NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

MEXICO IS ATTRACTING U.S. MEDICAL TOURISTS

October 9, 2007

Traditionally, wealthy Mexicans often traveled to the United States for high-quality health care that was unavailable at home.  But increasingly, uninsured Americans are traveling to Mexico for treatments that are comparable to care found in the United States, at far lower prices, says Devon Herrick, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

For example:

  • According to the Houston Chronicle, more than 1 million people worldwide spent $60 billion on medical care for which they crossed international borders last year, and 150,000 of those people were Americans.
  • According to a study conducted by the University of Texas Medical Center in El Paso, more than 20 million U.S./Mexico border crossings annually are made for medical care.

As a result of this trend, U.S. firms have begun operating topnotch hospitals and clinics in Mexico and Latin America.  These facilities strive to have the quality and amenities that American patients expect, with prices that are anything but typical of U.S. hospitals. Surgical procedures in these facilities are about 40 percent less expensive than when performed in the United States.

Insurers are getting in on the act:

  • A few health plans in Southern California already offer lower premiums and copayments to patients who use network providers across the border in Tijuana.
  • For example, for the past seven years, BlueShield of California has offered an HMO plan, Access Baja, in which enrollees visit physicians across the border in Mexico.
  • Because medical care costs less in Mexico, the premiums for Access Baja are less than two-thirds the cost of the alternative BlueShield of California plans.

Source: Devon Herrick, "Mexico Is Attracting U.S. Medical Tourists," Heartland Institute, November 1, 2007.

 

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