Photo courtesy of healthypr.wordpress.com
In a recent Newsweek exclusive, Tina Peng writes about medical tourism and the shift in health care, especially for uninsured Americans, to Mexico.
In America, there are approximately 47 million uninsured, and many more that are underinsured, or paying for coverage that costs carriers large out of pocket expenses.
For Americans like these, paying for expensive medical procedures can be a distant dream. However recent trends in opening up American hospitals in Mexico are making the country the hot spot for people who can’t afford care in the U.S.
Countries such as Mexico and India, have offered services at a fraction of the cost charged in U.S. hospitals. Because Mexico is only a short plan ride or drive away, the cost of traveling to hospitals in Mexico and paying for airfare can still end up being significantly cheaper.
As mentioned in the article, Dorthea, an American living in Texas, was able to drive across the border and get a $30,000 gastric band procedure done for $10,000.
With rising costs for health insurance and medical care, medical tourism may be the way to go for the uninsured. Texas, a state which as of 2006 had the highest uninsured population in the United States, would benefit the most, as they can get to Mexico fairly quickly and cheaply.
Furthermore, this practice may be an added benefit to Mexican immigrants, many of whom are barred from health care coverage for five years after migrating to the United States.
Unfortunately, there are some downsides to seeking medical care abroad:
Accurate statistics on botched procedures involving foreign nationals at hospitals around the world aren’t available, but critics point out in addition to the lack of information about the quality of care in various countries, there are inherent drawbacks in a situation where patients have to return to another country to get follow-up care. And of course there’s often a lack of access to malpractice insurance coverage in Mexico and other countries. But a similar argument could be made against American health care, the University of Texas’s Warner says: “It’s not clear that you have such wonderful protections here, especially if you can’t afford to get the care, so then you go to a public facility that’s more or less protected from too much malpractice liability.”
These concerns aren’t stopping Texans who view the hospitals across the border as an affordable alternative. It remains to be seen whether more Americans will take a gamble and bet that Mexican hospitals can provide care that is as good as their counterparts north of the border. Meanwhile, as Warner points out, for the uninsured, Mexico may be the only option.
Contributed by Angela Donadic, Policy and Advocacy Fellow