On almost any weekday afternoon, silver-haired Americans, often with mouths still numb from Novocain, line up at the U.S. port of entry between Nogales, Mexico, and Nogales, Ariz., according to Caitlin Dickson of Yahoo News.
Because Medicare offers virtually no coverage for dental work, Mexican border towns like Nogales have become go-to destinations for affordable, quality dental care among seniors and snowbirds from southern Arizona, California, and Texas. Less than 10 miles from the popular retirement hub of Yuma, Ariz., more than 350 dentists have set up shop in the small Mexican town of Los Algodones — earning it the nickname “Molar City.”
In recent years, rising medical costs compounded by the introduction of stingy federal exchange plans under the Affordable Care Act have begun to force more Americans to follow the path forged by snowbirds and migrate south of the border in search of affordable health care.
As a result, Mexico has quickly emerged as a world leader in medical tourism, luring an estimated 1 million patients each year, many of them from the U.S. — not just with cheap pharmaceuticals and dental services but also a range of procedures, from heart surgeries to in vitro fertilization and cancer treatments. They can receive care by specialists at high-quality hospitals and clinics for a fraction of the cost in the States.
Now, as Congress considers a new federal health care law predicted to leave approximately 24 million Americans uninsured by 2026, Mexico’s burgeoning health care industry ironically stands to be among the Republican bill’s biggest beneficiaries.
“Clearly this legislation will set the stage for increased out-of-country care,” said Patrick Goodness, CEO of the Goodness Co., a medical tourism marketing and public relations firm that works with a variety of international hospitals, medical centers and dental clinics.
Though difficult to predict exactly how many Americans will travel outside the U.S. for medical or dental care as a result of the Republican’s proposed American Health Care Act, Goodness told Yahoo News that he’s seen medical tourism from the U.S. steadily increase since 2013, with cost being the biggest driving factor.
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