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Latino Daily News

Friday June 29, 2012

Tourists Flocking to Mexicali for Affordable Healthcare

Instead of heading across the border in search of a night out, many tourists instead are trekking to Mexico for less expensive healthcare procedures according to an extensive analysis by the New York Times.

The city of Mexicali has attracted tourists from California and several other nearby states by offering less expensive medical procedures.  Some of the most popular procedures include gastric bypass surgery, liposuction, as well as chronic back pain management.  Dentists also offer less expensive options with extractions, fillings and teeth whitening procedures, while ophthalmologists offer eye exams as well as laser surgery for less. 

Over the past several years, more and more people have arrived in this border town in search of an affordable medical procedure.  Last year, more than 150,000 patients arrived in Mexicali in search of some type of medical treatment.  Stephanie Rusky, a 26 year old social worker from Perkins, OK, paid close to $8,000 for her ‘mommy makeover.’  This included liposuction, a breast lift as well as a tummy tuck.  All three procedures in the United States would have been double the price.  “At first, I was like, Mexicali, where is that?  But I asked every question I could think of and eventually felt really comfortable with it,” stated Rusky.

Juan Salas arrived with his daughter Abigail to be fitted for her braces.  Although he has health insurance through his job as a restaurant supplier in Desert Hot Springs, CA, dental work is not included.  He drove close to three hours from his town and he believes the cost outweighs the travel time.  “Saving the money is as important as the time,” said Salas.  His wife, Araceli, has been coming there for medical treatment with her family since she was a young girl. 

They also have been bringing their eldest daughter there to see a doctor about her seizures.  At the time, their local doctor could not see them soon enough, so they came to Mexicali.  Here the doctor prescribed her with a new medication and also provided the Salas’ some peace of mind by giving them his cell phone number for follow-up questions.  “At that point, paying for the care didn’t’ really matter.  We were talking about our daughter’s life, so we wanted help right away and we had it,” stated Mrs. Salas.

Carlo Bonfante, an owner of the Hospital de la Familia, says that the gastric bypass procedure is the most popular right now.  However he hopes that more people begin to choose his hospital for their primary care as well.  “The people who live a few miles away from here but in another country can’t afford the care so we will provide it for them for less, whatever they need,” stated Bonfante.

This rise in patients from across the border may continue to increase as the medical lane at the border crossing was recently opened at the end of April.  Since then, doctors have issued close to 1,600 passes needed to use this lane upon entering the country.