Medical tourism under a magnifying glass after the kidnapping of four Americans in Mexico/AFP.
As news broke that four Americans were kidnapped in Mexico and two of them were killed, one detail in particular has caught our attention. Victims crossed borders in search of medical care.
This revelation proved the steady flow of so-called medical tourism from the United States to its southern neighbors. A country known for drug-related gun violence.
Americans travel for everything from dental and cosmetic surgery to cancer treatments.
Mexico’s industry has grown steadily over the past two decades, pausing during covid-19, which was valued at just over $5 billion in 2018, according to the state-owned Banco Nacional de Comercio Exterior.
Mexico is one of the world’s leading destinations for medical tourism, despite the fact that it has to contend with the negative image associated with organized crime and drug cartel violence.
However, the risks associated with medical tourism are more related to inadequate care when health service providers are not properly selected than “political or societal violence,” says Doctors Without Borders. Joseph Woodman, executive director, told AFP.International Medical.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also warns of the risks of potentially unreliable medical services, as well as the potential for infection and difficulty communicating with health care providers, when it comes to medical tourism.
The four Americans arrived in Matamoros, a high-crime city in Tamaulipas state most affected by violence. Even the State Department is citing kidnapping as one of the risks and is advising citizens to avoid the area entirely.
Either way, it’s not a state particularly known for medical tourism, Woodman said. This is because they lack medical infrastructure like other regions.
Far from being horrified by the tragic news, Woodman said his organization’s emails have been “flooded over the last 36 hours.”
Just a few days ago, Amber O’Hara, a retiree from Colorado, recommended a Mexican dental clinic to a friend for treatment.
“The reason I go is the cost,” O’Hara said, emphasizing that the care is top notch.
“I feel very comfortable and confident in all aspects of my treatment and will definitely come back again if needed,” she told AFP.
His dentist has offices in the town of Los Algodones, Baja California, on the Arizona border. The town is called ‘Moller City’ because of the number of dental facilities that serve foreigners. O’Hara said it’s a place he wants to avoid because “multiple bad things happened there.”
Patients Without Borders estimates that she is one of the 1.2 million Americans who travel to Mexico each year for medical care.
According to the CDC, dental care is one of the most common and popular procedures, along with “surgery, cosmetic surgery, fertility treatments, organ and tissue transplants, and cancer treatments.”
Weight control surgery isn’t covered by a patient’s insurance, Woodman said.