Image credits: Steve Buissinne via Pixabay

Healthcare Budget Grows 9.1 Percent

By Miriam Bello | Fri, 09/11/2020 - 13:32

Minister of Finance and Public Credit Arturo Herrera announced the federal budget for 2021 projects MX$4.61 billion (US$214.9 million). From this amount, 1.1 percent will be destined to healthcare. According to Herrera, this represents a 9.2 percent growth compared to 2020.

The minister pointed out that the budget will target the reinforcement of the current medical facilities focused on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before the pandemic, the government was already in need of changes and reforms to improve the healthcare sector. Mexico was already falling short considering the chronic disease epidemic burden, income inequality and poverty rates. Comparing it to other countries, the scenario was even worse. Out-of-pocket expenditure in Mexico is one of the highest globally. Yet, the country keeps destining less money to the sector.

According to a study by IMCO, public budget deficiencies are translated to insufficient coverage of services, even with INSABI. It is still early to see how much the coverage of this recently created institution has changed the reality on this regard. Medicine shortages are another matter. Even before the changes in purchasing schemes, the Ministry of Health reported that only about 61 percent of the beneficiaries of any public service would receive all the necessary medicines for diseases like diabetes, hypertension or dyslipidemia. Beneficiaries also face long waiting times, specially at IMSS.

This same report proposes an in-depth reform to create a universal healthcare system, something that has begun with INSABI but is facing many administrative challenges that are yet to be solved after the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down this transition. So far, the institute’s the most vocal issue was of medicine shortages for cancer patients. These situations evidenced INSABI’s inexperience. While this initiative has been seen as a well-intentioned effort, it has also attracted severe critics.

Another proposal was to form alliances with the private healthcare sector to divide the burden and homologate processes to benefit people. This has already moved forward thanks to COVID-19, as ANHP and the CMH agreed to receive and care for regular patients from the public healthcare sector while they dedicated fully to COVID-19.

Strengthening COFEPRIS is also a priority and is another recent change that the public sector has introduced. A couple of weeks ago, this commission was attached to the Deputy Ministry of Prevention and Health Promotion, headed by Hugo López-Gatell.

As of now, what could the sector improve to approach people inclusively and work toward universal healthcare with the sector’s current capabilities and realities? During an interview with MBN, Alec Lee, Director of Healthcare Research at Ducker Frontier, explained that in Mexico, pharmacy coverage is broad and its importance has grown thanks to pharmacy-adjacent doctors’ offices, which have significantly increased access to healthcare because of their low prices. “I see a great deal of opportunity for solutions from private institutions to treat patients who live in rural areas of the country,” he said. Lee mentioned that the most logic and effective way to begin would be to develop strategies at the local and municipal level. “Local governments could destine more budget to this sector.”

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst