Medical Tourism, an industry that flourishes in Mexico


The changes made by Trump to Obamacare would bring more patients since medical care costs less here. Companies like NewCity Medical Plaza are ready to receive them.

In the first months of 2019, a few steps from the Garita de San Ysidro (the pedestrian crossing for the Mexico-State crossing) there will be special vehicles for US patients seeking medical care at a cost up to 85% lower on the other side of the border. border.

One possible destination for these luxury shuttles will be NewCity Medical Plaza, a real estate complex half a kilometer away, which will have 20,000 m² of offices, 8,000 commercial areas and 12,000 hotels for patient companions.

NewCity expects to receive 800,000 patients each year, says Isaac Abadi, president of Grupo Abadi, to which the hospital center belongs. It is estimated that Baja California receives 2.4 million patients annually to receive treatment, ranging from dental cleaning to complex surgeries such as gastric bypass or aortic replacement.

Goodbye, Obamacare

There is a factor that can make the arrival of American patients triple: the recently approved modifications to the US health program, Medicare, decreed by Donald Trump.

Known colloquially as Obamacare, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act allowed, in 2010, with a reform of the health system promoted by then President Barack Obama, that more than 50 million low-income people had access to services through coverage Medicare and Medicaid health centers.

Medicare is a low-cost health insurance that covers a variety of conditions: the first includes hospitalizations, skilled nursing facility stays, hospice care, and some home care services; the second includes ambulatory care, medical supplies, and prevention services; the third are services provided by private companies that have a contract with Medicare with premiums and low deductible payments in hospitals also affiliated; and the fourth is a coverage that includes prescription drugs.

The program has existed for more than 50 years. Medicare covers people age 65 and older, youth with disabilities, and people with chronic conditions such as cancer or end-stage kidney disease.

During the Obama administration, Medicare increased public health benefits by expanding coverage and allowing more low-income adults to enroll, and subsidized private medical policies through the scheme, which helps pay deductibles.

To fund the program, a compulsory clause was created: beneficiaries must have voluntarily contracted health coverage, or pay the equivalent of 2.5% of their income from a certain salary level.

The coverage has been a success, but the cost to the government is 120,000 million dollars (mdd); so, since he took office in 2017, Trump has sought to eliminate it.

Since those not interested in health coverage pay from 695 dollars each month as a tax individually and for each of their economic dependents, with a maximum ceiling of 2,085 dollars per month, the Trump tax reform will eliminate these penalties in 2019, which is expected to discourage registration to Medicare.

This would translate into a potential of 60 million patients without health insurance, who could come to Mexico to receive care.

“We have thought that 20% of Americans who would be left without insurance would have to look for alternatives, and we are the best,” says Abadi.

The “Trump effect” has already impacted the flow of patients to Mexico, especially those who come from the southern states. It is estimated that 80% of patients come from Southern California, 10% from Arizona and Nevada and 10% from Canada.

According to the Simnsa system, an insurer that allows Mexican and US citizens to register in the United States to be served in Mexico), in 2017 there was a 12% increase in medical tourism in Baja California, something that is related to Trump’s intention to end Obamacare, says Carolina Chávez, director of binational affairs for Simnsa.



In the country, there are 15 medical clusters in nine states, according to the Tourism Promotion Council (CPTM). In total, in the country, there are 96 certified hospitals before the General Health Council (CSG) and nine accredited by the Joint Commission International (of 500 certificates in the world).

The main receiving states are Baja California, Baja California Sur, Chihuahua, Mexico City, Jalisco, Nuevo Leon, Puebla, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosi, Sonora, Tamaulipas, and Yucatán, according to Deloitte.

In 2017, medical tourism generated a spill of $ 6,000 million in Mexico, according to Euromonitor. The main medical groups that concentrate this income are the Christus Muguerza health system, Grupo Ángeles, CIMA, Galenia, Puerta de Hierro, San Javier, Tec Salud, and ABC, among others. And around there are more than 230,000 businesses, including laboratories, transport companies, hotels, tour operators.

“The exponential growth in recent years is due to four causes: the quality of private medical services, the exchange rate and the good price of treatments … and the country’s tourist attractions,” says Carlos Pantoja, real estate expert of Deloitte.

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Mexico is also turned into the main wellness destination (relaxation services, spas, yoga, beauty treatments) in Latin America, according to Deloitte, with a market valued at 10,500 million dollars.

Narrowing the United States health system will boost the provision of services in Mexico. “An exclusive and expensive system in the United States will always be an advantage”, says Ricardo Díaz, of logistics and tourism infrastructure of ProMéxico. “That Trump take measures to eliminate Obamacare will make the market potential [in Mexico] wider.”

Medical tourism can also trigger Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) with the construction of new hospitals, says Diaz.

But the Obamacare reform will also bring demands. One challenge will be to get more American patients treated here, with the assurance that their insurers will respond, Diaz, anticipates. “If we can get more hospitals to have international certifications, we will also attract those who have full insurance coverage, because their insurers could cover treatments in Mexico,” he adds.

There are also missing accurate statistics. The numbers in Baja California do not match those of ProMéxico, which counts the arrival in the country of 1.2 million travelers considered patients, half of what the state of Baja California says to receive on its own.

In spite of everything, tourism does not stop or the interest of Americans to spend their retirement in tourist areas of Mexico. Dr. Sam Najmabadi, a fertility specialist known among the Hollywood community for achieving pregnancies in women of advanced age, knows this.

In love with the beaches of the Riviera Nayarit, Dr. Sam decided to build a hospital in Punta Mita to attend emergencies, to practice scheduled surgeries and even fertility treatments. “In Punta Mita you can find equipment that many of the top hospitals do not have in Mexico City,” he says. “We can even perform fertility treatments that increase the possibility of conceiving from 3% to 25%, in women over 39, for a 50% lower price and in a dream place.”

According to Dr. Najmabadi, his hospital Punta Mita is not intended to make money, but contribute to the improvement of the community through a health offer that is accessible and has high standards. “Many people think I’m crazy: I have an emergency team 24/7 and I lose money all the time, there is a very low rate per night for people who arrive seriously and cannot pay, [but] it’s not about having a business buoyant, but to help and improve the place where I want to live. ”

For Najmabadi, the potential of Mexico as a destination for medical tourism is undeniable, but it warns of the serious problems in the country in terms of unethical medical practices in private services.

“There is still a need to correct practices related to the ethics of hospitals and the doctors themselves; There are many treatment histories that cost more than they should because unnecessary tests were done or because the doctor has different rates depending on the patient, “he says.

In 2017, the National Medical Arbitration Commission received 2,959 complaints from patients in hospitals and private practices for practices such as misinformation about treatments received, inadequate treatments, demands for early payment and even 26 complaints about unnecessary surgeries.

“If Mexico wants to shine as a medical destination, it has to go through an improvement in the quality of services, not just facilities,” warns Najmabadi.

In other words, Mexico has to cure its own ailments if it wants to access the maximum benefits of being close to an immense but exclusive health system.

Source: Forbes

The Mazatlan Post

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Dr. Javier Cervantes. Traumatologist and Orthopedist, Articular Surgeon, Arthroscopy. Attention to Sports Injuries and Degenerative Injury Control.