You probably haven’t heard about it, but there’s another mass migration coming across the U.S.-Mexico border. However, these are not Central American families fleeing horrific conditions back home — only to be separated, incarcerated, traumatized and demonized by the Trump Gang for seeking humanitarian asylum in our country.
Rather, these migrants are going the other way, from the USA into Mexican border towns, where they’re welcomed with open arms instead of armed guards. They are mostly working-class people seeking relief from our nation’s unaffordable, no-care health care system. As many as 6,000 a day travel to towns like Los Algodones, across from Yuma, Arizona, to get medical services and prescription drugs that are priced out of their reach here in the U.S.
Nicknamed “Molar City,” Los Algodones has more dentists per capita than anywhere in the world — quality dental work in Mexico averages two-thirds less than it costs here.
This is because the health system there prioritizes care over profits. Start with professional education, which is tuition-free in Mexico, meaning dentists and other health care providers don’t have to jack up prices to cover a crushing load of student debt. Also, Mexico’s universal, tax-paid health care system doesn’t saddle patients with exorbitantly expensive insurance bureaucracies. It’s a system that’s open, affordable and accessible to all — the opposite of ours, which is why hordes of U.S. working-class people go south to find care. As a Truthout article reports, “U.S. citizens seeking health care can park in Yuma for $5, walk across the border, get the help they need and come back for dinner.”
At the same time Donald Trump fans the embers of xenophobia in our country by demonizing caravans of desperate Latinos headed north from Central America, there are other northern-bound caravans he doesn’t mention.
These are U.S. citizens crossing our northern border into Canada, seeking relief from the profiteering cartels that run our country’s predatory health system. Specifically, these people are among the millions of Americans who’ve literally been sickened by the price-gouging of pharmaceutical giants.
For example, The Washington Post reports that from 2012 to 2016, drug-makers have nearly doubled the U.S. price of life-saving insulin. It’s a massive highway robbery that Trump & Company ignore, even though it creates a financial strain so severe that many patients try cheating death by skipping some dosages — always a dangerous gamble. (In Colorado, the first state to cap insulin co-pays, patients will pay no more than $100 a month for insulin beginning Jan. 1.)
Outraged and desperate, many diabetics and their families are taking matters into their own hands by making cross-border drug runs into towns just north of the U.S.-Canada line. They’re drawn there by Canada’s single-payer health care system, which protects consumers from price-gouging. As the Post reported, one small group of Minnesotans recently caravanned from their home into an Ontario border town where they could buy a supply of insulin for about $1,200 — versus the $12,000 they would’ve been charged in the U.S.
Good for them, but why should anyone in our incomparably rich nation have to make border runs to get essential health care? As the organizer of this Minnesota caravan put it: “When you have a bad health care system, it makes good people feel like outlaws. It’s demeaning. It’s demoralizing. It’s unjust.”
Instead of building a senseless border wall to keep people out of the U.S., our leaders ought to be looking across the borders for ideas on how to build a better health care system.
You can contact Hightower at jimhightower.com.