NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 24, 2008

Medical tourism is becoming an increasingly viable source of more basic health care for some of those sidelined by the insurance system in America, where 47 million people are uninsured and many millions are underinsured.  Now, Americans who live along the Mexican border are driving and even walking south in search of treatment that can cost half or less of what it does in the United States, says Newsweek.

The Mexican health care option is particularly appealing for Texans because the state has such a high uninsured rate.  In 2004, it was 25 percent, and along the border, the number is even higher.  Incomes in the area are also low, so even when employers do offer insurance, the cost of medical premiums still may be prohibitive.

In response, American hospital chains are starting to buy into Mexico, says Newsweek:

  • International Hospital Corp. in Dallas has 5 Mexican locations.
  • Dallas-based CHRISTUS Health has built 6 hospitals in Mexico through its partnership with a Mexican chain.
  • The procedures performed cost a third to two-thirds less than they would in America.
  • Most of the doctors are Mexican with Mexican medical degrees; yet, with people coming from as far away as Alaska in search of bariatric, plastic and cardiovascular procedures, as well as knee and hip replacements, CHRISTUS hospital officials pan to start hiring more English-speaking staff, translators and concierge services.
  • Additionally, insurers are looking into cross-border healthcare.

Further, there are downsides to getting serious medical treatment abroad, including the lack of information about the quality of care and the lack of access to malpractice insurance coverage.  However, these concerns aren't stopping Texans who view the hospitals across the border as an affordable alternative.  And for the uninsured, this might be their only option, says Newsweek.

Source: Tina Peng, "Ultimate Outsouring," Newsweek, November 19, 2008.

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