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[dc]“B[/dc]eginning January 1, Mexico joins Canada in providing its citizens with a universal healthcare system. A very popular campaign promise to many Americans promoted by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Medicare and INSABI

“Mexicos’s new universal healthcare system begins January 1st., the health department announced, and will cover all Mexicans that do not have healthcare insurance. They can now receive medical attention without any restrictions, and it’s completely free.”

While it’s not completely clear, it appears that even non-citizens with permanent or temporary visas qualify for this service.

According to article 77 bis of the general healthcare law a patient needs to:

  • Live in Mexican territory
  • Not be a member of the federal system IMSS or Issste.
  • Bring their CUR number or voter ID or birth certificate.
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Even non-citizens have CUR numbers.

If INSABI will really treat U.S. citizens, then this will help solve the problem that retired U.S. ex pats have in Mexico: their Medicare benefits do not cover them outside the United States. But all of this suggests a solution that may benefit both countries (and any other country that wants to join forces).

If you are covered by U.S. Medicare (or Medicare for All, if we’re lucky enough to get it), you should be able to find treatment in Mexico through the INSABI system. INSABI pays the Mexican provider, and then INSABI can bill Medicare. After all, if the American patient is covered then INSABI should be able to get an assignment of at least the amount that Medicare would have paid if the treatment were done in the U.S. And the vice should be versa: if a Mexican covered by INSABI is treated in the U.S., Medicare should pay the provider and then recover from INSABI at least as much as INSABI would have paid in Mexico.

The problem is that Medicare now only covers the elderly who have paid into the American Social Security system. But Medicare for All promises to pay for all legal residents in the U.S., and if INSABI pays for all legal residents in Mexico who are not otherwise covered, then they can swap coverage.

I might mention that the Canadian healthcare system covers all legal residents, regardless of nationality, and that means that Canada and Mexico might find it easier to enter into a swap system right now. In other words, the country of residence covers the non-citizens but can recover a portion or all of the payment from the country of citizenship.

I might mention that this system helps fight climate change (!) Right now, U.S. citizens covered by Medicare but not covered by a Mexican plan need to fly home for treatment. This adds to the cost and also pollutes the air.

Having lived in Canada, Mexico and the United States, and having had medical treatment in each, I can say that Mexican healthcare appears no better or worse than treatment in either of the other countries. The biggest difference is that doctors and hospitals charge a lot more in the U.S. But setting up a system that swaps coverage makes life a lot better for everyone, and (as I said earlier) it helps combat climate change. What could be better?