Now as the health reform debate plays
out in the u.s. some Americans, are finding new ways and new places to get
medical care, Ray Suarez has the story. -South-of-the-border tourist season is
just beginning, Beach loving Americans are headed to
Mexico’s seaside towns, reaching for the sunscreen and soaking up the local color,
but this year’s annual migration has a twist. -Thousands of Americans are coming
to places like Puerto Vallarta not dip their toes in the warm Pacific sip a
margarita or browse a crafts fair now, they’re coming for health care, in many
cases care they could never afford to acquire in the United States. 55-year-old
Stan Packard flew to Puerto Vallarta to have his hip replaced, we caught up
with him at the follow-up appointment with his Mexican orthopedic surgeon, Dr.
Max Greek, -Had you ever been to Mexico before -Never, just took a shot. -Pretty big step to take on your first trip to Mexico, you go fly down and come back
with a new hip. -Well, something had to be done. -Packard and his wife owned a horse park in California, that specializes in
carriage rides, caring for all the horses is a physically demanding job and one of
Stan’s hips just didn’t hold up for years it was causing him pain, but the
Packard’s don’t have health insurance. -When they told me, I was for sure gonna
need a hip then, I knew I couldn’t afford it
in the states so we started looking in the States say they said it was $80,000
to $120. Packard went on the internet and found a texas-based a company called “meant to go”, it led him to Dr. Greek practice in Mexico, where
Stan paid $13,000 for all travel and medical expenses. -Were you a little
scared.- I’ve never been in a hospital you know under surgery, I’ve never had a
broken arm, nothing, so but I knew the pain, I was having before, I got here was
unbearable, I wanted it done more than I was scared Dr. Greek operates on more
aging baby boomers every year, they choose Mexico for joint replacement
surgery, not just for the cost-saving but also for the comforts of a city like
Puerto Vallarta that already caters to tourists.- We have a whole team that
receives him at the airport we make sure that they get accommodated in hotels and
that they are transported from hotels to the different appointments or to the
hospital and then after history once they’re released from a hospital, we have
nurses and physical therapists that visit them in their hotels and this way
they can recover in a beautiful place looking at the swimming pool, looking at
palm trees, Greek is a member of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons
and touts his state-of-the-art facilities, we’re using the same implant,
same prosthesis, same techniques but here we have a great advantage, we don’t have
that liability cost as you can find on us, I paid as an orthopedic surgeon
about 1/10 of what my colleague in the US will pay for malpractice insurance and with 1 million US citizens now
living in Mexico, many of them retirees private hospitals, now advertise American
Standard facilities, 10,000 Americans live in Puerto Vallarta, so many that
local expats here are holding a series of town hall-style meetings about,
Medicare benefits, we all know that Medicare won’t cover your health care
expense, when you’re outside of the United States and we have to ask why not
and the fact is there’s no good answer to that question, what it costs more to
cover you in Mexico, no.- A group called “Americans for Medicare” in Mexico is
lobbying Congress to amend Medicare rules to allow for health care coverage
in Mexico, where medical costs are much lower, it would cost the Medicare program
about half as much to cover you here, as it costs to cover you in the United
States.- Former Senate staffer Paul Chryst now a Puerto Vallarta hotel owner is
leading the campaign.- I think it’s a great deal for the taxpayer.- I actually
see this as a win-win and I’ll tell you why first of all it’s a win for
the retirees that live in Mexico and for the retirees, that want to retire to
Mexico it’s a win for Medicare because it saves money, it’s a win for
The Mexican economy, because in an influx of retirees will create jobs, good jobs in
Mexico,-But with Americans already consumed by a debate over health care
reform, the campaign may have a tough time getting attention in Washington, in
the meantime some retirees are taking advantage of the insurance offered by
the Mexican government Social Security system called
imss for only $300 a year Americans who can establish residency
are offered an array of medical services with no deductible. Susan Which Ehrman retired to Puerto
Vallarta, 12 years ago and now teaches yoga here, she signed up for the Mexican
social security health plan as a backup, but soon suffered an arm injury, which
required multiple surgeries.- All your specialists have seen traumatologist,
I’ve seen a gynecologist, I’d seen psychiatrists, it’s all paid for, too good
to be true.- But there are limitations to Mexico’s government plan anyone with a
a pre-existing condition is excluded, the facilities are not cutting edge and if
you’re not in need of urgent care the lines are notoriously long.- It’s
always overloaded with patients, there’s hundreds of people waiting on waiting
lists surgeries are there’s waiting for this for surgeries for up to about six months
and so it’s a system that you have to wait it out.- The Social Security program
was originally set up for Mexican workers but so far foreigners have been
welcomed just over 1,000 Americans in Puerto Vallarta alone are now enrolled. Dr.
Eduardo Montero is the director of the IMSS hospital in Puerto Vallarta
the model of IMSS is social security for all and as far as the enrollment of
foreigners, I don’t see a problem.- Even so some health officials here worried, that
uninsured Americans could quickly overload an already burdened system, but
as far as foreigners coming to pay for services on their own, industry leaders
are embracing that idea there’s even talk of building assisted living and
nursing homes here so foreigners can capitalize on Mexico’s cheaper labor
market economic analysts say more than 1 million patients worldwide cross
international borders annually for medical treatments and places like
Puerto Vallarta seem eager to host them
in his second report, tomorrow Ray will examine how the Mexican government is
trying to improve healthcare for its own poorest citizens