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Nearly 1 million Californians seek medical care in Mexico annually
Date:5/26/2009

Driven by rising health care costs at home, nearly 1 million Californians cross the border each year to seek medical care in Mexico, according a new paper by UCLA researchers and colleagues published today in the journal Medical Care.

An estimated 952,000 California adults sought medical, dental or prescription services in Mexico annually, and of these, 488,000 were Mexican immigrants, according to the research paper, "Heading South: Why Mexican Immigrants in California Seek Health Services in Mexico."

The paper is the first large-scale population-based research ever published on U.S. residents who travel to Mexico for health services. It is based on an analysis of 2001 data from the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), the nation's largest state health survey.

"What the research shows is that many Californians, especially Mexican immigrants, go to Mexico for health services," said lead author Steven P. Wallace, associate director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, which conducts CHIS. "We already know that immigrants use less health care overall than people born in the U.S. Heading south of the border further reduces the demand on U.S. facilities."

Cost and lack of insurance were primary reasons both Mexican and non-Mexican U.S. residents sought health services across the border.

Both "long-stay" Mexican immigrants (those in the U.S. for more than 15 years) and "short-stay" immigrants (less than 15 years) have high rates of uninsurance: 51.5 percent of short-stay immigrants and 29 percent of long-stay immigrants do not have medical insurance.

"This points to the importance of expanding work-based insurance in health care reform, since virtually all Mexican immigrants are in working families," said co-author Xochitl Casteada, director of the Health Initiative of the Americas at the University of California, Berkeley.

Both short-stay and long-stay immigrant
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Contact: Gwen Driscoll
gdriscoll@ucla.edu
310-794-0930
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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