1M California Residents Travel to Mexico Annually for Health Care, Study Finds
About one million adults living in California, including 500,000 immigrants, travel to Mexico for health care each year, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Medical Care, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
For the study, researchers led by Steven Wallace, associate director of the Center for Health Policy Research at the University of California-Los Angeles, analyzed data from the 2001 California Health Interview Survey, which surveyed more than 55,000 households across the state. The survey, which is conducted every two years, is funded by several agencies and groups, including the California Department of Public Health, the National Cancer Institute and the California Endowment. The new study was the first to look at people traveling to Mexico for health care.
The study found that more than 13% of Mexican immigrants and 4% of all adults living in California sought care in Mexico. According to Wallace, the number of people seeking care in Mexico likely will increase as the number of Mexican immigrants living California goes up and more people become uninsured. In addition, the study found that immigrants who had lived in California for fewer than 15 years were less likely to leave the U.S. for medical care. According to the Union-Tribune, many immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for less than 15 years are undocumented and might have a harder time re-entering the country.
The study also found:
- Among immigrants, the No. 1 reason for health-related travel to Mexico was dental care, while the No. 1 reason among all other people was to purchase prescription drugs;
- 7% of the 464,000 non-Hispanic people who sought treatment in Mexico received medical procedures, such as surgery or treatment for cancer; and
- People who lived within 15 miles of the California-Mexico border were more likely to seek health services in Mexico.
About half of the people who seek care in Mexico are immigrants from Mexico, which could challenge the perception that immigrants are placing a burden on California's health system, Wallace said. "What this helps document is that (some) immigrants are facing barriers to receiving care in the United States, and they are turning to Mexico for that care," Wallace said. He added that "it's not just immigrants facing barriers here" (Darce, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/26).
An abstract of the study is available online. This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.