Mexico

Mexico is geographically the fifth-largest country in the Americas and the 14th largest independent nation worldwide. It spans nearly 2 million square kilometers. It has a population of about 111 million, making it the 11th most populous country in world and the most populous Hispanophone country worldwide. It has become one of the largest growing medical tourism destinations, where many U.S. citizens travel to receive medical treatment and go vacationing for very low cost. Mexico has many clinics that provide cosmetic procedures, dental care and obesity surgery (Medtrava).

U.S. citizens, particularly those living in California, Arizona and New Mexico, travel to Mexico for medical treatment, including dentistry and plastic surgery. Mexican dentistry procedures typically charge one-fifth or one-fourth of the price American dentists charge. Other procedures are usually about one-third of the price found in the U.S. Most of the growth in Mexico’s medical tourism industry comes from U.S. patients. Mexico is very attractive to American medical tourists due to its accessibility, low prices, advanced equipment and beautiful vacation resorts.

The most popular procedures in Mexico include: cosmetic surgeries, dental procedures, heart bypass surgery, obesity surgery, cancer treatment, orthopedics and stem cell research.

Medical tourism in Mexico has sparked a strong political backlash from U.S. health care providers due to Mexico’s easy accessibility to Americans near the border, who can often drive to get care. Many American dentists and physicians are concerned that more Americans will travel to Mexico for medical care, thus causing American medical personnel to lose business.

This growing trend has unsettled U.S.-based dentists who warn about rampant infections, undetected cases of oral cancer and poor quality work in Mexico. Texas legislators considered allowing health maintenance organizations to operate on both sides of the border. However, south Texas physicians lobbied hard against the changes by arguing that Texas doctors could not compete with the lower costs in Mexico. Many Mexican hospitals located in large cities are just as modern and equipped as hospitals in the U.S. Most doctors in large hospitals in Mexican cities are highly trained and speak English fluently. The best Mexican medical facilities are found in Mexico City, Monterey, Tijana, Ensenada, Cancun and Rosarita.

Advantages

Most Mexican physicians in large hospitals are highly trained professionals who speak English fluently because many trained in the U.S. before returning to Mexico. Mexican hospitals are equipped with technologically advanced equipment, and they offer an assortment of procedures at much lower prices than in the U.S. In addition, many Mexican medical personnel are U.S. board certified.

Location—U.S. patients do not have to travel for long hours to arrive at Mexican medical facilities due to the country’s proximity to the U.S., and the time difference is not very significant. Many of Mexican procedures cost between 30 to 50% of the prices in the U.S. Medicine is also much more affordable in Mexico, including brands such as Pfizer, Roche, and Bristol-Myers. Medicine typically costs 60% less than prices in the U.S.

Quality of Care—Mexico provides state of the art medical institutions and resorts, primarily for cosmetic, dental and obesity surgeries. Many Mexican facilities are comparative to those found in the U.S. and Western Europe. Mexican medical personnel are amiable, reachable, and speak English, which makes their patients feel informed and comfortable.

A report was commissioned by the Families U.S.A., a Washington advocacy organization that stated: “About 90 percent [feel] the care they had received in Mexico had been good or excellent. About 80 percent rated the care they had received in the United States as good or excellent.”

Accreditation—The Joint Commission International accredited Hospital San José for offering well-received treatments for many years and superb patient care. Doctors and nurses are highly trained, well qualified and accredited.

Benefit of traveling—Due to Mexico’s close proximity to the U.S. patients do not run as much of a risk of contracting illnesses induced by long travel. For example, patients that travel for long periods are more likely to develop blood clots, pulmonary edema and infections.

Follow-up care—Many Mexican medical facilities include recovery packages. For example, Hospital Angeles International follows up with patients to verify proper recovery.

Disadvantages

Quality—Not all Mexican medical facilities are on par with those found in U.S. Many standard government hospitals do not have enough medical personnel and do not receive enough funding. There are Mexican medical facilities that do not have staff that are fluent in English. It is important that Medical tourists research which medical facilities have bilingual staff and contain modern equipment.

Crime—Medical tourists should be aware of terrorist attacks that occur in Mexico in addition to muggings and robberies, particularly in Mexico City. Most of robberies happen on publican transportation areas, where pickpocketing occurs. Women travelers in particular are advised to be aware of their surroundings as the risk of sexual assault is fairly high.

Legal—Unlike medical facilities in the U.S., it is almost impossible to sue Mexican facilities and physicians for malpractice.

Health dangers—Medical tourists traveling to Mexico should be advised that there is a possibility of contracting malaria and other mosquito-transmitted diseases in remote areas in Mexico. However, the risks are much lower in the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Ocean resorts. Patients should be cautioned about the risks of contracting dysentery and diarrhea due to impure water and food that has not been properly cooked. In order to avoid this, patients should drink bottled water and well cooked foods.

Cost Comparisons

Procedure

United States (USD)

Mexico (USD)

Face lift $5,000-6,000 $2,000-2,500
Breast augmentation $9,000 $2,500
Tummy tuck $6,000 $3,000
Gastric lapband surgery $25,000 $7,500
Knee replacement $40,000 $13,000
Heart bypass surgery $50,000 $10,000
Chief source: Compare the Cost of Elective Surgery Abroad, Treatment Abroad

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