Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t endorse traveling to another country for medical care, the Fierros are among millions of Americans each year who do so. Many of them are fleeing expensive care in the U.S., even with health insurance.
Acosta, who is from the Mexican state of Sinaloa and is a graduate of the Autonomous University of Sinaloa, moved to Mexicali 20 years ago. He witnessed firsthand the growth of the medical tourism industry.
He sees about 14 patients a day (no appointment necessary), and 30% to 40% of those are from the U.S. He charges $8 for typical visits.
In Mexicali, a mile from La Chinesca, where the family doctors have their modest offices, are medical facilities that rival those in the United States. The facilities have international certification and are considered expensive, but they are still cheaper than hospitals in the U.S.
Resolution: Both Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas and Yuma Regional Medical Center declined to discuss the Fierros’ bills with KHN, even though Jesús Sr. and Claudia gave written permission for them to do so.
In a statement, Yuma Regional Medical Center spokesperson Machele Headington said, “Applying for financial support starts with an application — a service we extended, and still extend, to these patients.”
In an email, Kraft, the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas spokesperson, said: “We understand the frustration our members experience when they receive a bill containing COVID-19 charges that they do not understand, or feel may be inappropriate.”
The Fierros are planning to apply to the hospital for financial support for their outstanding debts. But Claudia said never again. “I told Jesús, ‘If I faint again, please drive me home,’” rather than calling an ambulance, she said.
“We pay $1,000 premium monthly for our employment-based insurance,” added Jesús. “We should not have to live with this stress.”
The Takeaway: Be aware that your deductible “meter” starts over every year and that virtually any emergency care can generate a bill in the thousands of dollars and may leave you owing most of your deductible and out-of-pocket maximum.