Medical tourism is booming in Mexico

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico -- A growing number of Americans are traveling abroad for lower cost medical care. Now, many in the medical tourism business see big opportunities in Mexico, especially at popular beachfront destinations.

While Mexico's beaches beckon tourists seeking a vacation, many also see them as a place where Americans can escape soaring medical costs.

"We can provide anywhere from 25 percent to 45 percent savings," said Collin Childress of Global MedChoices. His company offers orthopedic surgery in the Caribbean. "The main thing is to provide care that's as good as or equivalent to the United States."

Medical tourism is a growing industry. And many see Mexico as the next big destination.

"You've had a number of U.S. citizens make the trip to India," said Bruce Fry of Fry Construction. "There's no comparison if you've ever flown on a flight that's that long. If there's nothing wrong with you, it's difficult at best."

Fry's Texas-based company builds medical facilities in the United States. He's hoping to expand to Mexico.

"You also have a facility that meets the same standards and specs you would have, so the only real difference is that you're having the procedure done outside the U.S.," Fry said.

His company is now searching for a new beachfront location to build a state-of-the-art medical center. Possible locations include Puerto Vallarta, Cozumel and Playa del Carmen.

Investors believe we'll see many vacation spots in Mexico become medical tourism destinations within the next year. Their plan is to start by partnering with existing hospitals. There are bureaucratic and regulatory hurdles, but proponents believe the concept will work in Mexico.

And while drug violence has scared some Americans away from certain parts of Mexico, resort areas remain among the top vacation destinations.