Just a little more than 70 miles from the U.S. border with Mexico, Tucson’s health care and tourism establishments are embarking on a campaign to make the city a better known healthcare and wellness destination for international visitors, particularly Mexican families with enough disposable income to pay for medical care in the United States.
The multi-faced effort will include a website in Spanish and concierge services to help tourists find the health care they need. “Tucson’s healthcare sector is one of our strengths,” Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said in a statement reported by the Arizona Daily Star. “This new association will help promote Tucson as a health care and wellness destination to international visitors.”
Heading up the effort is the Tucson Health Association—a group that includes Visit Tucson, Banner Health, the Carondelet Health Network, Northwest Medical Center and Tucson Medical Center. It hopes to entice tourists to come to the city for elective, nonemergency services.
Certain areas in the United States have already established medical campuses that provide a wide gamut of elective health care services, and they have worked with local tourism offices in their promotions, since most surgery requires periods of recuperation and follow-up visits. A stay in the USA can easily last several weeks and, often, the patient seeking surgery is accompanied by family members. All of this translates into a large number of room nights as well as significant per capita spend at a destination’s restaurants, attractions and entertainment venues.
Josef Woodman, CEO of the North Carolina-based Patients Beyond Borders, told the Daily Star that approximately 250,000 medical tourists come to the U.S. for treatment each year and spend as much as $40,000 per patient.
One factor contributing to the growth of the medical tourism sector in the USA has been the growth of more generous health care plans abroad—plans that cover the kind of elective, non-essential medical care for which the U.S. is known.
However, says Felipe Garcia, executive vice president of Visit Tucson, although some Mexican insurers will pay for certain procedures in the U.S., the Tucson Health Association expects most visitors will likely pay out-of-pocket for the procedures.
“If your patient needs a certain procedure we have in the U.S., we’ll take care of it in Tucson, do the surgery and then we’ll send the patient back to Mexico where the provider there can take the next step with recovery,” Garcia said.