Will the wall damage medical tourism to Mexico?

The future of Mexican medical tourism may not be as bad as it looks. The chances of the wall being built in Trump’s five-year term look ever more remote.

President-elect Donald Trump made a now famous promise to not only build a wall between the USA and Mexico, but also to make Mexico build and pay for the wall. After great deliberation, the Mexican president’s response was two words, which we cannot repeat here, strongly suggesting what Trump could do with his wall.

The wall would probably kill off the Mexican medical tourism trade. However, the future of Mexican medical tourism may not be as bad as it looks, as the chances of that wall ever being built in Trump’s five-year term look ever more remote.

For all the sound and fury of politicians, the USA does need Mexico as a major trading partner and supplier of cheap labour. There is an established cross-border trade in services and employment, including healthcare in Mexico.

While the claimed millions of Americans going to Mexico each year for low price treatment is highly unlikely, it is probable that over 100,000 do go there. Most work is low price dental care for low income Americans or workers in nearby states who have a dual work and social life on both sides of the border.

A few companies pay for Mexican treatment but the complex US healthcare rules make it hard for insurers or businesses to automatically offer Mexican healthcare. Most US treatment in Mexico would not be covered by insurance anyway.

The quality of Mexican healthcare has been driven up by universal healthcare in Mexico, but safety and quality of dental and medical care in small clinics in border towns is often questionable.

Despite a desperate need for additional investment in its healthcare system, Mexico’s current administration does not have the needed resources to address systemic reform. As a result, Mexico faces an unmet demand for quality medical services that can be effectively addressed through public-private partnerships or direct provision of services. Opportunities exist in several key areas, including the provision of services, clinical trials, research partnerships, and medical tourism.

Mexico remains an attractive destination for medical tourism simply due to considerably lower cost. There are significant opportunities to provide surgeries and treatment at lower cost than in the USA but offering better quality.

And if that wall ever does get built- for several years there will be thousands of extra workers needing healthcare!