Mexico City hopes to lure Chicagoans by touting cheaper health care

SMU Law Professor Nathan Cortez talks about the legal risks associated with seeking medical care in a foreign country.

By Deborah L. Shelton and Antonio Olivo
Chicago Tribune reporters

Banking on worries over rising health costs in the U.S., government and hospital officials in Mexico City are courting Chicagoans searching for affordable medical care.

On Wednesday, about a dozen Chicago health professionals and several others embarked on a health care tour of Mexico City, part of a campaign to raise that city's profile as a center for medical tourism. The campaign is aimed at residents in Chicago and other cities with large Mexican immigrant populations who need cancer treatment, heart surgeries, dental procedures and other health care.

Going outside the U.S. for health care is not without risks. No one tracks complication rates or whether patients are harmed by medical malpractice at higher rates than in U.S. hospitals.

"In the United States, you know you are dealing with overlapping state and federal regulations and a legal system that you know will provide some recourse or at least will treat you the same regardless of where you are treated. This is something you (might) take for granted when you leave U.S. jurisdiction," said Nathan Cortez, an expert in health law.

"Most patients will go to quality facilities in Mexico, but at the same time … this is something that is not without risks, and patients need to educate themselves," said Cortez, an assistant professor at the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in Dallas.

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