IMSS: 2 Hrs. 42 Mins. Done

2014 Disclaimer:
This reflects the decisions we make in 2009. Anything written here may have changed since then.
This is a log of our story and you will want to do your own research as rules/plans change.

We are officially insured
By the Mexican Social Security system IMSS.
It took 2 hours and 42 minutes.
Plus a bus ride back and forth from San Miguel to Guanajuato,
Then a nice lunch and wandering around.

Before going into the process,
I want to say that if you are wondering
How difficult this is to do yourself –
If you are just a little adventurous
And don’t mind a little discomfort
Plus a little time, there is no reason
Not do this yourself.
You also apply in downtown Guanajuato
A beautiful place to be if it takes a little time.

We arrived at the IMSS office, Guanajuato City 9am.
It is in the building right downtown next to the Teatro Juarez.
You sign in at the door and are guided to the office.
There’s a young woman at a table to greet you.
She sends you to Ventanilla 2 (in our case),
Where we were instructed to sit down and wait.
Two women, sisters from Dolores Hidalgo,
Are seated in front of us.
They had been sent home yesterday
Due to the fact that they were sisters
And their father’s name was written incorrectly
On one of their birth certificates.
They somehow remedied this overnight
Returning to finish today.


It was not very busy when we arrived
We were number two in line,
Followed by a man from San Miguel
Who was there to renew for the next year.

The women from Dolores Hidalgo took a long time,
Partly because there were two of them
Partly because the office printer kept jamming
Requiring intervention by the office manager.
We wouldn’t have been surprised
If they told everyone to come back another day
But they managed to get it fixed.

We were called up to the window
Asked to show our application and documents.
3 copies of our application
(You can get the application at the IMSS office in San Miguel)
1 complete copy of our FM3
1 complete copy of our US passports
1 copy each of our birth certificates
1 copy of our current electric bill
1 copy of our telmex bill
1 copy of our marriage certificate
2 ‘infantil’ passport size photos each.


She took all of our papers,
We were told to sit and wait.
She disappeared behind V-2 again for about 10 minutes.
When we are called back she tells us
Go to the ‘consulado’
You need to Translate the marriage certificate.
She cannot explain where the ‘consulado’ is.
Nor can she explain why this document
And none of the others, must be ‘officially translated’.
She says go over in front of the university
You’ll find it there  – and waves her fingers around
As if to say just keep looking and you might find it.
I ask if we have to wait in line again when we return.
She shakes her head yes, apologetically.
I ask if that is necessary,
Can’t we just come to the window?
I’m sure she’ll say no,
But she says ok, just return to the window when we are back.

Off we go to the university to find the ‘consulado’
Which of course does not exist.
We first wander around.
Then we start asking every person who goes by.
It is a total mystery to everyone.
I’m not surprised really, because often people here
Cannot even tell you what the name of a street is
Even though they have lived here their whole lives.
Finally, two gentlemen from the university
Tell us there is ‘no consulado’ in the city.

We head back to the office and inform her of this.
The other man from San Miguel tells us
There is an office at the university
Where they translate and give ‘official’ copies
But he doesn’t know where it is either.
I pull out our original marriage certificate,
Tell her it ‘is’ official, feel the stamp on it.
She does.
I tell her that the consulado in San Miguel
Is too far away to do this today.
She goes in the back room, then returns.
She tells us to sit and wait and she will process us.
Wow, we are totally surprised.

She finishes up with the sisters from Dolores Hidalgo.
You know it is almost your turn
When you hear them stamping and double stamping
Every page of every document.
This is a happy sound.
Everyone in the room knows their turn is moving up.

We are called again to the window
She asks us to check the spelling on every document
We do. She stamps them all.
We almost want to smile but don’t want to jinx it.
Next she hands us a receipt and says
“Take this upstairs to the payment area
They will give you papers to take to the bank to pay.
Then return to the payment area with the receipts.
The payment area will issue a new paper
Which you bring to me, and we’ll finish.”


So here we are at the payment window upstairs.
Our friends from Dolores Hidalgo are there.
It seems the process if you are a Mexican National
Is even more complicated – they have to show
Every single paper at every single window,
Even if they have been to that window before.
This fortunately does not happen to us.

We receive four copies of a payment form for the bank.
We practically run over there, pay our fees
$2133.80 pesos for me  (age 58)
$3211.00 pesos for John (age 65)
At today’s exchange rate this is $415.80 USdls
For one full year of insurance, full coverage, for both of us.
We are really liking this in light of what is happening in the US.

The bank payment forms
The bank payment forms

Granted, we are in another country, another system
And we expect there will be some differences to get used to.
But according to other people we know using the system,
They are quite happy with it, and we expect to be too.

Our temporary IMSS cards which are folded stamped pieces of paper - to be exchanged at our local clinic for a nice little booklet.

After paying and going back to the payment window,
We are sent downstairs
Where we are asked to wait ‘un rato’ a little bit.
Which turns out to be about five minutes.
We hear the stamps going on the documents
We are called up and given a collection of documents.
These documents are our contract with IMSS.
We must bring the entire packet back when we renew next year.

We are handed Two folded pieces of paper.
These have our names, photos and official stamps.
There’s a chart inside for the doctor to keep track of our visits.
We can’t help but smile when we look at the clock
To see that even with the running around,
We are completely done,
Our contract and IMSS cards in hand
In 2 hours and 42 minutes.
September 1st we can go to our local IMSS clinic
Where we will be assigned a doctor,  have a physical
And we are on our way.

Since we are in downtown Guanajuato
We head over to the Jardin la Union for a meal
Then walk around town and into the market
Ending back at a pedestrian plaza to rest
Before taking the 3pm bus home.

Here’s the movie of our walk around town:

Note: today, Sept. 14th
First, here’s an article in USA today
about IMSS

This morning I went to the IMSS clinic in San Miguel (on calzada aurora)
To activate our cards.

When you walk into the main doors,
Turn right at the first corridor.
There are two windows on the right.
The first one is the pharmacy, then a little wall,
Then a second window (ventanilla).
There is usually a big line at this second window.
If you are collecting a pension you get in this line.
If you are handling ‘seguros’ or insurance,
You skip the line and go past the line, past the window
Then wait on the left hand side of the door.
There is a woman inside who handles getting you set up.
Be sure to bring every paper that they give you in Guanajuato.
She will take the receipt for payment and the main application
And tell you to make 2 copies of each around the corner.
You can make 2 copies of everything before you go and save this time.
Then she stamps your cards & says ‘you’re done.’
Next, go to the ‘conultorio’ around the corner
Make your first appointment for a physical
Then you’re set.

IMSS card

October 6, 2009
This morning we had our ‘revision’ of our health at the IMSS clinic.
We arrived at 10am promptly and handed our papers over.
Like so many other offices here, they take your papers,
Then tell you to sit down.
We waited about 45 minutes before the assistant weighed us.
She then put a booklet together for each of us.
Pink for me and gold for John.
The doctor took a good long break at this point.
During this time, everyone in the room
Is waiting quietly for their turn to come up.
We were finally called in and the doctor asked John to leave,
Telling us she only meets with one of you at a time.
Ok, so she asked if there was a history of diabetes or high blood pressure.
Was I there because I was sick today.  No.
She took my blood pressure, asked how old I was,
Asked if I had any other health problems.  No.
She took my blood pressure.  ‘Good’ she says.
I gave her a copy of my mammogram and skin testing results,
Told her we had completed all blood work earlier in the year.
She asked me to bring a copy by and sent me to preventative care.
Before going, I insisted on staying with John to help translate.
She gave in – I guess because she had no real choice and she didn’t speak English.
She asked all the same questions and took his blood pressure, listened to his heart.
All good she says.

Preventative medicine asked me to bring in my blood work,
Otherwise they would have done it again.
They wanted to know about immunizations.
I told her we had had them all a long time ago and a tetanus booster.
She pointed to the book, telling us to come in November.
At that time they are giving out pneumonia and flu shots.
Not H1N1 but regular seasonal flu shots.
I have never gotten one, nor has John.
We asked if this was mandatory or optional as it is in the states.
It’s optional, so we can decide as November rolls around.
Next week I go in for a pap smear and other than that,
If we get urgently sick, a lot of pain or a big problem,
We go to the urgent care area 24 hours a day.
If we wake up feeling bad in the morning and want care,
We come to the consultorio at 7:30 am to be seen.
If we travel around Mexico, we should carry our IMSS book with us.
I wouldn’t say this was any kind of physical exam – mostly a review,
Based on our word about our health and copies of blood work we had done.
As for women – they suggest a mammogram every two years, a pap smear every three.
For men – a prostate exam and blood work for that once a year.

2 thoughts on “IMSS: 2 Hrs. 42 Mins. Done”

  • Wow! This is great! We will definitely be doing the same and you guys made it so much easier for us.
    Thank you!!!
    Judy and Felipe

  • Well good for you! I think you are going to very happy. You will be assigned a nice doctor who will take the time to talk to you and get to know you. They will also give you a series of tests to see if there is anything chronically wrong with you. I go to the doctor once a month to get weighed and my blood pressure checked and renew my blood pressure pills (at no cost) and check with the doctor about any little thing that comes up. This is the type of service that people in the United States only dream about. Socialism? Okay…I’ll take it. It is much easier on the old bod than free market unbridled capitalism.

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