Crossing the border for affordable health care

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Many in New Mexico, especially here in the southern part of the state, can probably relate to this story:

This winter I resolved to fix all of this, even though I had no dental insurance. I was too cheap for a friend’s dentist in Philadelphia, who recommended gum surgery and four new veneers for $9,000, or the Manhattan dentist who wanted $6,000 just for veneers. I didn’t trust the NYU dental school, where I’d experienced work I thought was botched, and in any case, the quote of $2,000 for four veneers came with “no guarantees.”

I considered dental spas in Thailand or Costa Rica, where the price of a plane ticket and hotel offsets the extremely cheap rate of the work. Then my father told me about a co-worker who had taken his son to Mexico for a tooth extraction that cost all of $30. I had already paid for a plane ticket to visit my family in Sierra Vista, Arizona, so I started asking Arizona friends about Mexican dentists.

With tougher restrictions coming at the border, this type of trip might be harder to pull off, but you can’t argue with the results:

When Gonzalez was finished, the crowns looked better than my teeth had looked for 23 years. Six weeks later, I have a mouthful of natural-looking, relatively comfortable crowns, and though I worry a bit over one tooth’s slight sensitivity to heat and cold, it’s not intense enough to merit even an aspirin.

Before I left Mexico with my parents and their friends, who’d come along for the trip this time, I watched them wheel and deal their way through the kids’ candy store of Mexican health care. My dad stopped to pick up some cut-rate Prilosec. My mom’s friend filled a new prescription for her eyeglasses. When we got to the border crossing, the customs agent asked, “What did you buy in Mexico?” I just smiled.

The writer paid $300 per crown.

I’ve never actually made such a trip (though members of my family have), but the appeal is real: relatively good dentistry or optometry for dirt cheap prices.

Via TAPPED, where Garance jokes:

“What do you get when you cross NAFTA with the Clinton Healthcare Plan? Affordable health care for everyone — you just have to go to Mexico to get it.”

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