Reverse Migrant Caravan, as Americans Flood Into Mexico For Dental Care
A “reverse migrant caravan” of Americans travel every day into Mexico for affordable health care.
According to a report from TruthOut, thousands of Americans cross the border every day into Mexico to access affordable dental care in the Mexican city of Los Algodones. Most of the medical tourists pass through Yuma, Arizona, to obtain healthcare that prohibitive costs would make impossible in the US. The Mexican government and Los Algodones welcomes the tourists with gusto.
On one day at the Yuma border crossing alone, up to 6000 Americans cross the border into Los Algodones to receive medical care, as TruthOut reports.
US Dental Costs Are Prohibitive; Mexico’s Are Not
Health experts believe that Los Algodones has the highest concentration of dentists in the world, a fact not hard to believe considering the rising influx of Americans and Canadians coming for dental care. Ads of cheap dental care, affordable eye care and low-cost prescription drugs litter the town, according to TruthOut. Analysts say the economy of Los Algodones is built to serve the exodus of dental patients flooding into the town.
Elderly Americans come to the town to obtain major dental care they cannot afford back home. Quality dental care is very expensive in the United States, and millions of people cannot afford it even with insurance plans.
The National Association of Dental Plans said that nearly 74 million Americans lack dental insurance. This figure is approximately a quarter of the US population, and represents double the number of people with no health insurance.
Dental insurance plans in the US cost as much $1,500 per year with high deductibles and minimal coverage. Dental procedures such as crowns and root canals are expensive, and implants are usually not covered at all, and people can rarely afford them even with insurance. Insurance only covers routine dental care such as cleaning, X-ray and fillings. Getting a dental crown may cost up to $2,000 and one tooth implant can cost up to $5,000. It, therefore, becomes impossible when patients need up to four implants and several crowns.
Lower Costs Make the Dental Trip to Mexico Worthwhile
While dental insurance makes dental care expensive in the US, the time it takes to confirm the patient’s policy and coverage is also time-consuming, especially for a patient in pain, and so does the time it takes to calculate the deductible and copay. It often takes the insurer a long time to pay the dentists, so many US dentists prefer immediate payments.
Another reason why dental care is so costly in the US is the debt of student loans for undergraduate and dental school, which graduates must clear once they start working.
Patients who travel to Los Algodones, known as “Molar City”, can save up to 80 percent of the cost of certain dental procedures in the US. For instance, one enamel filling could cost about $98 as opposed to approximately $168 in the US. A dental implant, including the abutment and porcelain crown, costs in the US at least $4000 a tooth, but in Mexico the same procedure costs about $1600. To many Americans with difficult dental needs the trip is clearly worth it, even including the travel and housing, if any, costs.