Tourists get free insurance
Officials in Mexico City hope to lure skittish tourists with unusual bait: free health insurance. Under a new program, tourists who stay in participating hotels in the city are eligible for free coverage for emergency medical care, hospital stays, prescription drugs and ambulance services.
The initiative, called the “Tourist Assistance Card,” grew out of Mexico’s recent H1N1 flu crisis, which sent tourism plunging nationwide as would-be travelers steered clear. In Mexico City, which had the country’s most reported flu cases, a near-complete shutdown hammered hotels and restaurants, compounding damage caused by the global recession.
The insurance program is run by the city’s tourism office through a private insurer, MAPFRE. Anyone staying at a Mexico City hotel is eligible for coverage, officials said, and can get help by dialing a call center, which will have attendants fluent in English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish.
A deductible will apply for some services, but officials did not provide details.
“Of all the world’s largest cities, Mexico City is the first to try this,” Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said at a ceremony unveiling the service.
Mexican tourism officials expect depressing year-end results, partly because of the flu outbreak and the recession. Tourists also have stayed away because of drug-related violence that has killed more than 9,000 since January 2008, according to unofficial tallies in the Mexican media.
For more information on the insurance program, visit the Medical Care and Assistance Section of the city’s tourism website: www.mex icocity.gob.mx/contenido .php?cat=50500⊂=13
-- Ken Ellingwood
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-- From Times wires and staff
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-- From Times wires and staff
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The U.S. State Department recently issued warnings or alerts for these areas:
Honduras, because of political instability.
Kenya, because of continuing threats from terrorism and violent crime.
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