There’s no question about it. Healthcare is expensive, very expensive.
Even people with insurance can often find themselves struggling to pay their monthly premiums.
While politicians debate what needs to be fixed with the U.S. Healthcare system, a new industry is gaining steam just across the border in Tijuana and even further down in Mexico. More Americans are choosing to get their medication, treatments and dental procedures in Tijuana and even further down in Mexico.
Mike Gasparro lives in Bonita, but he manages Dr. Dalia’s Dental Care Clinic in Tijuana. Most of their customers are Americans; some are from San Diego, others make the trip all the way from the East Coast.
While low prices are the biggest factor, there’s also immediacy.
“[Patients] will come to the office in the U.S. and they will refer them to another dentist who then refers them to another dentist and in our case all of our specialists are under one roof,” Gasparro said.
In some cases the price difference is nearly 70 percent less.
Tamara Shapiro lives in Los Angeles, but for the last two years, she’s been getting her teeth fixed in Tijuana. She said she drives down to San Diego, parks her car and then walks over to Tijuana for her visits.
“It’s totally worth it,” Shapiro said. “When it comes to lower prices, it’s a no brainer. I spent $30,000 dollars for three implants in the states--- and [in Tijuana] I got 14 teeth pulled and partials for $14,000."
While cheaper care in Mexico is nothing new, the booming industry is not tapping into tourism.
Companies like Medical Departures help Americans find a clinic for their specific needs in the city or beach town they want to visit. Once patients pin point the type of vacation they’re looking for, they can find a clinic where they can kill two birds with one stone.
“We can tell them, ‘the most beautiful beaches in Mexico are in Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Playa del Carmen,” says Virginia Osuna from Medical Departures. We have patients from San Diego, from Phoenix, from Yuma, from Florida, New York, New Jersey. From all over the U.S.”
But it’s not all fun and games. There are concerns about safety in Mexico and in finding doctors who work in Mexico, but are certified in the U.S
“A patient from Texas called in and told me 'I'm not afraid of the cartels, fights or instability with the government. I'm afraid that you will send me with a bad dentist,'" said Osuna.
The number of people seeking medical treatment is expected to rise even more. The Mexican government expects it will rise to roughly 700,000 visitors by 2020.