Americans often travel to Mexico for low-cost medical services. But bargain shopping for healthcare can be risky.
Over the weekend, four Americans were kidnapped in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, after travelling by car to the Mexican border town for cosmetic surgery, according to relatives. Two have been confirmed dead, and two survived the ordeal.
Border towns like Matamoros are among the most dangerous in Mexico. Drug cartels control large regions of the state of Tamaulipas, and often hold more power than local law enforcement.
But these towns are some of the top medical tourism destinations for tens of thousands of Americans, some who can't afford healthcare in the US.
Medical shoppers, especially those familiar with the region, have learned to take precautions, like registering their vehicle in Mexico, which allows them to change the licence plate to a Mexican one after entering the country by car so they will be less of a target, and avoiding wandering around these towns on foot.
Price and proximity make Mexico a top medical tourism destination for Americans.
"It's economics," said Néstor Rodriguez, an immigration studies expert and professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. "Medicines and services are cheaper in Mexico, especially dental procedures. You can get your teeth cleaned or an implant for a fraction of the cost of what you get in the US."
The quality of care usually matches what a patient can find in the US, he added, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have warned about infections from surgical procedures in Mexico.
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