What did you bring back from your last trip to Mexico? A blanket from Oaxaca? Criollo chocolate from Chiapas? Leather boots from Valladolid? A growing number of U.S. visitors are coming home with a new hip, a repaired hernia, capped teeth, a lap band or a rejuvenated face.
Henry Parecki might best be described as a peripatetic entrepreneur. After opening his first deli in San Francisco, his hometown, he started businesses in Marin — Henry’s Burger Shop is still in business in Novato — before moving to Portland, Ore. He eventually landed in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he runs his ninth enterprise, a wholesale bicycle parts business.
“I don’t have health insurance, never have,” Parecki says. “I’d have to charge 5 or 10 cents more for every part to pay for it. People don’t realize that … every time you buy a gallon of milk, probably 5 cents is going to pay somebody’s health care.”
When he learned that he needed hip surgery, he faced a $50,000 tab for the hospital stay alone, not including surgery, anesthesiology and physical therapy. Parecki had his surgery at Hospital CIMA in Hermosillo. Nine weeks into the typical recovery period of six months to a year, he has graduated from a walker to occasional use of a cane, his range of motion has progressed from 60 percent to more than 90 percent, and he’s walking 2 to 3 miles a day with “some discomfort” instead of excruciating pain. Grand total for travel costs — including a day at the beach — stress test, surgery, hospital stay, anesthesiology, and doctor visits in his hotel: $13,700.
Medical tourism is becoming a greater force in Mexico’s economy as efforts to reform the U.S. health care system fall victim to political maneuvering. As the tenacious recession leaves more Americans without jobs — or working for employers who can no longer afford to provide insurance — adding a medical procedure to the vacation itinerary looks increasingly attractive. The U.S. government doesn’t keep statistics, but based on trends in the past several years, the Mexican government is expecting the number of visitors seeking medical treatment there to reach 650,000 annually by 2020