Mexico Insurance Company Rolls Out 'Medical Tourism' Coverage For Americans Seeking Affordable Treatment South Of Border

This year, some 300,000 Americans are expected to drive across the border into Mexico in search of affordable medical and dental care, according to Patients Beyond Borders, an organization providing resources for so-called "medical tourists."

With rising costs of treatment and the ageing of millennials driving growth, Patients Beyond Borders CEO Josef Woodman told Newsweek that in recent years, it's a trend that has been on the rise.

However, with Mexico instituting new policies that require U.S. and Canadian vehicles to have auto liability insurance from a Mexican insurer as of January 2019, many Americans have struggled to figure out what kind of coverage they need in their bid to seek affordable treatment south of the border.

With medical tourism in Mexico seeing a boom, Woodman said, insurance companies are catching on, with one company, Mexpro, launching a new type of auto insurance aimed specifically at "medical tourists" from the U.S.

Founded in 1999, Mexpro's "MexVisit" plan provides auto liability and full coverage insurance for drivers, with the inclusion of a "medical evacuation" offering, which insures travelers up to $500,000 to return to a hospital of their choice in the event of an emergency while on the road. It also includes roadside and legal assistance, with a "live case monitoring contact center" available 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, according to Mexpro's website.

Depending on the type of medical travel insurance plan Americans are looking for, including how long they plan to stay in Mexico, how many occupants are traveling in their vehicle and where they plan on entering Mexico from, plans can cost as little as in the tens of dollars.

"We know of no other agency providing the services that Mexpro and MexVisit offer to the medical travel community," Denny Lauritsen, the assistant vice-president of Mexpro's parent company, International Insurance Group, Inc., said in a statement provided online.

El Paso Ciudad Juarez
Drivers cross El Paso del Norte bridge between Mexico and the U.S. in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state on February 20, 2017. Medical tourism from the U.S. to Mexico appears to be on the rise, according to Patients Beyond Borders. YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty

Mexpro, according to the company's website, was started by Jim and Andrea Labelle, an Arizona pair that gained expertise in the field after having to purchase Mexico insurance online before traveling to the country themselves.

"We have built strong relationships with the top Mexico insurers, and have created options previously not available like English speaking adjusters and claims agents," the company's website states. "We only work with Mexican companies who are rated for their history and ability to pay claims, and who treat their customers well."

Woodman, who has partnered with Mexpro to help shine a light on its MexVisit plan, told Newsweek that he believes the new offering is a sign of the growing popularity of medical tourism, with Americans traveling not only to Mexico, but also as far as Thailand in order to receive affordable care.

"It means a lot when people who are up against the wall, whether it's in the United States or in the U.K....are fleeing to eastern Europe and South East Asia [for care]," he said.

According to Patients Beyond Borders' recently-released fourth edition guide on "affordable, world-class medical travel," in 2019, nearly two million Americans traveled overseas for "just about every imaginable type of medical treatment," from "restorative dentistry in Mexico, hair transplant surgery in Turkey, heart valve replacements in Thailand, hip resurfacing in India, proton therapy in Korea, fertility treatments in Israel [and] facelifts in Hungary."

"At the time of this writing, at least 50 countries cater to the international health traveler, with some 24 million patients worldwide visiting hospitals and clinics each year in countries other than their own," the guide adds.

According to PBB, Americans traveling to Mexico could save as much as 40 to 60 percent on treatments.

However, Woodman warned: "You don't want to just jump in a car and get stopped and realize you should have bought insurance."

The difference between most auto insurance offerings and Mexpro's, he said, was that the MexVisit plan is "bundled with a medical evacuation plan, if, god forbid, there's some complication...and the second difference is the price," he said, with the affordable pricing of the plan being a "no-brainer" for somebody who is about to pay "for a new hip or...for a new set of teeth."

The costs of insurance coverage, he said, is worth it compared to the costs that some "82 million uninsured or under-insured Americans" cannot afford.

"Medical costs continue to rise for speciality areas, and more importantly, it's a little more nuanced, but coverage is continuing to deteriorate," Woodman said. "That's forcing some people to look at their options."

Many people, the Patients Beyond Borders CEO said, "stumble upon medical tourism accidentally."

Struggling to find a way to obtain the treatment they need, he said, many simply "search for inexpensive care. That's when Mexico might pop up."

Mexico Insurance Company Rolls Out 'Medical Tourism' Coverage For Americans Seeking Affordable Treatment South Of Border | U.S.