153598 Mexican Health Care Providers: A safety net for uninsured immigrants residing in USA?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007: 8:48 AM

Nuria Homedes, MD, DrPH , Global Health Program, University of Texas, School of Public Health, El PAso, TX
Carla Alvarado , School of Public Health, University of Texas, El Paso, TX
Along the US-Mexico border there are thirteen metropolitan areas that are divided by an international border. The US-side of the border houses a disproportionate amount of uninsured, about 40% in El Paso County, and the percentage continues to increase. Many US residents, insured and uninsured, cross the border in search of medical and/or dental services and to purchase medicines. US policy-makers and professional associations discourage the use of Mexican health providers and blame Mexican pharmacies for the irrational consumption of medicines at the border.

To be able to contribute to the policy dialogue, we decided to document the factors that prompt El Pasoans to seek services in Mexico, and ascertain the risks and benefits associated with this practice. We conducted 81 in-depth structured interviews in 68 low-income and immigrant households in El Paso County, about half in the rural area and half in the city. Almost a third of our respondents (29) were US citizens, 39 were undocumented, 9 were processing their papers, and 4 had a local visa.

Our study found that the vast majority of respondents, including the insured, relied on Mexican providers and pharmaceuticals. Lower cost was the main reason for crossing the border but there were other factors including: ability to see a provider during non-working hours, knowing the cost of the service, trust (in both providers and pharmaceuticals), no need for appointments, no bureaucracy, and prior negative experiences with the US system (poor treatment, huge unexpected bills). Many low-income borderlanders benefit from our Mexican neighbors.

Learning Objectives:
1. To understand the factors that prompt low-income immigrants in EL Paso to seek services in Mexico. 2. Ascertain the risks and benefits associated with the health seeking behavior of immigrants residing in rural and urban areas of El Paso County (Texas)

Keywords: Access to Health Care, Immigrants

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
Any institutionally-contracted trials related to this submission?

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.