Medical Tourism is big business these days in Mexico. In fact, the recently formed department ProMexico, the Medical Tourism Advisory Council, estimated that in 2013, medical tourism earned Mexico $2,847 million dollars, which was the equivalent of all tequila and beer exports combined for that year. In 2016, income generated from medical tourism reached $4.7 billion dollars.
Medical treatment in Mexico is often 36% and 89% cheaper than the same procedures done in the United States, making U.S. citizens Mexico’s number 1 client list.
The most common reasons people come to Mexico is to have bariatric surgery, stem cell, cancer, and fertility treatments and dental work. Bariatric surgery is about 70% cheaper than the U.S. and most dental work about 60% less costly. Rhinoplasty is about 56% cheaper and heart valve replacement is nearly 89% less expensive than the U.S. In 2012, Mexico treated more than a million foreigners ranking it number 2 worldwide providing such services.
Tijuana, Mexicali, Cancun, Guadalajara, Mexico City and Puerto Vallarta are among the top medical tourism destinations in Mexico.
There is a cost to Mexican citizens, however. Although most are covered under one of the three universal health care programs (Seguro Popular, IMSS and ISSTE) 66% of the hospitals are privately owned, ensuring that public hospitals that accept the national health care coverage are overcrowded, understaffed, and often lacking medications which necessitate out-of-pocket expenses. Although these are affordable to U.S. citizens paying with U.S. dollars, prices in the private sector have increased steadily to capitalize on medical tourism income, making it more difficult for the average Mexican to pay for services provided by private hospitals.
According to a 2015 report, 65% of those traveling to receive treatment do not have medical insurance. While the lower cost of the procedures allow for affordability even without insurance, there are some occasions when it would be in a patient’s best interest to have some sort of coverage. Mexico scores 9th out of 9 nations for destination environment factors due to public perception about pockets of extreme violence and civil unrest. Of course, it’s not all a matter of perception. There are areas that should be visited with extreme caution so best to do your homework before availing yourself of the medical tourism opportunities.