While many of us continue muttering in hushed, desperate tones that we’re about to wake up from a bad dream, we are in fact only days away from facing our new, tragic reality: Donald Trump is president of the United States. And the Republican Party holds both the House and Senate. Sadly, we’re already starting to see what shape this hellish new status quo will take as Republicans triumphantly announce plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act; but their total lack of a viable alternative has left all of us wondering what that could mean for the future of American healthcare. One dusty Mexican border town might hold the answer.
Los Algodones, Baja California is a small town of approximately 5,000 that occupies a sharp angle at the corner of California, Arizona, and Mexico. Located only seven miles from the city of Yuma – a favorite winter destination for elderly snowbirds – Los Algodones has emerged as an industry town providing services to border-crossing Americans at cut-rate prices. Their racket? Dentistry.
Indeed, according to a recent article in the Pacific Standard, Los Algodones boasts nearly 350 dentists amongst its illustrious citizens, with a disproportionate number of optometrists, audiologists, and pharmacists rounding out a professional ecosystem in which just about everyone is connected to the healthcare hustle. Rather than border guards, visitors crossing over the from the US are greeted by informal “pickers” who promise access to the best dentists, and guide them through a dense strip of storefronts bearing large-print English-language signs.
With prices running as low as $30 for a filling, or $180 for a crown, it’s no surprise that Los Algodones has secured a faithful clientele – may of whom are retirees with inadequate insurance policies or, in some cases, no insurance at all. With the same procedures costing as much as ten-times more in the United States, visitors from as far away as Tacoma, Washington find it more economical to pay the cost of travel and get their work done south of the border.
Now, assuming the Republicans actually get their way, the ranks of the underinsured may soon be booming once again, and Donald Trump’s delusions of desperate masses pouring across the border may actually be going in the other direction. Then again, maybe Republicans will eventually come to their senses. Here’s hoping for a miracle.