Mexican President, López Obrador—often referred to by the acronym of his initials AMLO—has begun the first steps in fulfilling his campaign promise to change the current Mexican healthcare system. In its place, AMLO has envisioned a bold approach to healthcare in Mexico—one that he claims is modeled after the universal healthcare systems in Europe.
WHY THIS ISSUE IS IMPORTANT TO AMLO:
It is no surprise that this is such an important issue for President López Obrador. For the first time in Mexican history, reforming the Mexican healthcare system polled (and earned him the most votes) as the number one public program Mexicans wanted reformed. Previously, the top program that Mexicans had wished to reform was the pension for the elderly, however this pension program is currently evaluated as one of the best programs in Mexico, leaving the spot of number one concern to be the Mexican healthcare system.
THE SYSTEM AS IT STANDS NOW:
As it stands now, there are three major healthcare systems in Mexico: ISSSTE, Seguro Popular, and IMSS. Seguro Popular is state-run healthcare, while the IMSS (or Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social) is run by the federal government. Currently, the government allocates funds to the Seguro Popular, which then decides how to spend their funds on their own state-run system.
*ISSSTE is largely for federal employees such as police and firefighters, and is not relevant to this article, it will however be merged with the other healthcare plans.
– Seguro Popular –
With roughly 60 million members providing services at hundreds of hospitals and clinics throughout Mexico, it is recognized as the most comprehensive and highest-quality public healthcare in Mexico. To beat it, you have to have private health insurance. Medicines are administered by the clinic or hospital, and if your insurance does not cover the cost of those medications, then they are sold to you at a very reasonable price.
Seguro Popular has no preexisting conditions and no age limit. This comprehensive coverage includes 90% of all medical issues, including but not limited to:
- Heart Disease
- Cancer of the liver, esophagus, ovaries
- Bone fractures
- Transplants of the heart and lungs
- HIV and AIDS
– IMSS –
The IMSS is a federally run healthcare program, whose clients are often government employees themselves. There is an annual fee based on your age, which ranges from $6,000 MXN – $9,000 MXN. If you have preexisting conditions, you are often declined. Your coverage gets better and better with each passing year.
THE PROBLEMS WITH SEGURO POPULAR:
AMLO’s vision for healthcare reform in Mexico is a centralized healthcare system run at the federal level. He feels that this state-run array of cobbled-together healthcare institutions, with a fragmented approach to healthcare in Mexico, has created a bureaucratic nightmare for Mexicans who need to seek treatment out of state. Furthermore, President López Obrador feels that millions of Mexicans are neglected by the Seguro Popular system.
As President López Obrador stated, “It’s obvious that it hasn’t worked. It’s not insurance and it’s not popular,” playing on the name Seguro Popular. He continues, “It’s going to be replaced by a public healthcare system that guarantees quality medical care and free medication.”
AMLO’S PLAN FOR HEALTHCARE IN MEXICO:
AMLO’s healthcare reform aims to centralize all institutions under the federal government. In effect, he wants to merge the Seguro Popular with the IMSS. As President López Obrador stated earlier this week, “Now what we want is to integrate healthcare systems, and to start giving special attention to the population that does not have social security, and to those who are not entitled as rightful claimants.” AMLO went on to explain that almost half the population (who are the poorest individuals in Mexico) fall into this category, for they do not have social security and thus are often overlooked by the current Seguro Popular system.
His goal for healthcare in Mexico is to guarantee—for the lowest strata of Mexican socioeconomic levels—first level care in medical centers and Social Security locations. He also wants hospitals and clinics of the clinics of the Secretary of Health of all the various Mexican states to pay attention and offer medical care to these disenfranchised classes of the Mexican population. Lastly, he wants ISSTE and IMSS clinics to tend to emergencies to the poorest of the Mexican population whether or not they are entitled as rightful claimants.
IMPLEMENTATION OF AMLO’S NEW PLAN:
AMLO has set aside $90 billion MXN—roughly $4.5 billion USD—to better the Mexican healthcare system; as well as an additional $25 billion MXN for the initial stages of implementing this plan. His plan is to begin integrating 8 states to his new federal healthcare vision. These states will be: Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guerrero, Tabasco, Yucatán, Campeche, and Quintana Roo. Every six months, another 8 states will be added to the expanding federal healthcare system until they are all integrated in two years. In order to accomplish this, he will have to reform Article 4 of the Constitution. In his own words, he does not want any legal precedent impeding upon his plan for healthcare in Mexico.
He then aims to set aside sufficient funds to ensure that this new integrated healthcare system can purchase medications. He has laid out his commitment to removing the current basic table system, in favor of a system where any medication can be provided to anyone based upon their personal need. He stressed this is something that the current Seguro Popular has not been able to do.
AMLO’S GOAL OF A NEW HEALTHCARE SYSTEM IN MEXICO:
It does seem likely that this integration of the IMSS and the Seguro Popular could be the first step in his ultimate goal of creating a universal healthcare system like that found in Europe or Canada. AMLO has said on multiple occasions that he longs to fully replace Seguro Popular—and some are hailing this as the first step in that change.
WILL THE NEW HEALTHCARE IN MEXICO AFFECT EXPATS?
For the time being, there are no major changes for the expat community when it comes to seeking healthcare in Mexico.
AMLO has been typically described as a left-wing populist. His goal with this new healthcare in Mexico is to care for the Mexican people and speculation for any restrictions that could be placed in the coming months on the immigrant and tourist communities in Mexico are unfounded. Currently, the government’s main focus is for Mexican citizens as of now, and other residents will be dealt with after the major changes.
The only two pieces of information that we have come across, which could indicate as to how the new healthcare system may pan out are:
- The Yucatan region has been testing new rules for foreigners applying for Seguro Popular, making the rules slightly more strict for temporary residents (Residentes Temporal).
- The Mexican constitution states that healthcare is a basic necessity for their residents. If you are a permanent resident (Residente Permanente), then this would most likely apply to you, and it is our best guess that you will continue to be covered.
However for now, it looks like there will be no major changes to the way immigrants get their healthcare. The roll out is expected to take a few years while this merger of IMSS and Seguro Popular take place. It is our recommendation to apply for Seguro Popular, if you do plan on using it as your main healthcare plan—in case they do exclude your demographic and let current applicants stay.
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