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Health tourism

Americans Flee to Mexico for Affordable Health Care

Friday, February 19, 2010 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: health tourism, Mexico, health news

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(NaturalNews) As the debate over health care reform remains stalled in Congress, many U.S. residents are taking matters into their own hands by simply driving to Mexico for affordable care and prescriptions.

"I'm very lucky to live near enough to Mexico to get good healthcare at a reasonable price," said retired police officer Bob Ritz, who lives in Tombstone, Ariz. Although Ritz does have insurance, many of his medical costs are simply not covered, or the co-pays and deductibles are so high that he cannot afford them on his fixed income.

"I pay $400 a month for my health insurance, and it's still cheaper to come to Mexico," he said.

In contrast to Ritz, approximately 46 million U.S. residents live without any medical insurance at all.

According to a study by the University of California-Los Angeles' Center for Health Policy Research, roughly one million people go to Mexico for dental or medical care or prescriptions every year from California alone.

The primary difference between Mexican and U.S. health care is the cost -- with many U.S. doctors having trained at Mexican medical schools and vice versa, and similar hygienic standards in place. Responding to the influx of people from the U.S. seeking affordable care, clinics in Mexican border towns now offer everything from regular dental care to cosmetic and weight-loss surgeries or other major procedures like hysterectomies.

In Naco, Mexico, Dr. Sixto de la Pena Cortes charges roughly $20 for a standard checkup. He says he gets about 15 patients from the United States every week. The most common complaints that he treats are "bronchitis, pneumonia and stomach problems," he said, but he has also treated broken bones. Once, he referred a patient to a hospital for an appendix removal operation that cost $2,000.

"I waste up to four hours coming to an appointment, but it's worth it as we'll save thousands of dollars," said Beatriz Iturriaga of Eastlake, California, who paid $6,500 for bariatric surgery in Tijuana.

A typical bariatric surgery in the United States costs as much as $40,000.

Sources for this story include: www.reuters.com.

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