Medical Tourism Booming In Baja California

By Jill Replogle
December 16, 2013
Jude Joffe-Block
A tourism official stands in front of the designated medical tourism lane at the Mexicali border crossing.

Medical tourism to Baja California has risen nearly 18 percent since 2010, Mexico’s Frontera newspaper reports.

The head of Baja California’s medical tourism cluster, Karim Chalita Rodríguez, told Frontera that more than 500,000 visitors have sought medical or dental care in Baja California this year.

Most medical tourists are from California, but Mexican border cities are making a big push to attract visitors from inland states as well. As Fronteras Desk has reported, a van service drives people from Las Vegas to Mexicali monthly for medical services.

The $30 round-trip service is subsidized by the Mexicali tourism board. Authorities have even managed to get around the long border waits that might scare people off by offering special lanes to speed medical tourists back to the U.S.

More and more Latin American countries are trying to get in on the medical tourism boom. As we recently reported, a Nicaraguan hospital is advertising to the Latino population in the U.S., hoping to lure them to the Central American country for cheaper hip replacements and artificial knees.

But these countries may soon face a new challenge in the Affordable Care Act. If it works as planned, insurance companies should cover many of these procedures for U.S. residents. If so, Latin America’s plastic surgeons and others offering purely esthetic procedures may be getting the bulk of American medical tourists in the future.