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Nearly 1 million Californians seek medical care in Mexico annually

s have even higher rates of uninsurance for dental care: 77.6 percent and 51.6 percent, respectively.

Not surprisingly, dental care was the most common service obtained by immigrants.

Among non-Latino whites, prescription drugs were the most common medical service obtained in Mexico.

Long-stay immigrants used Mexican health services the most, with 15 percent reporting crossing the border during a year's time for health services. Half of these long-stay immigrants lived far more than 120 miles from the border.

Long-stay immigrants are more likely to be documented than short-stay immigrants, Wallace noted, which makes it easier for them to travel back and forth to Mexico.

Short-stay immigrants those most likely to be undocumented were also the least likely to need medical care in all areas, with one exception: mental health.

"Undocumented immigrants tend to be younger, stronger and consequently healthier," Wallace said. "But they are also the most stressed out, as many are struggling economically, culturally and linguistically."

Short-stay immigrants who sought treatment in Mexico were more often women and were more likely to tell their doctor they were feeling "sad or down."

Other findings:

  • Immigrants who travel to Mexico for health services are not necessarily the poorest. One explanation: The cost of travel may offset any financial savings, creating a disincentive for the very poor to travel.
  • Although cost was the primary factor in seeking health services, cultural and linguistic barriers and immigration factors were also important motivators.

How often immigrants cross the border to Mexico for health services is particularly relevant to efforts to create and expand binational health insurance plans, Wallace said.

Since 2000, several private insurance companies and at least one employer group have developed such pla

Contact: Gwen Driscoll
University of California - Los Angeles

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