Les Hamasaki 2016-05-13 00:45:53
America faces financial challenges in 2016 and beyond – challenges that are as big as the country’s annual spending of $4.1 trillion and its steadily increasing national debt of $19.2 trillion. The problems facing President Obama and Congress are the inflating Baby Boomer Bubble of 71 million seniors by 2030; rising Medicare and Medicaid costs of $934 billion annually; an increasing Social Security cost of $938 billion and the depletion, under current law, of the Social Security Trust Fund by 2036; and all of this in addition to the construction proposed by some presidential candidates of a $10-49 billion, 700-1200 mile “great wall” along the U.S.-Mexico border to stop the flow of undocumented immigrants from the south. Part of the answer to these interconnected challenges is the integration – and not the division - - of North America. Instead of walls and hand-wringing over debt and deficits, the United States should be thinking about Trading Places. We should envision a North American future in which baby boomers become an economic engine for Mexico by going south to live in that country and training local healthcare providers and professionals to head north to become healthcare workers in the U.S., caring for aging Americans here and becoming the new young workforce needed to power America’s economy in the 21st century. Trading Places is shorthand for a solution that will help solve our rising senior healthcare costs while reducing the flow of illegal immigrants from south of the border. The completion in 2017 of a cruise ship port at Rocky Point in Puerto Penasco and the establishment of a cruise line route encircling the Sea of Cortez will open vast opportunities for ecotourism and developments of active-retirement environmentally sensitive “ecovillages,” especially in the San Felipe, La Paz, Cabo San Lucas, and Mazatlán ports of call. The Rocky Point port is strategically located to accommodate millions of tourists from Arizona, California, and Texas to discover and enjoy a senior “Shangri-La” overlooking the inland sea in their golden years. Shangri-La is a fictional Himalayan utopia, an earthly paradise isolated from the outside world where people live years beyond their normal lifespan and slowly age as described in the 1933 novel “Lost Horizon” by British author James Hilton. But a veritable Shangri-La lies in our backyard, south of the border along the 2,500 miles of sandy coastline of the Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California. This unique inland sea is one of the most ecologically diverse seas on the planet and bounded by one of the longest peninsulas in the world. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, more than 5,000 species of micro-invertebrates call it home. This wonderful unspoiled ecosystem must be carefully planned to be a place where nature and man live in harmony. Several major developments are being planned along the Baja coastline to take advantage of the cruise ship line. One of these is an Internet-connected ecovillage catering to seniors called Rancho Costa Verde, a 650-acre planned ecologically sensitive development in San Felipe, a small fishing village with over 20,000 population. According to developer Frank Ingrande, “We are developing and building Rancho Costa Verde as the Shangri-La for baby boomers to enjoy their active retirement years in a truly healthy and stress-free environment. We planned the development to be totally independent from the utility grid with solar energy and an atmospheric water and waste treatment systems.” This green development is a model for other developers to emulate along the peninsula to protect the fragile ecosystem of the inland sea. Many American retirees are living from hand to mouth, with many living on Social Security and limited savings. According to Darla Gogin, a California licensed real estate agent with RMAC Properties, Inc., “Unlike Cabo San Lucas, where the rich and famous have built their dream homes, Rancho Costa Verde is affordable for the average seniors who are retiring on their Social Security income and looking to build their dream home overlooking the Sea of Cortez” (www.ranchocostaverde.com). Just north of Rancho Costa Verde is the Marinazul Golf & Resort, a 3,000- acre mega-development underway by Inveravante, a Spanish corporation owned by billionaire Galician businessman Manuel Jove. The development master plan includes a mixed use of hotels, shops, health spas, golf course, and residential developments. Seniors are the economic engine that developed Miami, Phoenix, and Palm Springs into thriving cities and communities. They can and will be the driving force for creating much-needed jobs in the healthcare and ecotourism industries that, in both the U.S. and Mexico, will have a positive impact on reducing the flow of undocumented immigrants to the north. Nevertheless, America, a nation of immigrants, needs new immigrants to power its economy, especially young able bodies to replace the retiring senior population. Rather than building and maintaining the 700-to-1,952 mile “great wall” proposed by Republican presidential candidates, including Donald Trump to keep Mexican immigrants out, a venture that would ultimately cost taxpayers over $49 billion to acquire land, construct and maintain over a 25 year period, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Services, Congress should work with the Mexican government to help build these senior “smart green” retirement villages with wellness centers, hospitals, and clinics in partnership with local and national healthcare corporations. Imagine a chain of Kaiser Permanente health centers or UCLA Medical Clinics throughout the region as part of a comprehensive bi-national health and wellness program. One of the outstanding issues is the Medicare eligibility of people living outside of the U. S. It boils down to money. Over 25-40% of the yearly $583 billion Medicare pie is spent on “end-of-life” care. These astronomical costs are for keeping our high-tech hospitals functioning and solvent with surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy protocols – to “cut, burn, and poison” -- as well as the pharmaceutical industry humming with high cost of “a pill and bill for every ill.” According to a TIME magazine survey of the comparative cost of surgeries in the U.S. and Mexico, surgical care in Mexico is less than half of the U.S. cost for comparable treatments. TIME quoted examples of Mexican health care costs from various studies and reliable sources. For example, a hip replacement costs $12,000 with Mexican health care compared with $43,000 in the U.S. A coronary bypass in Mexico costs an average of $21,000 compared to $149,000 in the U.S. These savings and the high-quality treatment available south of the border could substantially reduce the cost of Medicare. Many Americans are going on medical tourism vacations to Thailand, India, and Mexico. They are crossing the border from Yuma, Arizona for dental care in Algodones, a town with over 350 dentists. Tijuana is known as an Integrative Medicine Center where U. S. and Mexican medical and health professionals treat thousands of Americans seeking alternative therapy to the predominant surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy protocols. A “digital revolution” is changing the way health professionals are practicing medicine and healthcare. One does not have to be in Los Angeles to enjoy the finest medical services. Today telemedicine clinics and virtual doctors are on call. In the near future, intricate brain surgery will be conducted with robotic surgeon technology with doctors in Los Angeles operating on patients at a properly equipped Mexican hospital. President Obama and Congress must realize that America’s future, safety, security, and financial self-interest are intricately tied with our partners south of the border. America is changing demographically; the Hispanic population is becoming a majority in Texas, California, New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona. By 2050, America will be a multicultural nation with a demographic composition of some 29% Hispanic, 12.5% African American, 9% Asian, and 47% white. All while the Baby Boomer Bubble continues to expand and prepares to burst, with Social Security and Medicare projected to consume nearly 50% of the federal budget as these programs care for over 71 million seniors, almost one-fifth of the U.S. population by 2030. An estimated 9,000 Boomers will turn 65 every day for the next 15 years. In 1935 when Social Security was enacted, there were about 42 workers for every retiree, while today there are just 2.9 workers to support a retiree, and these retirees are living 15 to 20 years longer than they were in 1935 when Social Security was enacted. “A failure on our part to prepare for demographic change will have substantial adverse effects on the economic welfare of our children and grandchildren and on the long-run productive potential of the U.S. economy,” according to former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.Just as millions of legal and “illegal” immigrants from all over the world came to America for a better life and lived the American Dream, our multicultural seniors are in search of a Shangri- La and a chance to live in peace and prosperity as people without borders. A program of “Trading Places” -- Boomers going south and trained healthcare immigrants going north to fill America’s future healthcare demands -- is a viable economic development strategy for both countries, a win-win-win solution for our seniors, America, and Mexico.
Published by Moreno Valley Business Journal. View All Articles.