This second article is focusing on the public health care systems available here.
There is a Seguro Popular clinic in each of these towns; San Nicolas, Santa Cruz, Chapala, San Antonio, Ajijic, and San Juan Cosala, Guadalajara. And every other town in Mexico. President Vicente Fox started this plan in 2003. It is mostly funded by the 16% VAT tax. Anyone can go to them, even if you have not signed up for it. But if you have signed up for SP then you will not be charged for most services. If you are charged, it will be minimal and based on your ability to pay.
In order to sign up and get free services you have to be a temporary resident or permanent resident and be over 60 years old. There are no disqualifications if you have preexisting conditions. There is a new SP hospital out in Jocotopec. I have not seen it but have heard great things about it. I do not have photos of the SP hospital or clinics because I have not been to them.
I went to two lectures on IMSS and Seguro Popular and have heard some conflicting information. So I am going to pass along to you both sides. One speaker said that Seguro Popular (SP) was created for the poorest of the poor here. She said that because so many expats have joined it, that they are going bankrupt. That they no longer have the medicines they used to provide for free nor are they able to do many other services they once did when it was started. Another speaker said that since our taxes pay for SP, we all have a right to use the system. One speaker said you can also sign up if you are just here on a tourist visa. The other speaker said that isn’t true.
I leave the decision up to you and your own moral code when it comes to Seguro Popular. I will tell you that SP does not provide as many services as IMSS. And you cannot have both. Seguro Popular has no restrictions for preexisting conditions and no yearly fee.
IMSS covers more health problems and is also difficult for expats to get. If you have any preexisting conditions, you can’t qualify for it. It came into being in 1943 as a basic social security system and has always been associated more with a workers and employers contribution system. It is mandatory that all businesses pay for IMSS for their employees. But Expats are now allowed to join if they pay the yearly fee. And can pass the health exam. Unfortunately, even if you qualify, you can’t use it for much the first few years of being on it. But it does cover heart surgeries and other major surgeries. The heart surgery unit at the IMSS Hospital Viejo is one of the best in the world.
More about Seguro Popular. Seguro Poplar is the Mexican universal health care system. It was created in 2003 under Presicent Vincent Fox and Dr. Frenk. Dr Frenk negotiated a deal with Philip Morris and British American Tobacco Company to donate 400 million dollars for health care programs in Mexico during the first 2 and a half years. In exchange, the Mexican government agreed not to increase taxes on tobacco in Mexico over that time period. After this, Mexico has continued to fund Seguro Popular with taxes and oil export revenue. Value added taxes, VAT, are included in all goods and services in Mexico. When you purchase an item and it has a sixteen percent tax added, you are funding Seguro Poplar. In addition, Carlos Slim, one of the world’s richest men, matches the funds with his own money. Who said that wealthy men aren’t generous?
Unfortunately, Seguro Popular does not cover heart surgeries and some other major things. SP will instead send you to a private hospital and you will have to pay out of pocket, but at a greatly reduced rate. If you drop by the SP office in Chapala you can pick up a three page list of what they DO cover. And even if you have not signed up for their services, you can still use their clinics. The price will be surprisingly reasonable.
The three photos above are of the IMSS hospital in the town of Tlajomalaco, near Guadalajara. When you sign up for IMSS you then go to one of their clinics and see a doctor. You are then assigned to one of their hospitals. I was assigned to the one above, which is about an hour and a half from where I live. I live in Ajijic and I don’t own a car. So I have to pay a driver or an expensive taxi driver for every trip I make there.
I went for blood tests and an x ray. If you look at the second photo and towards the back of it, you will see a line of people. They are waiting either for blood tests or x rays. These lines are very long but surprisingly quick. Unfortunately, you then have to wait around for the results. If it is a blood test that takes several days to get the result, like for me a thyroid test, I had to go back to get the result. They do not send you or your doctor or anyone else the x rays or any results. You have to make another trip there or wait for several hours for them. This is very time consuming and costly if you don’t own a car.
There are far more IMSS hospitals than Seguro Popular hospitals. If you get on google you can find a map that shows all the IMSS hospitals located in Guadalajara.
In Guadalajara 67% of the hospitals are private hospitals and 33% are public ones. IMSS is a public hospital, originally set up to serve the workers. Employers legally had to pay the yearly fees for their employees for IMSS. Later on they allowed others to pay the fee and join, including expats.
I have heard good things about the doctors in the IMSS hospitals but they are crowded. You will not get the attention you would in one of the private hospitals. And here is another disagreement that I heard at the lectures I attended. One person said that you have to have someone with you at all times in these hospitals, to act as an intrepreter and also doing nursing for you. There are just too many people in the public hospitals and not enough nurses to go around. And another expert said that wasn’t essential. That many of the nurses also have cell phones with translators on them so they can talk with the expats. And that many of the doctors also speak English. I know from my own experiences in three different private hospitals, plus an IMSS hospital that I couldn’t have managed without help. I was lucky to have a good friend stay with me who speaks Spanish and English.
It is another decision that is up to you but I have been looking for helpers so I could make up a list for people. It is at the Access Lake Chapala office and you can drop in to get a copy. Or if you know anyone who would like to do this service, please have that person contact the office. It isn’t a volunteer job. You can ask what you want for this service. It is between the worker and the person in need of help. Phone numbers and e mail addresses of the helpers are on the list so call and ask their prices.
But it is difficult to find people who speak good Spanish and English and don’t have other jobs. I only have three people who will stay in the hospitals full time when needed and three others who will drive expats to the doctors and hospitals and help out just for quick visits. I would like to get a lot more people on this list. There is no charge for workers who want to be on this list and the list is free to anyone. You can also get a copy at the Lake Chapala Society. And please have anyone interested in being on the list call our office, Access Lake Chapala. Or e mail me at Petwalker40@yahoo.com.
There is a Municipal Clinic located at the north end of Chapala. It is just a couple of blocks north east of Sorianas. This is a public clinic as opposed to the others shown in the previous article which are private clinics. It is mostly run by tax dollars. At one time it was just for free medical care for government employees. Then it opened up to everyone for a small fee for the different services.
I don’t have a photo of it but I went there and it is a beautiful clinic. They have an Orthopedist who sees patients on Mondays and Fridays from three to six p.m. A Cardiologist comes in every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. They have a lab and can do x rays. They do bone scans and ultrasound. Their fees are nominal, based on your ability to pay.
They also have five hospital beds for emergencies. They stabilize the patients before they are transferred to a hospital in Guadalajara for treatment. Their address is Calle Chinchorros 29. Local buses from Chapala go there. Ask the driver if he goes towards Barrio de Guadalupe. It is on the corner of Chinchooros and Las Lomas. You will see the signs pointing towards it when you are a few blocks away. Or you can take a taxi. The clinic’s number is 765 5421. This clinic also has three ambulances on call, the Green Cross, for emergencies and it is open 24/7. But the doctors hours for consulting are 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Secretary Denis Mora is bilingual and available at 765 5421 to book special procedures such as mammograms or special visits.
There are twenty private hospitals listed in the Guadalajara telephone book. I have been to three of them. They were all wonderful and compared to charges in the United States, you can almost expect the entire bill to be equal to or less than your co pay north of the border. The newest heart surgery center is at Hospital Civil Viejo which is an IMSS hospital.
I had gall bladder surgery at the private hospital in Guadalajara, Hospital Puerta de Hierro Sur. It is a small hospital. It felt like no other patients were in there during my four day stay. My friend stayed with me and we were both treated very well. The smaller hospitals are usually less expensive than the larger hospitals. If you want to know the names of the other private hospitals and information about them, you can put in Hospital Puerta de Hierro Sur on google. It will come up along with the other private hospitals and you can read all about them. It is a very helpful site.
I have a friend who had foot surgery in a private hospital in Guadalajara. She had SP and they did not provide the service she needed. They sent her to a private hospital and she had to pay for it, but at a greatly reduced rate. There are good things and bad things about both IMSS and SP. So do your research and talk to people before you decide if you want to sign up for either of them. You cannot have both. Also, IMSS has a yearly fee which goes up as you age. No yearly fees for SP.
I hope this article has been worthwhile for you. I can’t possibly go into all the health facilities here and all the doctors…. But I hope this information will give you peace of mind that you will have no problems having good medical service in this area if you decide to move here. I am sorry that I do not have any photos of the municipal clinic. But I can tell you for sure that the Municipal Clinic in Chapala is first class.
One more important factor that I forgot to mention. If you have medicare in the United States or if you insist on going there for treatment, then you might look into SkyMed. They will transport you to the United States after you have been stabilized here. Just look them up on the internet. This is a wonderful service but you will have to pay a yearly fee for it.
Or you could take your chances and just fly up there if you think you can make it on your own in a public airline. They leave several times a day from Guadalajara which is just a forty five minute taxi ride from this area, sometimes less. Depends on the taxi driver.
Since medical care is so inexpensive here, I have decided to go in the direction of self pay. I have some friends who have made the same decision. I have paid out of pocket for four operations and hospital stays in the ten years that I have lived here, costing a little less than twenty thousand dollars total. I compared that amount to what I would have been paying for private insurance or even medicare part B and a co pay and I may have come out ahead.
As I wrote at the beginning of this article, are many different health care options here. You have to just choose the one best for you.
And don’t forget 911. If you don’t speak Spanish and you are sick, say Estoy Muy enfermo.
If you need an ambulance be sure to give them your address and cross streets and try to get the door unlocked for them. Be sure to have written out all your meds for the ambulance people, plus the name and phone number of your doctor and other important information. And remember, the Red Cross ambulance is not a free service although the price is very reasonable. SALUD.