexico, making access to IMSS free for everyone — including people not covered by the appropriate public health insurance.

When the new IMSS fee schedule was published in March of this year, AMLO announced at a press conference that the fees would only be temporary — but he didn’t provide a date.

I’ll be sure to update this article, or write en entirely new one, if anything changes.

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About the Author

Qroo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. They later started a blog called Two Expats Mexico ( to share their experiences as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border.

23 Comments on "How Much Does It Cost to Be Treated at a Public Hospital in Mexico Without Insurance?"

  1. Sharon Lesley | May 5, 2019 at 8:22 am |

    I would just like to comment that my partner and I tried to join Imss last year but we were refused for a variety of obscure reasons. We are now waiting for our permanente next April so we can join Seguro Popular, which seems ridiculous as we were ready to pay for Imss….

    • AMLO wants to get rid of Seguro Popular and reform the whole system. He says, “Seguro Popular ni es seguro, ni popular.”

  2. Keith Fonceca | May 5, 2019 at 8:54 am |

    All I can say is please is please take Paul’s advice and have coverage. My Brother suffered a catastrophic stroke in the Yucatan and had to have three brain surgeries, was in icu for 3 months, and we had to pay for his meds, even his cat scan dye. It has devastated his wife, business, and our family. Your life can change in an instant. Never risk it.

    • Qroo Paul | May 5, 2019 at 9:00 am |

      Sorry to hear about that. I hope people learn from it and ALWAYS obtain some type of health insurance (public, private or travel).

  3. Cassandra Garcia | May 5, 2019 at 10:15 am |

    Had a slip and fall accident at Walmart on a slick ramp after a rain. Ended up with a fractured left patella, kneecap, which required a 4 day hospital stay and surgery. Cost us about $3800 usd.. less than a deductible in the US. I then went to rehab twice a week for 3 months for about $200 usd. The care was excellent! I know of what I speak after retiring after 30 years in medicine..

  4. I’ve been treated at our local hospital in Mazatlan a couple of times I think it’s private. The cost for treatment very reasonable. I had a ultra sound,
    very surprised that a doctor did the test and received results right away. In the US they use techs so the cost is much higher.

  5. I tried my best to get a realistic idea of costs for having my back X-rayed while in RM. Even though Hospiten has an 800# and a website that seems to cater to tourists, alas I could not get a call back after a few tries. I was able to get a call back from Costa Med, but they were only able to tell me that I would have to first have a consultation and that they could not provide an estimate for potential X-Rays, I think Ill just have to show up in person on an extended trip and hope for the best. Thanks for providing this information, as it helps to have some idea. If my charge for an x-ray was $18, I might just go to The Grand Velas to celebrate.

  6. Paul, an important note that I’ve read about IMSS, and perhaps you can confirm, is that they currently will not cover pre-existing conditions. That, as I understand it, pushed some expats to Seguro Popular. It’s one of the many questions about the coming changes.

    • Qroo Paul | May 5, 2019 at 1:13 pm |

      Correct, the IMSS public health insurance program does not cover preexisting health conditions, but Seguro Popular does. The problem is that Seguro Popular is lacking in many other ways and that is why AMLO has vowed to change the system.

  7. Hi Paul, I was told that you know had to be a Mexican citizen (no longer Permanente) to join IMMS. Any insights?

    • Qroo Paul | May 6, 2019 at 6:17 am |

      Last year, they made significant changes to the enrollment guide that is used that contains the requirements to enroll. Some of the those changes have made it unclear if the programs (IMMS or Seguro Popular) even apply to foreigners with residency. It can be interpreted a couple of ways.

      As a result, at some enrollment centers, residents are being told they don’t qualify (citizens only), while at others, they say they still do.

      I have actually been working on an article about this. Maybe I’ll move it up the list and make it my next one. 🙂

  8. Thanks for this – very informative and helpful.

  9. Casa lulu | May 5, 2019 at 6:13 pm |

    IMSS will not accept anyone with pre- existing conditions, which for many older expats, is the reason they havs no choices other than seguro popular or expensive private insurance. Bummer.

  10. I have received my PRC. Do I have to apply for the Seguro Popular or do I automatically now have it?

    • Qroo Paul | May 6, 2019 at 6:24 am |

      I’m assuming that by PRC you mean your permanent resident card. You must apply for Seguro Popular.

  11. katie cain | May 6, 2019 at 7:04 am |

    In this part of Mexico/Cancun I would not go to the public hospitals. The wait is long, beds in the hallway, weeks waiting for surgery if not urgent and need someone with you 24/7. I have an international health care plan for emergencies excluding the USA as whoooh, major expensive, so just purchase travelers insurance.

  12. Is there an article concerning joint replacement surgery in Mexico (ie hip, knee)?

  13. Betsye McDonald | May 6, 2019 at 11:31 am |

    Where do I apply for Seguro Popular? Thank you for all the helpful information ! Oh yes and where do I find the post on joining a new page with you for a small fee? I can’t find it!!

  14. Happily Retired in México | May 6, 2019 at 2:04 pm |

    Hi, Paul. My Mexicán family is very happy to know all the “ins and outs” of the healthcare system here in central Guanajuato state. Primarily, because quite a few of them are nurses and one is a doctor. The specialist who took care of my bile duct blockage in 2014, is even known by my military doctors in the USA as a fantastic doctor, has been my family’s doctor for 30 years. For anyone who lives in San Miguel, that doctor is Dr. Rayas in Dolores Hidalgo. He is the uncle of the current DH mayor. The level of care with him is on an even par with American specialized health care. After my wife and I looked tbrough the current IMSS uninsured price list, we were quite surprised to see that many prices are almost 1,000% more than you would pay at private care clinics. Most doctors charge $50 (pesos!) for consultations, except for Dr Rayas who is the premiere specialist doctor in Guanajuato State, who charges from $300 to $450 pesos for consultations. My primary care physician in Mexico who consults with my military doctors only charges me $50 pesos per consult, as of a year ago. His consults were $25 before that. MRI’s, Cat Scans, X Ray’s, etc, are far cheaper in the private world. Fox’s “Seguro Popular” started out as a good thing but quickly went sour because of the corruption. AMLO is trying to put everyone under IMSS and it’s already a horrible system, overloaded and highly corrupt. So after 30 years in Mexico I’ve learned long ago that private is better if you’re uninsured. And the level of care is far, far superior in the private sector. Solved: become insured. Paul, you might consider putting out an article that lists very good doctors and specialists (Rayas is an internal medicine and geriatric specialist though he will serve anybody).

    • Qroo Paul | May 6, 2019 at 2:09 pm |

      Thank you so much for taking the time to leave such a detailed and well-articulated response.

      We’ll give your topic idea some thought. Thanks again. 🙂

  15. Conan Dunham | May 6, 2019 at 2:06 pm |

    My wife and I recently signed up for Seguro Popular in Mazatlan. In and out in about 30 minutes with our cards. No deductible. No questions about income or where we lived. I’ve heard it’s going away but they said business as usual here. In fact they just opened a new general hospital.

    • Qroo Paul | May 6, 2019 at 2:11 pm |

      Thanks for sharing that. How recently did you sign up? They made significant changes in the enrollment requirements in September of last year. They came out with a new guide and are in the process of training their personnel across the country.

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