Tucson aims to become medical tourism mecca

Hospital entance
Tucson, Arizona is on a mission to become a healthcare and wellness destination for international visitors, particularly Mexican families with enough disposable income to pay for medical care in the United States. Photo credit: Getty/monkeybusinessimages

Tucson, Arizona, is on a mission to become a healthcare and wellness destination for international visitors, particularly Mexican families with enough disposable income to pay for medical care in the United States.

The Tucson Health Association—which includes Banner Health, the Carondelet Health Network, Northwest Medical Center and Tucson Medical Center—hopes to entice tourists to come to the city for elective, nonemergency services, such as total knee replacements, the Arizona Daily Star reports.

Although some Mexican insurers will pay for certain procedures in the U.S., Felipe Garcia, executive vice president of Visit Tucson, which is also a member of the 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.

Tucson hospitals are hoping their efforts will be as successful as Texas Medical Center in Houston, a group of nonprofit health providers that includes MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Texas Children’s Hospital. Those provider attract 15,000 medical tourists a year, according to the article.

Medical tourism has become a lucrative business, for both healthcare providers and the local community, as visitors usually have extended stays in hotels and leased apartments, according to the article. Josef Woodman, CEO of the North Carolina-based Patients Beyond Borders, told the publication that approximately 250,000 medical tourists come to the U.S. for treatment each year and spend as much as $40,000 per patient.

To attract Mexican patients, Visit Tucson intends to develop a website in Spanish and hire a concierge to help patients connect with medical care in Tucson and navigate the healthcare system. It plans to market heavily to those who live in the Northern Mexico area due to geographical proximity. Eventually the association plans to market medical services to Canadian citizens.