Some Immigrants In Calif. Seek Mexico Health Care

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In California, some Mexican-Americans are get their medical and dental care in Mexico, where it's much cheaper than in the U.S. And despite the new health care law, it's likely that many will continue to do so.


Here in California, some Mexican-Americans are getting their medical and dental care in Mexico. It's cheaper there than in the U.S., and despite the new health care law, it's likely that many will continue to do so. From Los Angeles, Jennifer Obakhume of Youth Radio has this report.

JENNIFER OBAKHUME: Cesscia Rojo and her sister Adriana are young and healthy, except they have dental issues - major ones. Cesscia says they used to go to Tijuana, Mexico when they needed care.

Ms. CESSCIA ROJO: I went to TJ and thats where they started the root canal. When I came back is when all the problems started with the drugs dealers and things, so I wasnt going back to TJ anytime soon.

OBAKHUME: Both sisters have tried to get dental care in the U.S. Adriana used a free clinic in Southern California to have a broken tooth pulled, but she needs more dental work.

Ms. ADRIANA ROJO: I still have a hole in my mouth. It hurts sometimes, like if I chew bread 'cause it goes in there and it hurts, but other than that its good.

OBAKHUME: The sisters live at a home with their parents. Cesscia says they enjoy cooking dinner together every night.

Ms. C. ROJO: Really, you know, Mexican culture, we, they hold on to us until were married. And were not married yet so were here until we finish school. And then well take them in. And were just going to stay together.

OBAKHUME: The family has lived legally in the United States for years. Some members have insurance, some don't. Cesscia says her relatives still often go to Mexico for medical treatment. Almost a million Californians get health care in Mexico each year, according to the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

Ms. C. ROJO: I know a lot of my cousins have done it, and my aunts and uncles have done it. Its about half as much as you would pay here, which is still a lot of money, but much less. Youre not going to find, you know, a dentist for sixty bucks to patch up your hole. Its a couple grand.

OBAKHUME: But Cesscia and Adriana are too worried about the violence to go back to Mexico, so they get basic health services, like immunizations, at school. And for acute or chronic conditions, theyre on their own. Adriana says she just ignores her health issues, like her broken tooth.

Ms. A. ROJO: My main concern, and I know my sister's main concern, is that, like, I still have an infection - I might still have one but we're not sure -we cant do anything about it, so I try not to think about it.

OBAKHUME: The president has just signed the health bill, but Adriana hasn't given much thought to what the new law will mean for her. Her focus is on finishing school and then finding a job to pay for medical and dental care.

For NPR News, I'm Jennifer Obakhume.

MONTAGNE: And that story was produced by Youth Radio.

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