U.S. travelers seek cheaper prescription drugs in Mexico and beyond

The U.S. government estimates that nearly 1 million people in California alone cross to Mexico annually for health care, including to buy prescription drugs. Between 150,000 and 320,000 Americans a year list health care as a reason for traveling abroad, with cost savings most commonly cited as the reason. In Utah last year, the Public Employee Health Plan (PEHP) included a voluntary Pharmacy Tourism Program. For certain PEHP members who use any of 13 costly prescription medications, the insurer will pay the bill to fly the patient and a companion to San Diego, then drive them to a hospital in Tijuana, Mexico, to pick up a 90-day supply of medicine. The program was part of a Right to Shop bill championed by health care economist and Utah state Rep. Norm Thurston in 2018. Thurston says there is not yet enough data to know how much in savings the program provides; the first patients traveled to Tijuana in December. The Utah program sends its patients only to a designated, accredited Mexican hospital.

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