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CNBC's Jane Wells: Cross Border Insurance Plans

According to the U.S. Census Bureau about 46 million Americans don't have health coverage and probably millions more Mexican nationals who live and work here (whether legally or not) don't have health insurance either.  It's just not available or its too expensive. In some places, however, its available and cheap; you just have to go south of the border to get it. CNBC’s Jane Wells explained on “Power Lunch.”

Here's Jane Wells' report.

In a truss yard south of San Diego, and north of the Mexico border is a story that touches on two political hot potatoes; immigration and healthcare reform. Could one program help start to solve both?

Healthcare Without Borders

“We wanted to provide coverage for employees that may have to waive insurance because they can't afford it," said  Steve Solomon, Head of Human Resources at Dixieline Lumber.

Dixieline has offered health coverage for years, but 5 years ago it added a cheaper plan through Blue Shield of Californiacalled "Access Baja" – where the doctors are in Mexico!

Access Baja's Dr. Jose Ramino Lopez grew up in Tijuana with no health insurance, while his father worked as a gardener up north.

He says the Blue Shield program provides full services at reduced price. And, he says the policy allows patients to receive services in the U.S. not available in Mexico.

Truss Designer Juan Carlos Leyva pays $60 a month now versus $170 for U.S. coverage and his wife is much happier.  “She likes to speak Spanish with the doctor, she feels better, she feels free,” explained Leyva.

The program has also improved worker retention. Usually in a truss yard there's about 30% turnover a year. At this one, it’s closer to 10% turnover.

Dixieline says it saves $400,000 a year offering Access Baja. It may also save the Federal Government money as workers get some preventive care and avoid walking into a public hospital only after they're really sick.

A handful of insurance companies are now offering the Cross Border insurance plans covering 150,000 California workers and dependents.