While universal healthcare is a topic of great debate here in the United States, we tend to forget about the capricious care of our neighboring Mexican counterparts. Up until a decade ago, public healthcare in Mexico was generally not provided and certainly not guaranteed. In an effort to increase public health spending and decrease negative health outcomes, the Mexican government is currently striving to provide adequate healthcare to all of its citizens.
Although in theory, some healthcare is better than none, it seems to be that the care being provided is intermittent and unequal. To begin with, access to care is linked to employment, so those who are unemployed, self-employed, or retired may come to be neglected. Often, these groups of people lack the knowledge and resources to seek treatment on their own. The workings of this new healthcare plan create another obstacle preventing them from getting the care they need.
Additionally, the funding for all hospitals and clinics in the country trickles down from the federal to state governments, to be divvied up as the states see fit. As a result, clinics located in lower-income areas are deprived of monetary resources that the states fear will not be replenished by patients’ supplemental fees. Why waste machines and money on people who cannot afford them, when those supplies can be provided to a hospital with patients who can?
If I get hurt, I go to one of the six nearby hospitals and am immediately admitted to the emergency room. Doctors perform certain tests and procedures, using high-tech machinery to do so. Once a diagnosis is made, I am referred to a nearby doctor for long term treatment. This process is a given for most living in the United States; however, in Mexico, the story goes a little differently.
In order for a struggling citizen to obtain treatment, he or she may have to travel hours to reach a healthcare center with even remotely adequate facilities. If this is a one-time visit, it may be feasible, but continued treatment (which is necessary on many cases) will not be a possibility. Travel costs and overnight fees add up quickly, and this may deter people from making the extensive trip for satisfactory care. Even after all that, citizens who are able to seek and find care may not be able to afford the costs of the medication it will take to keep them healthy afterwards. The result is even more money spent in vain on surgeries and complicated treatments that will not provide a long-term solution to the problem.
While there are many issues, it has to be said that the idea of universal healthcare in Mexico is not all bad. Some who may never have sought out treatment for ailments and diseases before are now able to do so. For those who do make it to the properly funded hospitals actually do receive relatively high quality care. Specifically for one-time procedures, such as vaccines, this system is quite sufficient. While these may not seem like huge feats to those of us already reaping the benefits of an organized healthcare program, many in Mexico will tell you that they are.
All in all, I feel as though the effort is valiant, but the practical implications of this healthcare plan are less than ideal. It is the same story as always; the wealthy are provided with top-notch services while quality care is alternately sacrificed for those who cannot pay. We should definitely commend the Mexican government for making the effort to provide healthcare to all of its citizens, for this is definitely progress in the right direction. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement.
“Mexico’s Universal Health Care is Work in Progress”, New York Times, January 29, 2011