ANALYSIS: Medicine in Mexico is going to be big

By Arthur Lipper


Most of the 193 people at the Institute of Americas April 21 conference on “the Future of Health Care in Mexico for Americans” were fluent in both Spanish and English. The conference was conducted in English and the speakers were united in their view that Mexico will become an ever increasing source of health care for Americans —± all as a result of the comparative cost of service.

Jim Arriola, CEO of Sekure Healthcare, talked about those comparisons, citing such examples as the cost of a non-invasive coronary angioplasty in San Diego which ranges from $43,604 to $80,960 versus a Baja California hospital’s total fees of $6,500 to $9,000.

As an example of cost differential, Jim Arriola indicated that registered nurses in California are paid annually in the area of $75,000 where as in Mexico the annual wage is closer to $12,000. He also states the cost of liability insurance for a cardiac surgeon in the U.S. runs As much as $80,000 versus $5,000 in Mexico. The cost of a visit to a Mexican primary care physician is about $30 whereas in the U.S. it will run $125 or more. American hospitals receive from HMOs $6,638 per bed-day while Mexican hospitals are only paid $1,117.

One of the reasons for the surgeon’s dramatically lower liability insurance premium is the fact that in Mexico there is not a legal recognition of punitive damage.

It was stated by the several of the conference speaker that due to training and technology the quality of health care in most Mexican hospitals is equivalent to that found in American hospitals.

Of course, those comfortable in Spanish will be more likely to be attracted to Mexican health care providers. Hispanics currently comprise 15 percent of the California population and are the fastest growing minority group in America.

Ambassador Jeffry Davidow, the president of the Institute of the Americas and former ambassador to Mexico, was generally supportive of the predictions made by speakers regarding the growth of demand by U.S. residents for health care services in Mexico.

One of the speakers predicted that Hispanics would be 50 percent of the American population by 2050. This is another reason why Mexico becoming an important health care provider seems inevitable.

Medicare and Medicade are presently 48 percent of all health care expenditures in the U.S. and are predicted to grow to 52 percent.

In 2017, there will be a shortage in the U.S. of 40,000 physicians and in 2030; the shortage number of physicians is estimated to grow to 158,000. Being increasingly accepting of transnational medical service is a possible solution. Already there is a telemedicine program being developed in Mexico to serve Mexicans living in the U.S.

Although speakers said the quality of healthcare in Mexico is excellent, it was noted that there is a need for a more defined malpractice review process.

There are going to be numerous business opportunities created by the increasing numbers of people travelling to Tijuana and other cities for medical care. Providing transportation is an obvious need. Also, there will have to be a readily available and trusted rating system which surveys Mexican health care facilities and practitioners. There will have to be American sold insurance covering Mexican provided health care.

The growth and aging of the baby boomer generation and rapid growth of Hispanics in the U.S. will naturally create a growing market for Mexican health care providers or all kinds.

The quality of medicine is better today because of technology and training of practitioners. A major hospital in Monterrey is already actively marketing its services internationally. U.S. insurance companies are primary beneficiaries of the lower cost of Mexican health care.

Medical tourism is on the rise internationally. It is estimated that by 2012, $100 billion will be spent by those receiving health care in countries of other than their own. There are also almost 1 million American retirees living in Mexico, most who use and are happy with Mexican health care. In 2009, 952,000 U.S. residents traveled to Mexico for health care; 488,000 of these were Mexican immigrants.

Mexico will be competing with both Asia and other locations in Central and South America for the provision of service, but has the advantage of proximity to market. Early-stage focus will be on dentistry and cosmetic surgery.

It is clear that relationships will develop between U.S.-licensed physicians and Mexican physicians who will then ease problems of patients transporting prescribed medications across the border.

The conference was interesting and the speakers made a convincing case that Mexican-provided health care is going to become a big business, positively impacting a large number of San Diego residents.