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Mexico: Health Care and Social Security
Country Study > Chapter 2 > The Society and Its Environment > Health Care and Social Security


In the early 1990s, Mexico showed clear signs of having entered a transitional stage in the health of its population. When compared with 1940 or even 1970, Mexico in the 1990s exhibited mortality patterns that more closely approximated those found in developed societies. Health officials have also reported substantial reductions in morbidity rates for several diseases typically prevalent in poorer countries.

At the same time, however, government officials recognize that this transition is, at best, incomplete. Diseases associated with unsanitary living conditions, minimal access to health care, or inadequate diet continue to affect those in the lowest economic strata. Reductions in government health care expenditures during the economic crisis of the 1980s slowed progress in several areas. In addition, persistent underreporting of diseases in rural areas masks the true dimension of the health care challenge.

Mexico's social security program provides health care to formal-sector workers and their families, some 50 percent of the national population in 1995. This figure represented a drop from the 56 percent coverage rate in 1992. The Mexican Institute of Social Security (Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social -- IMSS) covers approximately 80 percent of these beneficiaries (all employed in the private sector). The Institute of Security and Social Services for State Workers (Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Sociales para los Trabajadores del Estado -- ISSSTE) covers government workers and accounts for 17 percent of the beneficiaries. The Secretariat of National Defense (Secretaría de Defensa Nacional), the Secretariat of the Navy (Secretaría de Marina), and Mexican Petroleum (Petróleos Mexicanos -- Pemex) have their own health programs, which cover military and naval personnel, and petroleum workers, respectively. A tripartite funding arrangement finances IMSS operations, with contributions from the employee, employer, and government. ISSSTE programs, as well as those offered by the military and Pemex, are financed through employee and government contributions.

Those outside the social security network -- the so-called "open population" -- receive health care from a wide array of government agencies. Approximately one-third of the population is served by IMSS-Solidarity (IMSS-Solidaridad), the successor of IMSS-Coplamar. The SS also serves as coordinator of the National Health System, which includes the health programs offered by the social security agencies. In keeping with its commitment to a new federal partnership, the Zedillo administration announced that it would transfer facilities and operations of IMSS-Solidaridad and the SS to the states in 1996.

Social security beneficiaries had greater access to health care than did their counterparts among the open population. In 1995 the rates of doctors and hospital beds per 100,000 persons stood at 121 and ninety, respectively, for social security beneficiaries but only 105 and eighty, respectively, for the open population. Social security beneficiaries were also nearly twice as likely as the open population to have consulted a doctor during 1995 and twice as likely to have had surgery that year.

Notable regional disparities in health care are also evident. In 1983 the government surveyed health care access nationwide as measured by thirteen basic indicators, including medical facilities, prenatal consultation, medical attention to various illnesses, and vaccination programs. The Federal District and three northern and northwestern states -- Coahuila, Colima, and Nuevo León -- recorded levels exceeding eighty out of a possible 100 points. In contrast, Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Puebla in southern and central Mexico averaged between forty and fifty points. Guerrero in the southwest posted a score of only thirty-nine.

Data as of June 1996

Last Updated: June 1996

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Mexico was first published in 1996. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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Section 84 of 213


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