U.S. Health Care Drives Patients to Foreign Doctors

As health care costs rise and U.S. politicians bash each other over health care reform, millions of Americans are voting with their feet and simply driving to Mexico for health care they can afford.

In fact, a study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research estimates that one million people from California alone go to Mexico each year for medical, dental and prescription services.

No one knows how many of the U.S. expats living in Mexico moved specifically for affordable health care. But Dan Prescher, special projects editor for International Living, said that almost every expat he’s talked to figured affordable health care into their decision to move abroad.

“My wife and I have lived in Mexico, Ecuador, Panama, and Nicaragua,” said Prescher, “and every expat we talk to throughout Latin America mentions health care costs sooner or later.

“If you can get a hip replaced or have a mouthful of crowns put in at half, a third, or less the cost in the U.S., it has to figure into your cost of living calculations in a big way.”

Prescher said that even people with U.S. insurance use cheaper health services abroad.

“I’ve met lots of folks who have U.S. insurance with poor coverage or huge deductibles, Prescher said. “When you can get a dental checkup in Mexico for $30 or get your prescriptions at half the price, you can pay out of pocket, skip the hassle of making an insurance claim, and still come out ahead.”

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