Mark Bolzern a 56 year old Anchorage, Alaska man has caused disconcert after driving 3700 miles in order to get around paying $65 000 for necessary dental care, in the end only having to pay $3500 when he was treated in Mexico.
The story of the yet another American traveling over the border or internationally in search of more affordable and reasonable health care comes as ever increasing debate over sky high medical and dental work and what insurance companies are ‘willing’ to cover (not much).
With dental work surging at a rate of 5% annually and with many dental plans with high deductibles and not offering extensive coverage, many like Bolzern choose to opt out (if not against their will).
Whilst 60 percent of Americans have dental insurance coverage, the highest it has been in decades, the nation’s older population has been largely left behind.
Nearly 70 percent of seniors are not insured, according to a study compiled by Oral Health America. A major reason is because dental care is not covered by Medicare and many employers no longer offer post-retirement health benefits. What’s more, the Affordable Care Act allows enrollees to get dental coverage only if they purchase general health coverage first, which many seniors don’t need. At the same time, seniors often require the most costly dental work, like crowns, implants and false teeth.
According to a report via AP, Bolzern, a pensioner first attempted to get necessary work done in the US, but after being quoted a fee of $65K by a private dentist to place a crown on every molar the man sought out dental schools in the hope of less expensive work. Nevertheless even work performed by dental students was going to set him back as much as $35 000, leading to the desperate man deciding to head out on a long road trip.
The trek to Mexico parallels other Americans who choose to cross the border where they are able to pick up much needed medical supplies, including prescription pills for a fraction of the cost here in the US.
Going abroad for cheaper health care is nothing new. Americans have been doing it for years, for everything from elective, cosmetic procedures to major, life-saving surgery.
That said, traveling abroad for necessary medical work comes with some risk, with Matthew Messina, a practicing dentist and consumer adviser on behalf of the American Dental Association, advising would be travelers to do a lot of research before they go.
With lower costs because of cheaper labor and fewer regulatory requirements, Messina also warns that many different countries use different types of equipment, and some items, such as implants, may not have warranties. Malpractice lawsuits the consumer advocate advises may not be an option.
Dentists in Los Algodones, Mexico ( a favorite destination of US dental patients) say they attend less school than their counterparts in U.S. but spend more time practicing clinical work. They say they practice the same safety standards as American dentists and have offices that are just as clean.
José Obed Zuñiga has been a dentist in Los Algodones for a decade and found business was so good he opened his own shop about two years ago.
‘Everything, the quality, is very similar to the United States,‘ Zuñiga said. ‘We see the work from the United States, and it’s very competitive.’