Mark Bolzern, traveled 3,700 miles to go to the dentist. The 56-year-old Anchorage, Alaska, native left home this spring, made a pit stop in Las Vegas to pick up a friend and then kept heading south until crossing the border into Los Algodones. That little trip into Mexico saved him $62,000.
Republicans may want to hold off on building that giant fence along the U.S./Mexican border otherwise a majority of their elderly constituents may not be able to affordable dental care.
Nearly 70 percent of seniors have no dental insurance, 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.
Bolzern’s procedure required him to have his teeth raised and for a new crown to be put on every molar. Bolzern, who has no health insurance was told by a private dentist that the the entire procedure would cost around $65,000. After shopping around he found dental school that would do the procedure for $35,000 because it would be done by students. The place Bolzern found in Los Algodones, Mexico charged him a total of $3,000 for the procedure.
Dentists in Los Algodones 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.”
Bolzern could have flown to Mexico first-class roundtrip and still saved tens of thousands of dollars for what the procedure would have cost him in the United States.