IMSS: Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, Mexico’s government health servces

articles Living, Working, Retiring

Adriana Perez Flores

Know the Law in Mexico

2012 Update

The main objective of Social Security is to guarantee the right to good health, medical assistance, the protection of the means of subsistence and the necessary social services for the collective and individual wellbeing, as well as the assignment of a pension that complies with the legal requirements that should be guaranteed by the state.

This is article 2 from IMSS. It is a rough translation from Spanish, but that is their main statement. Foreigners do not qualify for social services, but you do qualify for the health portion.

How do you qualify? To sign up you must have a Passport, an FMT, FM2, FM3, or Immigrado status, birth certificate (translated into Spanish), marriage license if married (translated into Spanish) and proof of residency, such as an electric or phone bill. Leases will not work if they are in English. The birth certificates and marriage license are not required for renewals. IMSS will require you to bring the above, along with 2 passport-size pictures of yourself, last year’s IMSS papers plus the receipt if you are already covered. If this is a new application, you will need to fill out the questionnaire they have.

Once the signatures and papers are obtained at the IMSS clinic or hospital closest to you, you then you must go to the main office for IMSS to submit these papers from your location. Once they are accepted, payment must be made at a bank. Once this payment is made, the receipt must be submitted back to the main office to obtain the coverage card. Unfortunately, they will not receive payment in rural areas.

IMSS requiries the birth and marriage certificates for new applications.Renewal requirements remain the same.

We also need to address a rumor that has been going around the community about single persons applying for IMSS and being refused. This in fact has occurred, but not because they are single, but because single persons need to provide a letter stating they have no beneficiaries.

The cost? Every individual pays a set rate depending on his or her age. The price structure as of 2012 is as follows:

AgeAnnual coverage cost









What does it cover? Your first year in the system covers only minor illness, such as colds etc., and nothing involving surgery. Year number two covers everything except broken bones, and orthopedic surgery. The third year covers full medical attention. All your medication is covered as well for anything they diagnose, with some exceptions, and they will provide them during your visit, as long as you receive them there. However, please keep in mind that IMSS is known for suffering severe shortages on some medications. You are not covered if you fill your IMSS-issued prescriptions at any other pharmacy. Any pre-existing condition that is not reported and later found will cancel all coverage. If you do have a pre-existing condition, please discuss it with a doctor at IMSS to see if it would be covered later, or if it will affect the coverage as a whole.

Among procedures that are not covered and considered exceptions are eyeglasses and/or contact lenses, Lasik surgery, preventive care, hearing aids, psychological or psychiatric treatment, infertility treatments, plastic surgery, any dental care with the exception of extractions or astigmatic keratotomy.

How good is it? It can be excellent. The facilities might not be what you’ve come to expect in the U.S. or Canada, but the doctors and staff are top notch, many of the doctors having done post-graduate training in the U.S. and Canada.

IMSS was launched in 1944 to provide quality medical care to Mexican workers and their families. It is a program of socialized medicine; therefore care begins with your family practitioner. Many foreigners see it as major medical protection, and prefer to pay out of pocket to be immediately treated by private physicians and specialists for most common illnesses.


Published or Updated on: March 1, 2006 by Adriana Perez Flores © 2006
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