By Robert Hill from the September 2010 Edition
HEALTH CARE SERVICES IN MEXICO
How Mexicans stay healthy and what does it cost them?
With all the Hoopla these days about Obama-care and the hundreds of billions of dollars it will cost, I thought it may be a good time to take a look at how Mexico delivers health care services to its citizens. Like Obama-care, it is impossible to determine exactly what the costs really are (or will be), so this will not be an attempt to make a comparative cost/benefit analysis. It is simply an overview of what services are available to Mexicans in Manzanillo, and some approximate ideas of what they cost.
Health care services are provided to Mexicans on 5 basic levels. These are described below in their descending order of cost, from the most expensive to the cheapest. However, it is not to be implied that the best is the most expensive, or vice versa. There may be other considerations such as convenience, waiting time, privacy, amenities, etc., which could effect the cost.
SEGURO SOCIAL (IMSS)
CENTRO DE SALUD
Most upper income Mexicans in Manzanillo will opt for the health care services of a private doctor or hospital, such as the Echauri Clinic, Hospital Pacifico or Hospital Manzanillo. The Echauri Clinic has a reputation for being among the best available and offers a full range of medical services includingtrauma, X-Ray, Laboratory, surgery, plus a wide range of medical specialists. A consultation with one of their specialists will cost between $300 and $500 pesos. Likewise, there are many private specialists in Manzanillo charging similar rates, for every type of medical specialty.
SEGURO SOCIAL (IMSS)
The new IMSS Hospital in Manzanillo is located just off the Boulevard behind Kentucky Fried Chicken. In theory, every public and private employee and their family members are insured by IMSS. However, in reality, many small businesses do not pay for their employee’s health insurance coverage with IMSS. Nevertheless, all “legitimate” businesses pay the monthly premiums for their employee
coverage. IMSS pays for 100% of medical costs including medicines, lab work, X-rays and transportation to a specialist in Colima or Guadalajara if none is available in Manzanillo. Many kinds of surgery can be performed in Manzanillo, but some types of cancer treatment and heart surgery must be done at the IMSS Hospital in Guadalajara. Individuals (including expats with an FM-3) can purchase IMSS coverage with the amounts depending on age. For a 40 year old female the cost is about $2,000 pesos per year, and about $3,000 pesos for a 70 year old male (the maximum).
The new Seguro Popular Hospital is located in Valle De Las Garces, near the Coca Cola plant. It was one of many such hospitals built as a result of President Vicente Fox´s initiative to provide quality health care facilities for all Mexicans. The majority of Mexican citizens do not qualify for employee coverage for IMSS insurance (above), so Seguro Popular was designed to provide these people with low cost health insurance similar to IMSS. The Seguro Popular Hospital provides quality services, comparable to IMSS, but at a much lower cost. Many believe that the Seguro Popular Hospital in Colima is one of the finest in the state of Colima. The cost for a 40year old woman to enroll in Seguro Popular is about $400 pesos per year. Seguro Popular also conducts active programs in preventive medicine, free sterilization, etc.
Numerous Consultorios exist all over Manzanillo, usually connected to a small farmacia. They are private practices staffed by licensed medical doctors trained in Family Medicine. The doctors normally charge a consulting fee of about $20 pesos per patient, and will see upwards of 50 patients per day. Because so many people suffer from common ailments, these Consultorios fill an important need within the small communities where they exist. They also sell generic medicines at a lower cost than in the larger farmacias, and waiting time is seldom more than 30 minutes. A new law went into effect in Mexico on August 25, 2010, requiring prescriptions for all antibiotic medicines. Until now, pharmacies were only required to have a doctor´s prescription for certain painkillers and other dangerous drugs. However, pharmacies are now requiring a current and valid doctor´s prescription for all antibiotics as well, including penicillin and other common medicines. The
new law was deemed necessary due to large numbers of people who were purchasing and taking over-the-counter antibiotics, which were neither warranted or medically correct. Because of this, researchers were finding many individuals whose bodies had built up a resistance to antibiotics, making them ineffective in combatting many types of infections. This new law will make it more expensive for individuals not covered by IMSS or Seguro Popular, as they will need to pay for a medical consultation to obtain a prescription. However, it is believed that it will have the overall effect of improving public health. One could assume that this law will place an additional demand on the Consultarios, where low cost doctor fees and generic medicines are available.
CENTRO DE SALUD
There are a few Centro De Salud (Health Centers) situated around the city, one of the principal being on the Blvd. at the intersection nearest to Juanitos, one in Las Garzas behind the auditorium and yet another in San Pedrito. They are places where truly indigent persons can go for help, as well as for preventive health programs and vital signs monitoring. Good places to go if you ever get bitten by a scorpion, as they are equipped for rapid treatment, having had lots of practice.
The above is a brief overview of health care services in Mexico, and no attempt has been made to make any value judgments with respect to comparable services in other countries. However, Mexico has made great strides in the last 10 years and will undoubtedly continue to expand quality health care to more people, especially in rural areas. It is difficult, if not impossible, to come by reliable numbers as to the cost of health care to the Mexican government. However, it has been said by reliable sources that the Mexican government pays for about one half of the cost for IMSS, with employers and private participants paying the rest. If this is the case, it is certainly a model which other countries should take a close look at. Two of the reasons would have to be that IMSS buys drugs at a very low price, and that there are no tort* laws in Mexico, so hence no malpractice suits.
(*in civil law, a wrongful act for which damages can be sought by the injured party)