Medical tourism: Nogales residents feel safe, will continue to cross border for treatment

As kidnappings in Mexico draw attention, Nogales residents say they and many from out-of-town will continue to cross.
As the Mexico kidnappings draw attention to medical tourism, Nogales residents say they and many from out-of-town will continue to cross.
Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 7:00 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Medical tourism is not a new concept, but the recent kidnappings in Matamoros, Mexico have put it in the spotlight.

And despite the tragedy, Nogales, Arizona residents say they feel safe and will continue to travel across the border for treatment and prescriptions.

“If they have been doing it for quite some time, I don’t see why they are going to change their mind or perspective on crossing the border,” said Arturo Jimenez, a Nogales resident. “This is a really small community and there is no reason for us to be alarmed or scared. Not sure about the rest of the border towns, but here in Nogales we feel safe.”

Jimenez and his family cross the border once a month to see the dentist. They have been doing this for years and do not intend to stop. The reason for this decision is because of the price they pay for treatment.

“The reason that we do it is that it is more convenient for us, the cost is a lot cheaper for us, especially for insurance purposes,” Jimenez said.

Each year, nearly 1.2 million Americans travel to Mexico for prescriptions, cosmetic surgery, orthopedics, and dental work. They can save an average of 40% to 60% on the most common medical procedures, according to Patients Beyond Borders.

And despite the events in Matamoros, CEO Josef Woodman of Patients Beyond Borders said they have seen an uptake in people inquiring about services in the past 36 hours.

“If you’re looking at saving $15,000, $20,000, or $30,000, that’s real money to people, and it makes a difference on whether they have to get a second mortgage on their home, whether they can send their kid to a second year of school. So these are very real factors affecting a large and growing segment of the US population,” Woodman said.

Nogales resident Louie Morales said he has been traveling over the border for years. He adds that he has never felt unsafe crossing in Nogales.

Therefore, he will continue to cross because of the price he pays for his prescriptions.

“If there are certain prescriptions you can’t get here, you have to go to a doctor and spend hundreds of dollars. For $5 or $10 you can get a doctor’s approval to get whatever you need,” Morales said.

Morales and the Jimenez family agree that what happened in Matamoros will not stop people in Nogales or out-of-town from crossing for treatment.

“It really is fairly easy, and I don’t think it’s even that big of a deal for people that are living in Tucson or Phoenix, so I think it is a good thing and it will continue,” Morales said.

Woodman adds that violence against medical tourists is rare, but said looking for the cheapest location is a blueprint for disaster.

“The risk is not on the streets. It’s in the clinics. It’s on the clinic side, choosing the right clinic and getting the right price,” Woodman said. “You don’t want to price shop for example. You don’t want to go to the very least expensive clinic that’s offering the least expensive surgeries. There can be a lot of trouble around that as well.”

If people are contemplating getting medical or dental work done in Mexico, Woodman adds it is important that they go through an accredited, established, and trusted provider. They will help vet clinics and assist with travel.