Home Articles How Healthcare in Mexico Ranks in the World  

How Healthcare in Mexico Ranks in the World  

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Healthcare in Mexico at CMQ Hospital in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Hospital CMQ Puerto Vallarta

Jump on the Internet and you will find numerous websites that tell you where you can live or retire around the world, at a fraction of the cost in your home country. While Mexico is a very inexpensive country to live, it also offers quality healthcare for expats. But how does Mexico stack up against other countries? To help you better understand, we researched how healthcare in Mexico ranks in the world.

Couple watching the sunset on the beach
Credit: EpicStockMedia | Shutterstock

Mexico has figured prominently as a top destination for expats for many years, and it is home to more American expats than any other country in the world. It was ranked #3 on International Living’s list of the World’s Best Places to Retire in 2019, in part because of the lower cost of healthcare compared to the U.S.

International Living also scored Mexico among the top five destinations in the world for healthcare in its 2017 Global Retirement Index. International Living also said medical facilities in Mexico, including in medium-sized cities, are first-class. Medical technology and treatment for major medical conditions are as well.

You can find plenty of first-hand reports on the Internet that attest to the quality of healthcare in Mexico.

“A major reason why people are currently considering moving abroad is because health care issues can be addressed much less expensively, much more easily and with similar results in places like Mexico and Panama,” Forbes magazine reported. In International Living’s Best Places in the World to Retire survey, one expat commented, “Doctors have time for their patients here.” In the same survey, another expat said, “A tiny bit less advanced, but much better attention and care. Doctors give you their own phone numbers.”

These anecdotal comments are encouraging, but what do more rigorous data-based rankings tell us about the quality of healthcare in Mexico? We turned to authoritative sources, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), The London School of Economics, the American College of Physicians and the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), among others.

Healthcare in Mexico at San Javier Hospital in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Hospital San Javier Puerto Vallarta

Physicians in Mexico receive almost the same amount of training as doctors do in the United States, according to the American College of Physicians. An aspiring physician in Mexico studies for four to five years before entering an internship that lasts two years. To acquire credentials as a specialist, a minimum of four more years of training is required. Total time spent in training is eleven years, or the same amount of time spent to become a specialist in the United States, give or take one or two years. It should be noted that admission to post-graduate specialty training in Mexico is very tough, with only 15 percent of medical graduates admitted to postgraduate residencies.

Specialty-trained physicians in Mexico provide medical care that compares with the best services available in the U.S. and the developed world, according to Project Hope of Bethesda, Maryland. “In the largest cities, excellent specialty-trained physicians and high-technology tertiary-care medical centers compete with similar U.S. centers to provide care,” a study by Project Hope found. The quality of care in private facilities for those that can afford it is excellent “as assessed by any standard,” Project Hope said.

Hospital Centro Medico ABC in Mexico City is just one example of many superb medical facilities in Mexico. It provides “world-class healthcare services and is accredited by the Joint Commission International and the General Health Council of Mexico, reflecting its high quality and international standards,” according to Global Health Intelligence’s Hospital Rankings.

The National Institutes of Health delivered a similar assessment of private medical care in Mexico. “In large cities, excellent specialty-trained physicians and well-equipped tertiary-care medical centers provide care for the wealthy at a quality level comparable to what is available in developed countries.” Their assessment went on to say that private healthcare in Mexico is “favorably rated by users in measures of health care quality, willingness of patients to return to that facility, and improvement in patients’ health.”

And therein lies the rub: In Mexico there are really two healthcare systems. One is funded by the government and is non-profit (including options for both traditionally employed (IMSS) and unemployed citizens and residents (INSABI)), and a parallel private for-profit system that is highly-rated and respected worldwide. But just because Mexico’s non-profit public healthcare system is funded by the government does not necessarily mean care is substandard. It does, however, have its problems.

Mexico’s government spends less on its public healthcare system as a percentage of GDP than most countries in Latin America: 5.8 percent versus 8.9 percent in Brazil and 8 percent in Chile. Expenditures on public systems in the developed world are much higher. For example, France spends 11 percent while the United Kingdom spends 9.8 percent, according to the London School of Economics.

The World Health Organization noted that the overall efficiency of Mexico’s publicly-funded healthcare system ranked well below the developed world. Mexico ranked #61 compared to first place France. Spain ranked #7, the UK #18, Canada #30 and the U.S. #37.

“Overall efficiency is a more representative measure of the true efficiency of health systems than one based on health status alone,” the WHO said. “It is an indicator that is feasible to measure regularly enabling comparison between countries, and over time, within the same country.”

A report this year by the OECD found Mexico was “well below average in terms of health, showing a deficit in hospital levels for all three levels of care. The number of beds available for patients is insufficient and the level of care in different states is not consistent.”

But not all of the news is bad. A new government program – el Instituto Nacional de Salud para el Bienestar (INSABI) – is replacing Seguro Popular. It has improved Mexicans’ access to healthcare, lowering their out-of-pocket expenses by 23 percent. Almost 70 percent of enrollees rated the quality of the health services they received as “very good or good,” according to a study in the medical journal The Lancet.

Nurse checking a patient's pulse
Credit: Purestock | Thinkstock

But the highest ratings are still reserved for Mexico’s private healthcare system, especially among expats, many of whom prefer it to care in their native countries.

A Canadian resident of Mazatlán, in a survey of 1,120 expats living in Mexico reported by Mexico News Daily, said healthcare in Mexico is “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,” And an expat from Baja California mentioned that 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.”

In addition to plentiful expat anecdotal evidence of the high quality of healthcare available in Mexico, another strong indicator is Mexico’s growing medical tourism business.

International Living said, “Mexico now has a thriving medical tourism business as the cost for surgical procedures is usually around one third the cost of the same procedure in the States. Private hospitals usually provide a nursing experience more similar to what you would find in the States.”

For more on healthcare in Mexico, click on this link for additional articles.

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