Some day we’ll all be tourists in space, but for now, tourists are streaming into Mexican border towns, not to buy drugs (at least not the illicit kind), but for medical procedures that are much cheaper there–and often done by US-trained dentists and physicians.
While the place to get a kidney transplant is still Iran, examples of Mexican medicine include root canals, plastic surgery, gastric bypass operations, liposuction, laser eye surgery to correct cataracts and near-sightedness, and even basic physical exams.
Health commuters come from California, Texas, and other states near the Mexican border. One Mexican town is even subsidizing van rides from Las Vegas. A special border patrol lane has been created for medical tourists which minimizes usual 3 hour wait on US side.
Even illegal Mexicans who are living in the US come to Mexico for affordable medical treatment.
Medical tourism is a major industry in the border town of Mexicali. In the June 28th edition of the New York Times, Jennifer Medina quotes Oklahoma health commuter Stephanie Rusky as saying, "At first, I was like, ‘Mexicali, where it that.’" She paid $8,000 for plastic surgery that would have cost twice that in the US.
Medina quotes Mexicali tourism official Omar Dipp as saying, "There’s a huge market for this. Everyone benefits: the hotels, the restaurants, the local economy. We give them a reason to come, and they will be here." Last year, more than 150,000 patients arrived.
There are some hospitals that regularly see Americans (and speak English). In fact, the town wants to create a special medial zone for US medical tourists. However, none of these hospitals are certified by US medical authorities.
Right now they are putting in new sidewalks–eventually, they will add malls.
The most popular health tourist operations are gastric bypass and elastic band surgery. Medina quotes hotel owner Carlo Bonfante as saying, "Thanks to all the (French) fries across the border."
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