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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mexico Plans to Work with the U.S. to Certify Hospitals and Get Them Under Medicare


by Samuel Taliaferro


In a study about residential tourism I commissioned about 5 years ago, the economist predicted that if Panama were to have 30,000 retirees move into the country (about 1 percent of the population), the foreign investment produced would exceed that of the canal each year. Now in this article from the Miami Herald, it tells us about Mexico's plan to offer health care for foreign retirees in order to get more of them to move there. The Mexican President plans to work with the U.S. administration to certify Mexican hospitals and get them under Medicare.

They already have a million U.S. expats living in Mexico and want to get to five million more. Let's see, because of the overburdened welfare system we have in the U.S. (which illegal immigration plays a part of), Americans are forced to seek health care abroad where it is 70 percent cheaper and the cost of living is lower. What's wrong with that picture?

Excerpt: President Felipe Calderón is likely to propose the first steps toward expanding U.S. retirement benefits and medical tourism to Mexico when he went to Washington on an official visit May 19, according to well-placed officials here. If not then, he will raise the issue later this year, they say.

"It's one of the pillars of our plans to trigger economic and social well-being in both countries,'' Mexico's ambassador to the United States Arturo Sarukhan told me. "We will be seeking to increasingly discuss this issue in coming months and years.''

The U.S. Census projects that the number of U.S. retirees will soar from 40 million now to nearly 90 million by 2050. Already, 5 million American retirees live abroad, of whom 2.2 million are in the Western Hemisphere—mostly in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Brazil. Another 1.5 million live in Europe and 850,000 in Asia.

The key to luring more U.S. medical tourists and retirees to Mexico and other Latin American countries will be getting hospitals in the region certified by the U.S. Joint International Commission, which establishes that they meet U.S. hospital standards. There are already eight Mexican hospitals certified by the JIC and several others awaiting certification.

According to Mexican government estimates, health care costs in Mexico are about 70 percent lower than in the United States. From my own experience, those estimates are right: When I was hospitalized in Mexico for an emergency operation, my hospital bill was, indeed, about 70 percent lower than what it would have been in Miami.

With the U.S. population getting older, a record U.S. budget deficit, rising U.S. health care costs, and Mexico and other Latin American countries badly needing more tourism and investments, this should be a win-win for everybody.