Home / Various and Sundry / Living in Mexico / At least I have this part figured out!

At least I have this part figured out!

While many things in Mexico continue to baffle me, I think I have signing up for stuff totally figured out.
My neighbor on 64A asked me if I wanted to come along while they signed up for health insurance at IMSS pronounced eems. Actually, they asked me to come along in case some Spanish was needed. These are really special friends, they watch Mr Dog for us, and we have an understanding about my translating abilities. For example, for legal things they use an actual certified translator.
Back to the IMSS, in spite of incorrect directions our cabbie found the building. It’s the IMSS building on Calle 42, just tell the cab driver “La IMSS de la 42”. If you drive take Circuitos Colonias south and make a right on C 42.
We got there at a little before their 8am opening time. It’s a huge building easily taking up a whole block or more. We just kept asking for the place where you enroll and eventually found it. We knew it was the right place because there was a long line already. The office hours are 8:00 until 14:00, we got in line at 7:55am. I commented that the operation reminded of the Department of Motor Vehicles in California. Just like the DMV, you first get vetted at a reception desk. There were actually two clerks manning the desk and the line flowed forward quickly. We received number 351 and were told to use window 7.
The waiting room was huge, there were 2 large screens displaying the numbers and the appropriate window. It looked like the tote board in a casino. In between numbers there were some public service announcements which we ignored. Everything looked new, the chairs were clean and padded not the hard bus station seats we were expecting.
Since this is Mexico, the number system made no sense what so ever to us. The first number that flashed on the board was in the 200s and the second was in the 1300s ! We settled down to a nice chat while waiting for our number. I think we may have had to wait less than 15 minutes until we were called to window #7. I didn’t count all the windows but I expect that there were at least 15.
I told the clerk that los señores had come to enroll. She smiled and handed us a half sheet of paper with the fee schedule* and the list of required documentation, of which we had one item, a comprobante. Anyone who has ever applied for anything in Mexico knows that they need a comprobante, a utility bill, in order to prove residence and nothing else will do. Except for the agency that handles driver’s licensing no one cares whose name the bill is in, just that you have one.
My friends looked at the list, and I smiled, feeling wise in the ways of Mexico, quietly saying “Don’t worry, I am sure that is the list for Mexicans since there is no way you can have the 1st two items unless you are a citizen.” I handed over the folder my friends had carefully prepared. FM3s for both of them, 2 copies of all the pages, passports, 2 copies of all the pages, electric bill and it’s copies, plus 6 infantile size colour photographs of each of them. Passport size photos won’t do, they need to be infantile size which is the next size smaller.
My friend said a very wise thing, she said “the most important part is to wait and keep smiling no matter what”. Which is what we did.
Apparently that strategy worked. The clerk handed back all the papers and gave us several forms to fill out in triplicate. Forms are never photocopied here, they are filled out, if you need three copies you fill out and sign three copies. She directed us to return when the forms were filled.
We filled out the forms which were fairly simple. The clerk was helping someone else, but as soon as she was free she took the forms. Then she made a request that we couldn’t fulfill. She asked for their birth certificates. I explained that they didn’t have any but they did have their passports which verified their birth dates. The lovely lady excused herself and consulted with another clerk. She came back with a smile of relief, she directed us to the 2nd clerk who would fill out a form for my friends. Guess what they wanted! The names of my friends’ parents including mother’s maiden name. She gave them each a blank half sheet of paper on which to write the information which she then entered into her computer.
If this all sounds tedious, it’s because you don’t live here, this was a remarkably easy process with a minimal amount of paperwork.
The missing birth certificate taken care of, we returned to window #7, she gave us a couple of forms and a payment slip. The new instructions were to go to HSBC and pay the fees, make 2 copies of everything front and back and return to turn in all the paperwork,(including that which she had already reviewed and given back) plus four infantile size photos. My friends asked if they needed to return that day, the answer was no, but the fees needed to be paid that day. We decided that things had been so easy and going so well, that we should return that day.
Mission accomplished, we returned, handed over everything and they got some forms in return. The only thing left for them to do is go to the clinic the first week of August so that a file can be started for them.
We were amazed, it took less than four hours including travel time. We had drinks with lunch to celebrate.

*I don’t remember what the fee is for someone under sixty but sixty plus something like $3010.00 mxp per person per year or maybe a little more. I didn’t do the paying part nor do I have the information sheet.

About Theresa Diaz Gray

Born in New York City, I grew up in California, and have lived in 3 countries and 6 states. I'm a first generation Cuban-American who lives in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. I'm committed to living an abundant and creative life and helping others do so too through DIY!


  1. Eddie, I wish that I could say that I am surprised or shocked or something. I think that if you had gotten another person it would have been fine, but this guy was a member of the don’t stick your neck out by using independent thought club that seems to be so common here. Sigh.
    Sergio, if you look around on the IMSS site you can also find the list of drugs that they will pay for. I can’t remember what it was listed under.

  2. Well done Theresa! Excellent navigational skills.

    My last experience, a few moths ago, with IMSS was a sad one. I wanted to donate blood to help one of our employees who needed blood bank credits for surgery. I had already donated blood for ISSSTE so I thought that IMSS shouldn’t be a problem.


    After waiting from 05.30AM to 08.00AM just to get to the Reception window I am told by the clerk that I must produce identification – either a IFE Credencial de Elector, a Tarjeta Militar or a Tamaulipas Drivers Licence. Well, not being Mexican (yet) I had none of those things. I did have my FM2 and passport. The clerk sniffed and said, ‘There are no exceptions!’.

    Apparently, this means they won’t take blood from non-Mexicans!


  3. Thank you, Theresa. I see you uploaded the IMSS info. Yes, I read Spanish, it is my first language. If your friends are in their 80s and they were accepted, that is a good sign. I am glad to read doctors over there take their time, over here they seem to be in a hurry to see the next patient on line, so to speak.

  4. Sergio, I simply do not know all the answers to your questions. Here is the website for IMSS http://www.imss.gob.mx/
    I think if it’s like most things here, it won’t make any sense if you turn it into English, but you read Spanish, right? My friends are in their 80s, so I don’t know how old you have to be before they deny you.
    I really liked Kaiser, my son had the same pediatrician from birth, I seldom went so I didn’t care what doctor I saw.
    There are many IMSS clinics so you are assigned to one, I know that because the clerk assigned my friends to the one on 64 because it would be closer for them.
    The doctors here take their time with you. I am going with my friends when they turn in their file. I promise to write about the experience.

  5. The long lines is what I don’t like. I could have Kaiser, which is what most people have where I work, but I chose a doctor close to my house, who accepts Cigna. Still, over here they also prescribe the generic stuff, however, I have chosen to pay a little more for my meds, around US$20.00. But for some I choose the generic brands. It is also basic care here. The doctor tries to spend as little time as he can with you. I am the one who asks questions. Sometimes I even write them down, just in case. Two things I hate: driving long distances and standing in line. However, I think the Mexican IMSS does the job it was supposed to do. I know wealthier Mexicans go to private hospitals and I guess their insurance is more expensive but the exclusions and requirements are probable stricter.

    I have also heard there is an age limit for the IMSS. After a certain age, they no longer accept members. Is this true?


  6. Sergio, the system is supposed to be good, but not high end. There are drugs that your doctor NOB prescribed that they won’t pay for, instead substituting an older less expensive drug. My friends got it for long term care and will continue to be “self-insured” for routine stuff. Since you are in California, think Kaiser rather than Blue Cross but low rent with long lines sometimes.

  7. It seems to me that fee is very reasonable and affordable. I guess private insurance will be more costly, even in Mexico, although still a fraction of what it would be in California, for example. Does the IMSS provide good care?


  8. Juan you are the second person to ask about the cost, so I will amend the article.

  9. Theresa – Thanks for the great report – Do you recall what the sign-up cost?

    John Calypso

  10. noooooo, I no translate good. In your case, I was there and involved, like what was I supposed to do? Say “see ya later.” and walk home after my friend had an accident? The telcel people called my house, remember? BTW, they called again. You speak gud enuf spanglish. I no translate,noooooo….

  11. You are the ‘bomb’ when it comes to translating! and officials and Telcel and Insurance guys and now IMSS. Don’t worry, I don’t need to sign up for IMSS!

    I agree that it was incredibly fast and efficient. If anyone from NOB doesn’t think so then they haven’t had to sign up or change their coverage with the City & County of San Francisco, or Kaiser for that matter.

  12. Islagringo, if someone didn’t live here, they would think that you and I are being sarcastic about the time frame.
    We all thought it went well. The clerk went out of her way to be helpful.
    I don’t remember what the fee is for someone under sixty but sixty plus something like $3010.00 mxp per person per year or maybe a little more. I didn’t do the paying part nor do I have the information sheet.
    Of course, TIM, your milage may vary. Plus we did the whole thing in Spanish.

  13. That is simply amazing! Promptness and politeness! This sort of info is so helpful to the rest of us, letting us sort of know what to expect. I would be interested in what the fees were.

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