A recent article in Forbes Magazine reported on a lobbying effort to allow Americans living in Mexico to use their Medicare benefits there. There are over 1 million U.S. citizens living in Mexico and many of them are retirees. Currently, Medicare will not pay for medical services provided outside the United States or its territories.
Leading the lobbying effort is Paul Crist who runs a hotel in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. He is a former aide to Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md) and he has founded the non-profit “Americans For Medicare In Mexico”. As a former Washington insider, he knows how Congress works and has lobbied 85 members in the U.S. Congress to try to get Medicare accepted south of the border.
According to the Forbes article, 64% of retired Americans living in Mexico return to the U.S. for medical treatment, with the rest getting treated in Mexico but picking up the costs themselves.
Americans living in Mexico can pay out-of-pocket because “health care is extremely affordable in Mexico with or without health insurance,” as are “comprehensive private insurance policies,” according to MedToGo.com.
An office visit to a doctor in a Mexican city typically runs between $30 and $40, according to MedToGo, while a hospital room costs $90 to $100 a night. Besides private health care insurance, the Mexican Institute of Social Security provides affordable, basic health insurance for all Mexican residents, regardless of nationality. Studies suggest that health care services are 70% less expensive in Mexico than in the U.S.
According to Mr. Crist, if Medicare were accepted in Mexico, the 64% of American retirees currently flying back to the U.S. for expensive care would instead opt for treatment in Mexico, cutting Medicare’s overall costs by a minimum of 22% .
Mr. Crist is pushing for a three-year Mexico-Medicare pilot project to test the idea. Apparently Medicare has funded many pilot projects over the years to try out new ideas for providing Medicare-funded medical services.
The Forbes article said allowing Medicare to be used in Mexico could also help ease immigration pressure. This is because many long-term U.S. residents who were born in Mexico, and are interested in returning there when they retire, would no longer be reluctant to do so for fear of losing their Medicare benefits.