Juarez doctors watch US border become waiting room

By Sheldon Calero

Line of cars on Mexico USA border (REUTERS/Mike Blake)

By 2017, as many as 23 million Americans could be traveling abroad, spending $79 billion dollars on health care in other countries.

Medical tourism is an exploding international industry that receives little political or media attention here in the United States.

Meanwhile, border control along the frontier with Mexico is usually linked with the issues of immigration and illicit drugs.

But what about the Americans headed into Mexico looking for cheaper health care and prescription drugs?

The border city of Juarez is notorious for violence associated with the drug cartels. But it’s also a town whose medical economy has been increasingly dependent on American clients.

According to “El Diario,” a local newspaper, many in the Juarez medical community and local government believe the longer lines at the border are discouraging would-be clients from the U.S. to seek care there.

Attempts by local officials to allow a quicker flow of people southward are discouraged by Mexico’s federal government, and are largely ignored by customs agents.  There’s local frustration with the construction of cement barriers and the presence of federal troops.

In an interview with “El Diario”, a local doctor and member of the city’s Citizen’s Medical Committee said the number of Americans seeking treatment or consultation in Juarez has taken a nosedive, plummeting 99 percent since last year and the beginning of 2011. She did not cite a source for the number.


Straight to the Source