Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain

Friday, March 27, 2009

Medical Tourism in Mexico and American Insurance Companies

Hospital Cima Hermosillo has been certified as a world-class hospital by the Joint Commission International, one of the first hospitals in Mexico to receive this certification. Only about 100 hospitals in the world are so accredited, making this a very important event.

Of particular note is that the hospital has signed a contract with Companion Global Healthcare Inc. to be included in its network, so Blue Cross and Blue Shield members can seek treatment there. Procedures covered include cardiology, gynecology and orthopedic surgeries, and there are no deductibles to pay. Members now have access to the hospital's 60% discount of what the U.S. price is.

The contract with the U.S. insurance company currently covers about a dozen procedures, but the hospital is hoping the list will expand.

International Hospital Corp. (IHC) of Dallas, Texas owns CIMA Hermosillo, which is one of Mexico’s main medical centers for cardiology. Companion Global Healthcare is based in Columbia, USA. It provides assistance to American based customers who travel to its network hospitals, serving as a single point for appointments, travel arrangements, case management, medical travel insurance and follow-up care in the United States.

And what does this have to do with Puerto Peñasco?

Well, about a year ago it was reported that Carlos Slim's Ideal company had formed a partnership with Grupo Star Medica to open new medical centers in Puerto Peñasco and Los Cabos catering specifically to U.S. babyboomers. At the time Slim, who owns Telefonos de Mexico among other companies, said that the sharply increased costs of health care in the United States, much of it borne by the federal government in Medicare costs, presents an opportunity for Mexico to become a place where retirees can come to get medical care at a much lower cost. He reckoned that fulfilling that opportunity would require getting Medicare/Medicaid to cover medical procedures done in Mexico.

The political obstacles to that are probably too great to overcome, but this new alliance with Blue Cross and Blue Shield might open the doors to this venture-- at least for those with private insurance.

Not much has been mentioned in the news about the proposed medical center in Rocky Point over the last year, and with the possible advent of Universal Health Care in the U.S. under the Obama administration I'm not sure how the logistics of it all would work out. But I'd bet that if the Insurance and Pharmaceutical companies have any input, the price for medical procedures and prescription drugs will remain cheaper in Mexico for some time to come. In any event, a high tech medical center in Puerto Peñasco would be a wonderful thing, if it comes to pass.

So is Slim still moving ahead with his plans, now that he's only the third richest man in the world instead of the first? You'll know when I know. ;)

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