In recent years, Mexico has gained popularity as a stop for patients seeking affordable healthcare beyond borders. Medical tourism to Mexico for health care appeals to Americans and Canadians due to its proximity to the United States and relatively low travel costs. Many Mexican Americans return to a family doctor/dentist to save money on health coverage.

According to patients beyond borders, over 1.2 million tourists going to Mexico each year to receive medical treatments. Patients who travel across the border are saving anywhere from 45% to 75% on their operative procedures.

Traveling to Mexico for medical attention is known exclusively for its dental, bariatric, and aesthetic surgery. However, its orthopedic procedures, cancer treatment, stem cell, and heart operations now add to the attraction of health care in Mexico. With state-of-the-art facilities comparable to American hospitals, Mexico has become one of the premier destinations for people traveling abroad to obtain medical care.

Healthcare 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 Mexican population has private health insurance for more convenient and better care.

Private Hospitals and Clinics

According to the World Health Organization, the Mexican healthcare system is ranked 61 globally. Private hospitals in Mexico generally have similar quality and care to those in the United States. Medical packages 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 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 U.S. and Canada.

Medical Tourism to Mexico - Traveling Abroad for Healthcare Procedures and Destination Surgery

What it’s Like to Be a Patient in Mexico

International Patients in Mexico have their 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 Angeles Hospital and Galenia Hospital. Many of these hospitals also have CSG accreditation from the General Health Council of Mexico. The federal government ministry of health (COFEPRIS) regulates health facilities with strict requirements.

City of Tijuana

Standard 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 RNY gastric bypass in Canada.

Here are the popular treatments sought by patients looking for medical tourism to Mexico:

  • Aesthetic Surgery

  • Dentistry

  • Cosmetic Procedures (Botox, etc.)

  • Knee/Hip Replacement

  • Orthopedic Surgery

  • Bariatric Surgery

  • Eye Operation

  • Heart Surgery

  • Cancer Treatment

Cost of Medical Procedures in Mexico

The following are the comparative costs of general cosmetic and surgical procedures between American and Mexican hospitals.

Average Costs Heart Procedures in Mexico

Heart ProcedureUnited StatesMexico% Savings
Angiography$4,800 $1,20070%
Valve Replacement$46,000$16,00060%
Bypass Surgery$44,000$24,00050%
Open Heart Surgery$64,000$24,00066%

Average Costs of Orthopedic Procedures in Mexico

Orthopedic ProcedureUnited StatesMexico% Savings
Knee Replacement$25,000$10,50065%
Hip Replacement$28,000 $12,50065%
Shoulder Replacement$24,500$9,50075%
Birmingham Resurfacing$24,000$12,50060%

Average Costs of Bariatric Procedures in Mexico

Bariatric ProcedureUnited StatesMexico% Savings
Gastric Band$21,500$6,50070%
Gastric Sleeve$19,500 $5,00075%
Gastric Bypass / Mini Bypass$30,000$7,50075%
Duodenal Switch$36,000$8,80075%
Gastric Balloon$8,500$4,20050%

Overall Comparative Costs of All Types of Surgery in Mexico

Another survey provides the following comparative costs as of 2009

Medical ProcedureUnited StatesMexico
AngioplastyUp to $57,000$17,100
Heart BypassUp to $144,000$21,000
Heart Valve ReplacementUp to $170,000$31,000
Knee ReplacementUp to $50,000$11,500
Hip ResurfacingUp to $30,000+$13,400
Hip ReplacementUp to $43,000$13,800
Special FusionUp to $100,000$8,000
Face LiftUp to $15,000$8,000
Breast ImplantsUp to $10,000$9,000
RhinoplastyUp to $8,000$5,000
Lap Band/BariatricUp to $30,000$9,200
HysterectomyUp to $15,000$7,500
Dental Implant$2,000-10,000$1,000
Fertility TreatmentsUp to $8,500$2,650

How much money can you save by traveling 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 / ToMexico CityGuadalajaraMonterreyTijuana
New York City5.6 hrs6 hrs5.4 hrs6 hrs
Chicago3.7 hrs4.5 hrs3.8 hrs4.3 hrs
Washington, DC5 hrs6.8 hrs5.7 hrs5.7 hrs
San Francisco4 hrs3.8 hrs5.8 hrs1.2 hrs
Los Angeles3.5 hrs3 hrs3 hrs1 hrs
Toronto5 hrs7.2 hrs6 hrs5.2 hrs
Montreal6.1 hrs8 hrs7.5 hrs7.8 hrs
Vancouver5 hrs6.8 hrs6.8 hrs3 hrs

Air flights to Mexico peak in late March to early April and mid-June to August, when the vacation is also expensive. Return flights in the middle of the week (Monday through Thursday) 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

From / ToTijuanaMexicaliMonterrey
Los Angeles, CA2 hrs4 hrs25 hrs
San Francisco, CA10 hrs10 hrs31 hrs
San Diego, CA20-30 minutes2 hrs23 hrs
Dallas, TX20 hrs19 hrs10 hrs
Houston, TX22 hrs20 hrs12-13 hrs

Mexico Destinations for Medical Services

The top Mexico cities for medical travel are Tijuana, Cancun, Mexico City, Juarez, Monterrey, Juarez, Mexicali, Guadalajara, Mazatlán, and Puerto Vallarta.

  • Cabo: Dental, Cosmetic Surgery
  • Cancun: Bariatric Surgery, Cosmetic Surgery, Dental
  • Guadalajara: Bariatric Surgery, Cosmetic Surgery, Dental
  • Ciudad Juarez: Dental
  • Los Algodones: Dental
  • Matamoros: Plastics
  • Mexicali: Bariatric Surgery, Dental
  • Mexico City: Cosmetic Surgery, Dental, Orthopedic, Heart
  • Monterrey: Bariatric Surgery, Cosmetic Surgery, Dental, Orthopedic, Heart
  • Nogales: Dental
  • Nuevo Laredo: Bariatrics
  • Piedras Negras: Dental, Bariatric Surgery
  • Puerto Vallarta/Nuevo Vallarta: Bariatric Surgery, Dental
  • Reynosa: Dental, Bariatric Surgery
  • Tijuana: Bariatric Surgery, Cosmetic Surgery, Dental, Orthopedic, Heart

Guide to Medical Tourism

Medical Departure to Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico:

Tijuana is a Mexico border city next to San Diego, CA. Crossing the border to Tijuana is one of the most attractive locations for bariatric surgery, dental care, cosmetic procedures, orthopedic, heart, stem cell, cancer, hair implant, fertility, and many more medical services.

  • Time Zone: GMT
  • Dialing Code: +52 664
  • 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 unsure about ensuring abuse as well as their American counterparts.

American medical tourists 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 healthcare providers, and that is why they 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, allowing California insurers to compensate Mexican suppliers, paved the way for changes in the insurance industry and medical travel providers.

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

  1. 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.
  2. Quality: According to the World Health Organization, Mexican hospitals are of similar quality and concern to those in the United States. Medical packages offer accommodation and monitoring outside urban areas and closer to busy beaches.
  3. Prices: Prices in Mexico may be between 50% and 75% lower than the average cost in the US.
  4. Language: A high level of English knowledge among doctors.
  5. Insurance Coverage: Increase in the number of insurers offering passenger coverage, with non-reimbursed costs, which is significantly lower.
  6. Culture: Like most Latin American countries, Mexico has a globally friendly and family culture.
  7. Waiting: The wait time in Mexico is not a problem and generally does not exist.
  8. Climate: The beautiful climate makes it suitable for recovery.

Advantages of Medical Tourism to Mexico

Shortcomings of Mexico Health Care

  1. Lack of standardization
  2. Lack of standardized quality measurement and quality assurance systems.
  3. No liability
  4. 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 Corporation in 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

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