“The expenses of medical tourism destinations — travel, lodging, procedures, and a vacation-like experience — is often cheaper than the treatment alone in the United States.”
Highs and low of health tourism
Hard hit by the covid-19 pandemic, the Union-Tribune is reaching out to Tijuana’s medical tourist trade for new advertising revenue in a deal with the website San Diego Red. “The collaboration will inform and educate readers about advantages and benefits of traveling south of the border for medical services,” says a U-T display ad. “Comparable treatments in the U.S. are usually 60 to 80 percent higher than in Mexico. That is partly because of higher overhead, salaries, and educational expenses in the United States, along with the high cost of malpractice insurance, not required in Mexico. The expenses of medical tourism destinations — travel, lodging, procedures, and a vacation-like experience — is often cheaper than the treatment alone in the United States.”
DestinationCare San Diego is a bust, but director Tom Gehring’s still smiling.
The pitch seems to some to ironically harken back to November 2017, when San Diego’s tax-financed tourism authority put up $100,000 to promote DestinationCare San Diego, a promotion pitching the super-rich on the notion of coming to the region for state-of-the-art, high-dollar treatment. “Planning a visit to San Diego? Hit the beaches. Check. Spend a day at the zoo or a theme park. Check. Sample craft beer. Check. Book a stay at a local hospital for cutting-edge cardiac or cancer treatment?” asked a November 6, 2017, U-T dispatch.
“Medical tourism in a lot of people’s minds is where can I get inexpensive care. This isn’t about getting a new set of teeth for half price,” Tom Gehring, an ex-chief executive of the San Diego County Medical Society and interim executive director of DestinationCare, told the paper. “It’s about why should I go to San Diego for the best possible treatment on the West Coast.”
But not much happened after the flashy rollout. In December 2018, PR man Peter MacCracken told the San Diego Business Journal, “Short answer is that this is harder than we might have thought. Going forward, we are also looking at more aggressive marketing, though what (that) means is not yet determined.” These days, a link to the DestinationCare website touted by the U-T no longer works.
Herb Klein’s ghost
Postmortems regarding the sweep of San Diego city races by Democrats have avoided discussing one of the biggest reasons for the bloodbath Republicans suffered in November: the slow demise of the Union-Tribune. A prior owner Douglas Manchester, a Republican stalwart, repeatedly bragged of using the paper on behalf of his political agenda. He imported take-no-prisoners reporter Trent Seibert and conservative columnist Steve Greenhut to go after Democrats. (Seibert returned to Dallas following the special election run-off of 2014, in which Republican Kevin Faulconer bested Democrat David Alvarez for mayor. The Texan died of heart disease in August 2018 at the age of 47. Hired by Manchester at the beginning of the mayoral election season in July 2013, per his LinkedIn profile, Greenhut left the paper in February 2016 to become western regional director of R Street Institute, a self-styled libertarian think tank.
A Union-Tribune endorsement didn’t help council candidate Noli Zosa.
Three years before Manchester, there was the Copley Press, run by Jim Copley and his second wife Helen as the region’s GOP Central, where Herb Klein, a company scribe whose services Copley “lent” from time to time to Richard Nixon, served his last days as the editor in chief. “Ostensibly a working news reporter, Klein would be remembered for his…extraprofessional contribution to the campaign,” wrote Nixon biographer Roger Morris of Klein’s Nixonian role.
A last hurrah of sorts for the U-T’s down-ballot kingmaking came this August when GOP council candidate Noli Zosa claimed on his ballot statement that he had been endorsed by the paper. Zosa’s Democratic opponent Raul Campillo went to court, noting Zosa’s endorsement was only for the primary and that the newspaper had yet to express a general election preference. In the end, the U-T did pick Zosa for the runoff, saying in an October 23 editorial that Campillo “seemed at times peevish and curt” during an interview with the opinion staff.
During the U-T’s golden years, such a personal swipe would likely have been enough to undermine a budding Democratic candidate. But in November, Campillo swept past Zosa to take the Seventh District seat, 40 to 33 percent. Now Zosa, part-owner of the Dirty Birds bar and grill chain, has started a legal defense fund, which he registered with the city clerk’s office on November 30, in a bid for donors to cover the costs of his summer court battles.
— Matt Potter (@sdmattpotter)
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