The Mexican border city of Mexicali has adopted medical care as its primary tourist lure, and it has been attracting a growing number of health care commuters from California and other nearby states, reports The New York Times.
Hospitals offer operations for gastric bypass, liposuction and chronic back pain. Dentists promise that extractions, fillings and whitening can all be done for less money. And ophthalmologists advertise laser surgery and routine exams.
Thousands of people are crossing the border in search of care they either cannot afford or wish to get more cheaply. The influx has grown steadily over the last several years, attracting uninsured Mexicans who have made their lives in the United States and desperately need affordable care. But it increasingly includes a smaller but growing group of middle-class patients from all over the country looking for deals on elective surgeries that most medical insurance will not cover.
Last year, more than 150,000 patients came to Mexicali, pumping more than $8 million into the city’s economy, officials said. There are some dozen hospitals that regularly see Americans, and many have a special administrator to coordinate medical and travel plans. With nearly 100 medical offices in a six-block radius, the city hopes to create a special medical zone by improving streets and sidewalks and adding more services for tourists.