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Mexico City Offers Free Health Insurance to Tourists

Ben Cole, for HealthLeaders Media, August 4, 2009

Consumers all over the world struggling to find healthcare coverage now have an option to get it affordably—they'll just have to travel to Mexico City.

The government of Mexico City is responding to recent events, such as the H1N1 flu crisis, and its effect on its tourism industry, by offering free health insurance to tourists who stay in the city's hotels.

Under the plan, which city officials tout as the first of its kind, the Ministry of Tourism of Mexico City will subsidize the following services:

  • Medical assistance in case of H1N1 infection
  • Medical care in case of any other disease or accident
  • Provision of an ambulance in case of an accident
  • Hospital accommodation in case of any emergency
  • Prescription of drugs from cooperating physicians
  • Emergency dental care
  • Home transportation in case of illness
  • Hotel accommodation for time of recovery

The plan, called the "Tourist Assistance Card," applies to guests at all of Mexico City's 470 hotels. Tourists will be given pamphlets explaining the program upon arrival at the city's airport, and a 24-hour call center will provide assistance in several languages. The city is paying deductibles for the insurance, provided through the private company MAPFRE.

The Mexican tourism industry was hit particularly hard by the swine flu scare: Officials said foreign tourism plunged 50% in May due to swine flu and the recession. Mexican central bank statistics also showed revenue from international tourists fell by more than $540 million compared to figures from May 2008. In addition, the bank said the number of foreign tourists who visited Mexico in May was half the figure that visited in April (1 million to 500,000).

Tourism is Mexico's third-largest source of foreign income, and in April Mexican business associations estimated the country lost more than $1 billion in revenue since the beginning of the outbreak. Publicity about violence among rival drug cartels in the country have also not helped attract tourists to the country this year, either.

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