The rising cost of health care in the United States is forcing an increasing number of U.S. citizens to turn their sights on Mexico for expert and cost-effective medical attention. But what about the health care for the elderly Americans who are already residing in Mexico? Should they be covered by Medicare in Mexico or should they have to fly back to America every time they need major medical care? Can the medical care providers in Mexico be trusted with the health of American seniors? Here’s an excellent read that recently appeared in a Mexican newspaper.

According to Paul Crist, the founder and president of Americans for Medicare for Mexico (AMMAC), a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing Medicare coverage to seniors living in Mexico, of the 800,000 American citizens living in Mexico approximately 200,000 are over 60 years old and thus are at or near eligibility for Medicare benefits.

Christ has lobbied 85 members of the U.S. Congress and prepared a 34-page proposal in which he outlines the pros of extending Medicare to Mexico. Medicare is now spending 6,700 dollars per year per beneficiary in the United States. For the same care in Mexico, Crist estimates that it will spend only 3,400 dollars, which translates to a very substantial saving.

Crist says that if Medicare is extended to Mexico, the program would only work with health care providers approved by JCI.

Although the health sector in Mexico is regulated and certified by the Mexican General Health Commission, the task of getting JCI certification for Mexico’s private hospitals is of prime importance.

One of the main reasons for pushing for certification is that the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA obligates the Mexican medical system to be on a par with the United States and Canada, allowing for the free flow of patients from border to border and for fair trade, much like in other economic sectors.

But there is another huge reason for this interest in JCI certification and that is Medicare.

Crist revealed that ten hospitals in Mexico have JCI accreditation but another 23 are seeking approval. Among those already approved are the American British Padre Hospital and the Santa Fe Hospital in Mexico City and the Christus Muguerza Hospital and the Hospital Tec de Monterrey in Monterrey.

The approval of Medicare would greatly benefit hospitals such as Christus Muguerza, a Texas chain that now has seven hospitals under construction across Mexico. They have the advantage because their headquarters is in Texas, which gives Medicare a bit more confidence in the quality service they are going to provide.

In a recent interview with Forbes magazine, David Warner, a professor of health care policy at the University of Texas at Austin and a specialist on Medicare in Mexico, stated that an in-depth pilot project is needed to better understand the economics, determine whether Mexican heath care meets Medicare’s quality standards and determine if the payment system is sufficiently free of fraud.

According to Forbes, the U.S government is concerned that creating a Mexican medical exemption might be too complicated and costly to implement and would open the door for Americans in other countries.

Crist figures that if Medicare were accepted in Mexico, the 64 percent of American retirees currently flying back to the United States for expensive care would opt for treatment nearer their homes, cutting Medicare overall costs by a minimum of 22 percent.

Source: Guadalajara Reporter

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