Health Care in Mexico: The Medical Tourism Industry
In recent years, Mexico has gained popularity as a destination for United States citizens looking for affordable health care. The reason for medical tourism to Mexico for health care is because of the vicinity of the United States and the relatively low travel costs attracting Americans, Canadians, and more. This also includes Mexican Americans returning to a family doctor/dentist to save money on health care by going back to Mexico.
At first, Medical Tourism to Mexico was known exclusively for his dental, bariatric, and aesthetic surgery. However, its orthopedic procedures now add to the attraction of health care in Mexico. With state-of-the-art facilities comparable to those of American hospitals, Mexico has become one of the premier destinations for American medical tourists.
Health System in Mexico
The Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) is a governmental organization that accommodates public health, pensions and social security under the Secretariat of Health (Secretaría de Salud). Almost half of the population in Mexico is covered by Seguro Social (employer-/employee-funded insurance program), and the other half by Seguro Popular (a subsidized public-health insurance system for beneficiaries, pensioners, and the public), similar to Medicare. A small portion of the population in Mexico have private health insurance for more convenient and better care.
Private Hospitals and Clinics
According to the World Health Organization, the Mexican health care system is ranked 61 in the world. Private hospitals in Mexico are generally of similar quality and care for those in the United States. There are medical packages that offer accommodation and monitoring outside the city areas and closer to the busy beaches. The best hospitals and clinics in Mexico are based in Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey.
Most private clinics in Mexico providing services to Americans are near to the United States, in border towns such as Tijuana, Mexicali, and Laredo. The wait time for health care in Mexico is not a problem and generally does not exist. There is also the ability to preserve prescription drugs for faster and smooth tracking. The cost of pharmaceutical drugs in Mexico is a fraction of the cost of prescriptions in the US and Canada.
Being a Health Care Patient in Mexico
International Patients in Mexico have their own private room and personal face-to-face interaction with their doctor or surgeon. Hospitals and clinics are equipped with state-of-the-art technology, well-trained doctors, and medical staff on-site to discuss all types of medical tourists.
Mexico currently has 9 JCI (Joint Commission International) accredited clinics and hospitals, such as Galenia Hospital. Many of these hospitals also have CSG accreditation provided by the General Health Council of Mexico.
The Usual Medical Treatments in Mexico
Medical treatments in Mexico make it one of the most popular destinations for bariatric surgery, aesthetic surgery, dental services/surgery, and general plastic surgery. Hospitals in Mexico, especially in Tijuana, have recently gained reputation due to bariatric surgery for weight loss due to its rigorous and safe standards for bariatric surgery. This is an electoral procedure that is not covered by some US insurers.
In general, the surgery in the United States is three or four times more expensive than Mexico, and it is not always covered. It is covered in Canada under insurance, however, there are much longer wait times. It can take up to 10 years to get an elective surgery like gastric sleeve or gastric bypass in Canada.
Here are the popular treatments sought by patients looking for medical tourism to Mexico:
- Aesthetic Surgery
- Cosmetic Procedures (Botox, etc.)
- Hip replacement
- Knee Replacement
- Orthopedic Surgery
- Bariatric Surgery
- Eye Operation
- Heart Surgery
The Cost of Treatment in Mexico
Following are the comparative costs of general cosmetic and surgical procedures between American and Mexican hospitals.
1. Heart Procedures in Mexico – Average Costs
|Heart Procedure||United States||Mexico||% Savings|
|Open Heart Surgery||$64,000||$24,000||66%|
2. Orthopedic Procedures in Mexico – Average Costs
|Orthopedic Procedure||United States||Mexico||% Savings|
3. Bariatric Procedures in Mexico – Average Costs
|Bariatric Procedure||United States||Mexico||% Savings|
|Gastric Bypass / Mini Bypass||$30,000||$7,500||75%|
Another survey provides the following comparative costs as of 2009
|Medical Procedure||United States||Mexico|
|Angioplasty||Up to $57,000||$17,100|
|Heart Bypass||Up to $144,000||$21,000|
|Heart Valve Replacement||Up to $170,000||$31,000|
|Knee Replacement||Up to $50,000||$11,500|
|Hip Resurfacing||Up to $30,000+||$13,400|
|Hip Replacement||Up to $43,000||$13,800|
|Special Fusion||Up to $100,000||$8,000|
|Face Lift||Up to $15,000||$8,000|
|Breast Implants||Up to $10,000||$9,000|
|Rhinoplasty||Up to $8,000||$5,000|
|Lap Band/Bariatric||Up to $30,000||$9,200|
|Hysterectomy||Up to $15,000||$7,500|
|Fertility Treatments||Up to $8,500||$2,650|
Travel to Mexico for Medical Tourism
The advantage of Mexico is its location; Flights from the United States and Canada are short and relatively cheap.
- California citizens can even go to Mexico by driving.
- Flight Times from the United States and Canada to Mexico
- Estimated average travel time of hours
Travel by Plane from the Northern United States to Mexico
|From / To||Mexico City||Guadalajara||Monterrey||Tijuana|
|New York City||5.6 hrs||6 hrs||5.4 hrs||6 hrs|
|Chicago||3.7 hrs||4.5 hrs||3.8 hrs||4.3 hrs|
|Washington, DC||5 hrs||6.8 hrs||5.7 hrs||5.7 hrs|
|San Francisco||4 hrs||3.8 hrs||5.8 hrs||1.2 hrs|
|Los Angeles||3.5 hrs||3 hrs||3 hrs||1 hrs|
|Toronto||5 hrs||7.2 hrs||6 hrs||5.2 hrs|
|Montreal||6.1 hrs||8 hrs||7.5 hrs||7.8 hrs|
|Vancouver||5 hrs||6.8 hrs||6.8 hrs||3 hrs|
Air flights to Mexico peak in late March to early April and mid-June to August. The vacation is also expensive. Return flights in the middle of the week (Monday Thursdays) cost 40-60 dollars cheaper than weekend flights, but are generally crowded and less likely to allow frequent upgrades. Open return tickets (non-refundable return date) and open tickets (different cities of arrival and departure) are more expensive than return tickets.
Travel by Car from the Southern United States to Mexico
(At average speed)
|From / To||Tijuana||Mexicali||Monterrey|
|Los Angeles, CA||2 hrs||4 hrs||25 hrs|
|San Francisco, CA||10 hrs||10 hrs||31 hrs|
|San Diego, CA||20-30 minutes||2 hrs||23 hrs|
|Dallas, TX||20 hrs||19 hrs||10 hrs|
|Houston, TX||22 hrs||20 hrs||12-13 hrs|
Mexico Destinations for Medical Services
- Cabo: Dental, Cosmetic Surgery
- Cancun: Bariatric Surgery, Cosmetic Surgery, Dental
- Guadalajara: Bariatric Surgery, Cosmetic Surgery, Dental
- Ciudad Juarez: Dental
- Los Algodones: Dental
- Mexicali: Bariatric Surgery, Dental
- Mexico City: Cosmetic Surgery, Dental, Orthopedic, Heart
- Monterrey: Bariatric Surgery, Cosmetic Surgery, Dental, Orthopedic, Heart
- Nogales: Dental
- Piedras Negras: Dental, Bariatric Surgery
- Puerto Vallarta/Nuevo Vallarta: Bariatric Surgery, Dental
- Reynosa: Dental, Bariatric Surgery
- Tijuana: Bariatric Surgery, Cosmetic Surgery, Dental, Orthopedic, Heart
Medical Tourism to Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico:
Tijuana is a border city next to San Diego, CA. Tijuana is one of the most attractive locations for bariatric surgery, dental, cosmetic procedures, orthopedic, heart, stem cell, and many more medical services.
- Time Zone: GMT
- Dialing Code: +52 (1) 664
- Electricity: Standard 127 V, 60 Hz, Plug Type A
- Currency: Mexican Peso/U.S. Dollars
- Languages: Spanish, English
Law Abuse and Accountability in Mexico
Medical Tourism to Mexico has grown as responsibility is not strictly enforced by law in foreign countries, as in the United States. It is therefore not surprising that compensation for abuse is not so generous (see How to Find a Trusted Medical Tourism Operator). External doctors are not sure about ensuring abuse as well as their American counterparts.
An American medical tourist cannot resort to the United States judicial system. The US court must not be held by a responsible mediator because sponsors or medical agents are not health care providers and therefore cannot commit professional misconduct.
Medical Tourism Insurance
Some health insurers in the United States have designed insurance packages for those seeking medical care in Mexico. The California law passed in 1999, which allowed California insurers to compensate Mexican suppliers, paved the way for changes in the insurance industry and providers of medical travel (see Medical Tourism Insurance).
Since medical care in Mexico costs less, premiums represent less than two-thirds of the cost of their alternative plans in the United States.
Advantages of Medical Tourism to Mexico
- Distance: Mexico’s proximity to the United States and Canada makes a clear choice for American and Canadian residents for their medical needs. Travel costs are low and allow patients to travel back and forth.
- Quality: According to the World Health Organization, Mexican hospitals are of similar quality and concern to those in the United States. There are medical packages that offer accommodation and monitoring outside urban areas and closer to the busy beaches.
- Prices: Prices in Mexico may be between 50% and 75% lower than the average cost of the US.
- Language: A high level of English knowledge among doctors.
- Insurance Coverage: Increase in the number of insurers offering passenger coverage, with non-reimbursed costs, which is significantly lower.
- Culture: Like most Latin American countries, Mexico has a global friendly and family culture.
- Waiting: The wait time in Mexico is not a problem and generally does not exist.
- Climate: The beautiful climate makes it suitable for recovery.
Shortcomings of Mexico Health Care
- Lack of standardization
- Lack of standardized quality measurement and quality assurance systems.
- No liability
- Difficulties in seeking legal remedies for abuses.
Statistics on Medical Tourism in Mexico
Americans, especially those living near the Mexican border, travel regularly to Mexico for treatment, largely due to significant savings of at least 60% for many interventions. Medical Tourism to Mexico has boomed from $1.5 Billion in 2006 to $4.8 Billion in 2016. Mexican authorities estimate that the number of healthcare providers will reach 650,000 by 2020.
Mexico Medical Tourism Statistics (2016):
- Global Medical Tourism: $20-$100 Billion Industry
- 11 Million Medical Tourists Travel Annually
- Medical Tourism to Mexico: $4.8 Billion Industry
- 1 Million Medical Tourists Travel to Mexico Annually