US Affordable Care Act boost to Mexico

In an article in Skift, Josef Woodman, CEO of Patients Beyond Borders, estimates 1.4m Americans engaged in medical tourism in 2017, and that the Affordable Care Act has encouraged some people to shop around for healthcare.

The article claims that medical tourism to Mexico is rising, in part due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The ACA really encouraged people, and sometimes forced people, to shop around for care, which is something that Americans were just not used to doing,” said Josef Woodman, adding that some doctors began lowering fees to retain patients. Woodman also said that he believes that the over-cautious US travel advisory for Mexico could hinder medical visitation. Medical tourism is however designed to be “a very protected experience,” said Woodman — many providers pick up travelers at the airport and shuttle them around.

The article says that while many Americans — often those older than 50 who live in border states — rely on medical tourism, it still hasn’t permeated the public consciousness. It quotes Paul McTaggart, founder of agencies Medical Departures and Dental Departures, who says Medical Departures’ revenue comes from the care providers, not the shoppers, and in Mexico, he has seen 40% growth year-on-year. “For us, for healthcare, we’re quite happy with that,” he said, adding that low-cost airlines strengthen his business.

We’re a largely xenophobic culture,” Woodman says, of some Americans’ distrust of care in Mexico, which could be waning.

In 2006, Mexico had no facilities accredited by Joint Commission International, a nonprofit that accredits health care organizations, according to Patients Beyond Borders. Now it has eight. Mexico welcomed between 1.4 million and 3 million medical tourists in 2016, the discrepancy likely arising from undocumented individuals returning home for care.