Why Thousands Cross the US Mexico Border to Seek Affordable Health Care is Curbing Medical Bankruptcies

In 2013, an estimated 1,800 medical-related bankruptcy were filed a day. 2013 saw nearly 1,800,000 wives, husbands, kids, and other related family members were affected by these bankruptcies. The high cost of healthcare is the leading cause of bankruptcy, affecting more than 1 million families per year.

Healthcare has become so expensive that even those with health insurance may not be able to afford their $5,000 or $10,000 deductibles, as 57% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings. Most Americans are one minor medical emergency from being in financial hardship.

The cost of healthcare is staggering in the US, especially for those who can’t afford health insurance. The US has the highest healthcare spending in the world by GDP. It’s no wonder, why thousands travel to Mexico for affordable care.

Patients can save thousands by traveling to Mexico to seek the same medical services. Bariatric surgery can cost as much as $28,000 in the United States or as little as $4,000 in Mexico. Route canals can cost as much as $1,500 in the US or a few hundred dollars in Mexico.

Medical Tourism, a Hidden Option

Medical tourism, or the act of traveling for medical services, is rapidly growing in Mexico with nearly $5 billion in spending in 2016. Most medical tourists visiting Mexico are seeking ‘quick’ medical services like dental services, but more are seeking full-blown medical surgeries including plastic surgery, bariatric surgery, and stem cell therapy.

Costs of Medical Care

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Among established medical treatments, Mexico is allowing newer, experimental therapies to take place, years and sometimes decades before the US. Mexico without restrictions from medical agencies, like the FDA, let practitioners practice new, unproven medical services. In the US, stem cell treatments are a controversial and highly-regulated issue, but in Mexico, individuals can buy stem cell treatments for a myriad of conditions and diseases.

There were reports of Mel Gibson, among other famous individuals, getting stem cell treatments in Mexico and having excellent results. Other reports of celebrities travel to Mexico for plastic surgery and other cosmetic procedures. These stories get some coverage, but the thing that doesn’t get any coverage is the normalcy of everyday people traveling to Mexico for affordable medical services. Every day hundreds flock to Tijuana, Mexico to gain access to affordable bariatric surgeries and dental services.

Many Mexican-American families, who live close to the border, frequently travel to Mexico for everything from health checkups, to major surgeries. With tighter border restrictions these affordable options can soon disappear.

Curbing Medical Bankruptcy

The Trump administration immigration policy has made it harder for medical tourism companies to operate. With medical tourism ultimately helping those who lack insurance or do not have insurance coverage, patients who receive medical services are less likely to have financial hardships. A recent example proves this point.

A bariatric patient of Renew Bariatrics, a bariatric center in Mexico, was close to 500 lbs and lacked healthcare coverage in his home state of Georgia. He chose Mexico to have his weight-loss procedure, because of the high out-of-pocket cost he faced. Now that he is losing weight, he is less likely to have significant health episodes or conditions such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart attack or stroke, which could bankrupt him in the future. This is a substantial benefit to him, his family, and the society at large.

Unpredictable Future

With the increased regulations for banking laws, as the US government sees all businesses in Mexico related to Mexico’s drug industry, more Mexican operators are having a harder time of getting paid for their services. Other policies including the border wall, and stricter regulation, have medical tourism companies are worrying about the future of Mexico medical tourism.

Furthermore, the unpredictable nature of the Trump administration makes operating these even business tougher, as things can change quite quickly in the era of Tweets and Facebook posts.  When people travel abroad for healthcare, even to Mexico, it’s important for people to exercise their 1st Amendment Right, especially when they are trying to better themselves, their health, their future, and their families.


Author: John is the senior contributor to Renew Bariatrics, a weight loss surgery center in Tijuana, Mexico. John frequently writes for health and medical publications. John’s work on obesity, fitness and weight loss can be read at RenewBariatrics.com blog.