Medical Tourism in Mexico
Due to the rising costs of medical procedures in the United States and other developed countries, approximately 14 million people travel around the world in search of more affordable, advanced medical procedures.
Did you know? The foreign income in Mexico for medical tourism has more than tripled in the last twenty years. Mexico is now the second leading destination on the planet for medical travelers.
ContentWhere to go for a procedure? Tips Choosing a Doctor Filling Prescriptions Cosmetic Surgery Dermatology Bariatric Surgery Dentistry Our personal experience
Why Do Many North Americans Resort to Medical Care in Mexico?
The United States is Mexico’s main point of interest in expanding its medical tourism industry. The US accounts for approximately 40% of global health care costs. Additionally, the Trump administration worked towards repealing the Affordable Care Act. This repeal could have left as many as 20 million American citizens without health coverage. Many uninsured or under-insured people find Mexico to be an affordable option for care.
Many industries— laboratories, transportation, global tourism, and hospitality — depend on thriving medical tourism to stay functional. They often offer added amenities not typically offered in the U.S., such as a private nurse, to encourage patients to choose their facility.
Does this sound familiar? In the United States, it can be difficult to visit a specialist such as a dermatologist even if you are insured because you may not be “allowed” by your plan to see a dermatologist. Your general practitioner has to believe your skin problem warrants a visit to a specialist even if you want to have your skin checked by a certified skin doctor AND regardless of the thousands of dollars, you pay for insurance, you still have to pay out-of-pocket to see a dermatologist. You decide to bite the bullet and do it. You call for an appointment. There’s a several-month wait time. You make the appointment but wish there were an alternative.
It’s little surprise why so many people who are fed up with insurance runarounds, wait times, and unreasonable prices are crossing the border for healthcare in record numbers. They’ve found an alternative.
Popular Medical Tourism Destinations
Destinations that offer both treatment and a relaxing get-a-way are plentiful.
Our Top Tips for Medical Tourists
- Once you find the right doctor and clinic for you, find out about costs upfront.
- Ask about the type of payment the clinic accepts. Cash is often preferred, so be sure to ask if credit cards are accepted.
- Find out how much recovery time to expect as well as the nature of that recovery time.
- If you want to enjoy your destination as a vacationer, inquire about how your recovery may interfere with tourist plans.
- Present your physician with all the current medications you are on.
- Provide your physician with your medical history.
- Remember that if you plan to take a medical tourism trip to Mexico, you’ll need to purchase Mexican Auto Insurance. Mexican officials do not recognize US auto policies.
- You may have to bring Items to your doctor appointments such as a towel or something specific to your treatment. Your doctor will let you know what you need to bring or you can ask before your first appointment.
- You don't necessarily need an appointment. There are many public health offices that allow walk-ins.
- If you don't have an appointment, be prepared to wait. Using the public health system means that there might be a lot of other people there too. It could take hours to be seen, so bring a good book!
But what about the doctors? How good are they?
A common concern for those considering going to Mexico for medical treatment is the training and qualifications of the medical professionals they will encounter. People are often surprised to find that Mexican doctors usually have comparable, if not more, expertise than some of their hometown medical professionals
Often, Mexican physicians have trained in other countries meaning they may have trained alongside your local physician. Travelers considering treatment abroad should research and verify, where the doctor they are planning to use, has been trained and if they are properly licensed. Most professionals in Mexico willingly provide this information.
Obstetricians represent the highest percentage of specialists in Mexico, followed closely by surgeons, anesthesiologists, pediatricians, and internists. Mexico boasts over 120 General Health Council certified hospitals. Also, numerous smaller clinics are licensed by the Pan American Health Organization.
The Medical Tourism Advisory Council
Mexico wants you to feel safe and comfortable travelling across the border for care.
The Medical Tourism Advisory Council was created. This agency is responsible for uniting essential public and private practitioners to establish a policy that will boost this growing source of revenue for Mexico’s struggling economy.
Medical Tourism in Mexico is making an effort to directly compete with specialized medical procedures performed in more developed countries—it’s a $60 billion industry that is only growing.
Specialized treatments, surgeries, cosmetic enhancement, eye care, and dental work have become the primary medical reasons for people in the United States and worldwide to travel to Mexico.
Filling Prescriptions in Mexico
The US Department of State recommends not to travel to Mexico for the sole purpose of filling prescription drugs. According to the U.S. Embassy, the Mexican Police can arrest foreigners in possession of illegal drugs. Filling prescriptions in Mexico requires a licensed doctor to prescribe and licensed pharmacist to fill. Despite these requirements, prescription drug savings in Mexico is attracting more people.
This industry is so lucrative, that recently in Utah the Public Employee Health Plan implemented a Pharmacy Tourism Program. Certain members of the PEHP who use expensive prescription medications are eligible to have PEHP pay to fly themselves and a companion to San Diego and then drive to a hospital in Tijuana. Then, they retrieve a 90-day supply of their medicine.
Is it REALLY worth the drive? Yes and No
Yes… According to a United States government report, approximately one million people in California per year believe it is worth it. Why? The savings! A three-month supply of insulin can cost nearly $4,000 in the United States but that same amount costs as little as $600 in Mexico.
No… According to the US government, nearly thirty percent of Mexico prescriptions are fake. At the very least, they say they are of lower quality. Such artificial medications may be difficult to recognize from real pills and could pose serious health risks to customers.
Is taking prescriptions across the border legal? Is it drug trafficking?
According to the FDA, it is illegal for people to bring drugs into the US for personal use.
However, the FDA’s website offers guidelines about exceptions to this rule. Despite the grey area, going to Mexico for pharmaceutical drug savings is a very common practice. Be aware of the risks:
- There are arrests made.
- Under a rightful arrest, those caught are often held for 48 hours ( the time allowed by Mexican law to hold a detainee without charges being filed).
- Detainees are often bribed or solicited by attorneys who demand large fees to secure their release.
- Sometimes, criminals impersonating police may extort money from tourists.
Popular Medical Treatments in Mexico for Medical Tourists
^ Cosmetic Surgery
Cosmetic surgery in Mexico is becoming quite popular. Such surgeries in the United States are cost-prohibitive for many Americans. Procedures associated with aesthetics are usually not covered by medical insurance providers in the U.S. People who want to enjoy everything from breast augmentation to IPL skin treatments must pay out of pocket. Yet, many cosmetic treatments can enhance our lives–the way we look and feel about ourselves. Increasingly, many Americans are looking beyond the country’s borders for high-quality healthcare, including aesthetic procedures, at affordable rates. Mexico is revered for its high standards of healthcare and charges roughly a third of what U.S. practitioners do. It is attracting people across the border to cities like Tijuana where medical care is readily available, affordable, and safe.
These treatments include:
- Facial rejuvenation
- Breast augmentation
- Body contouring
- Scar removal
- Skin resurfacing
- Hair transplantation
- Botox treatments
Note: Please keep in mind that even though you can now purchase Health Insurance in Mexico as a tourist (click here for more info), cosmetic surgery is never covered under those policies. Almost no cosmetic surgery is covered under standard health insurance plans.
Obtaining Cosmetic Surgery in Mexico
One of the first steps in locating a cosmetic surgeon or aesthetic-treatment physician in Mexico is to obtain references just as you would in the U.S. You’ll want to look for doctors who are experienced and have a solid record of performance excellence. Many of Mexico’s doctors have trained in the United States or treat English-speaking clientele, so most speak English quite well. Since the support staff often doesn’t speak great English, you should brush up on some basic Spanish.
Skincare Products for cheap in Mexico
Tijuana boasts many excellent dermatologists and clinics where Americans can visit to obtain the high-quality care they deserve. Whether you want to have your moles checked out or to get a second opinion about your eczema breakouts, you’ll find that Mexican dermatologists are able to provide the same level of care found in the United States.
In some cases, U.S. insurers are actually sending patients to Mexico for various types of care including specialist procedures. Dermatologists treat a wide array of skin issues including skin cancers, contact dermatitis, psoriasis, and many more.
If you are concerned about the costly office visits charged by American dermatologists, you should compare the prices and services available to you in Tijuana. Paying less for the same high-quality care is attractive to many Americans.
^ Bariatric Surgery
Bariatric surgery is an expensive procedure in the United States, and yet, it can profoundly enhance someone’s quality of life and overall health.
Weight Loss Treatment
Major Mexican cities like Tijuana offer a wide range of weight loss treatments for people who are seriously overweight or obese. Tijuana is home to several bariatric surgery centers that offer weight loss solutions like:
- Lap-Band surgery
- Gastric bypass surgery
- Gastric sleeve surgery
- Duodenal switch surgery
Tijuana is home to world-class surgeons who have performed thousands of these important operations. Most doctors and surgeons in Mexico speak excellent English so you should have little trouble communicating. Many of the city’s doctors and surgeons have trained in the U.S. or at Mexico’s leading medical research hospitals and medical schools.
Bariatric Surgeons in Mexico
Because bariatric surgery is as common in Mexico as it is in the U.S., you’ll easily be able to find out about renowned surgeons and experienced healthcare centers that specialize in these procedures. Just like in the U.S., you should start investigating potential bariatric surgeons online. You’ll want to select a surgeon who is fully credentialed, experienced in bariatric surgery, and who has an excellent reputation. Once you narrow your search, you can call their healthcare centers to find out about details like cost, required visits, recovery time, etc.
How Much Can I Save by Having Bariatric Surgery in Mexico?
On average, gastric bypass surgery in the United States will cost you about $24,500. For the same surgery in Mexican cities like Tijuana, you can expect to pay $7,400. Because operating costs are substantially less in Mexico, patients pay far less than they do in the north.
Even with the savings, the level of care is unchanged. That means you can obtain affordable bariatric surgery in Mexico with no increased health risks.
If you drive to Mexico for surgery, make sure you plan for recovery time. Most people will find a delightful hotel in Tijuana or the city where the procedure is being performed so that you can discharge from the hospital and go straight to a luxury hotel to recuperate.
Don’t forget when you cross into Mexico to stop for your temporary visa (FMM) and also make sure to get Mexico Car Insurance on the internet before you leave your home.
^ Dental Care in Mexico
Dental care among travelers is thriving in Mexico—and with good reason. The nation has been attracting many Americans with its excellent-quality care and affordable prices.
If dental treatment is available in the U.S., it is usually available in Mexico. Border towns like Los Algodones, Mexicali, have become specifically noted for their high-quality dental procedures that are on par with what people from the U.S. can expect to find at home.
Travelers come for everything from routine cleanings to implants. Major work and cosmetic dental treatments are extremely popular in Mexico because they are far cheaper than they are in the U.S., yet the quality of care does not diminish simply because you have crossed the border.
Tijuana Dentist – American Biodental Center
Clients are raving about American Biodental Center in Tijuana. It’s conveniently located on the ground floor of the Grand Tijuana Hotel.
They have a very strong mission regarding patient care, responsible pain treatment, and quality care. Check them out here.
You Can Save Thousands of Dollars on Dental Care in Mexico
Generally speaking, dental care in Mexico costs a third of what you’d expect to pay in the U.S. That’s incredibly appealing to many people who live near the border.
Since traveling to a border town to receive high-quality dental care is cheaper than having the work done in the U.S., many people in northern sections of the U.S. find the idea of traveling to Mexico for dental care preferable than care in the states. Many combine their dental care with a full-blown vacation because it is still often cheaper than what you’d pay for your dental work at home.
You can save as much as 70% when you consider driving to Mexico for dental work.
- Tooth implant with a crown – save over $3,000
- Same day root canal? Save $750+
- If it’s dentures you’re after, you could save a whopping $1,300
However, the real savings happen with major procedures, such as multiple implants, a dental bridge, or the removal of porcelain crowns. The savings on these big operations can add up to thousands of dollars.
Paying for Dental Care in Mexico
U.S. cash works quite well for most of Mexico’s dentists, especially for those near the border who do a lot of business with Americans. Credit cards, too, are generally welcome, and some dentists may even accept a check.
It’s a good idea to obtain all the information you need regarding dental care in advance. Find out about the cost of treatment upfront.
If you need an immediate root canal or to have your crown reattached after seeing it fall out, the stress of waiting for a dentist appointment in the US can cause unnecessary anxiety.
It can be significantly faster to book an appointment with a Mexican dentist, for the following reasons:
- Mexican dentists work substantially more hours – usually Monday through Friday, 8 AM- 6 PM
- Mexican dentists often work extra hours on Saturdays
- In the US, dentists often work only three or four days a week – making appointments extremely limited
- Many regions in the US simply have too few dentists to meet demands
These unfortunate realities in the U.S. create a backlog and it can take several months to get in to see someone for your urgent dental needs
Choosing a Dentist
- Research. Just like in the U.S., you will want to do some research when choosing a dentist. You should have no problem finding several that have excellent reputations.
- If Possible, Make an Appointment. Before traveling to Mexico for dental care, be sure to set up an appointment, especially if you require an extensive procedure. Walk-ins for simple procedures such as a cleaning may be available at some Mexican dental offices.
- Understand Some of the Differences in the Systems.
In the U.S.
- Many dentist’s offices are known as ‘single dentist practices’ – meaning there’s but one dentist employed in the entire office.
- When you need a root canal, your dentist refers you to a periodontist
- Many rural areas in the US simply don’t have specialists (i.e., periodontists) causing a delay in care
- The process of bouncing between several clinics and specialists is often exhausting and frustrating
- Another common situation in the U.S. is the existence of ‘do-it-all’ dentists. These dentists perform work such as full-mouth crown restorations, periodontal treatments, and root canals
- It is common for dentists to practice in groups
- A variety of specialists offer their services in one common building
- This system enables fast service, such as a root canal specialist beginning your root canal immediately after the consultation
- There are exceptional dentists in Tijuana, Hermosillo, and Monterrey. Making your dentist trip a fun destination makes it easier to recruit someone to go with you
- Many Americans are delighted at the quality care they receive from Mexican dentists
Because of their lower operating costs, Mexican dentists are able to charge far less than dentists in the U.S. If you are tired of paying exorbitant sums for dental care, consider checking the hot dental scene in Mexico. Don’t dread your next dentist appointment — Book an appointment, a hotel and enjoy the trip!
Mexico Dental Work: Earned Vacation
The fusion of huge savings with driving to Mexico for dental work gave birth to the term ‘dental tourism.’
You’re enduring the freezing temperatures of Chicago in the dead of winter.
You are only weeks away from a big event.
Getting your teeth fixed is a priority.
However, your dental quote for the work was over $10,000 from two different local dentists.
You wanted it done, but you don’t have that kind of money.
You have two options:
A Endure the subzero temperatures while scheduling more consultations to (hopefully) find a better deal.
B Fly to Cancun. Spend half the amount. $5,000 gets your dental work done and vacation!
And…If you live within driving distance, you can save even more money on care.
Simply, drive to your favorite Mexico destination, stay in a charming hotel, get a massage, make it an epic dental appointment.
Personal Experience with Mexican Medical Care
Mike Nelson is not an expert in Mexican Medical Care but he is willing to share his first-hand experience with Mexican Medical Care. To us, this is even more valuable.
Here is his story
Here is his story.