Health & Education

Time for More


Mexico has made considerable transformations to its healthcare system over the last decade. Now the country must work to make sure its public and private healthcare systems can cater to the evolving demands of Mexicans.

Mexico made great headway in 2012, when it announced healthcare in the country was now universal, with half of the population getting coverage in less than 10 years. While the country has made great strides, there is still much to be improved on, in both public and private aspects as well as the overall health of the country.

In 2016, the country spent close to USD75 billion on the industry, equivalent to about 6.5% of GDP; though below the regional average of 8%—with Brazil spending 8.5% and Argentina at 8.3%—it is a considerable increase from 2013, when the country spent just 3.2% of GDP. This expenditure equates to around USD645 per capita. Mexico’s healthcare industry is relatively well balanced between the public and private sectors, with 52.3% of costs financed publically and 47.7% from private sources.

Approximately 91% of private sources come from out-of-pocket payments by patients, and only 3% comes from private insurance providers; about 27% of public expenditure came from various social security schemes, and another 25.3% from the publicly subsidized scheme, known as Seguro Popular. Social security institutions receive primarily three main funding sources: household contributions, employers, and the federal government. The country’s 31 states fund healthcare services not in anticipation of the volume of services that will be demanded but historical budgets.

Federal government funding for states to provide healthcare is segmented into several major groups: some 40% is for medical professionals and staffing hospitals and facilities, about 30% is for the purchase of medicine, and 20% is for preventative medicine, with the remainder going to several other purposes, including organizing Seguro Popular.

Mexico has spent more than a decade reorganizing its healthcare industry, and much progress has been made. However, there are still a score of problems the country needs to address and work on to improve, such as managing long-term illness and effectively providing for the elderly in a way that is affordable. Further, the country is experiencing a worrying obesity problem, especially among young people.

As Mexico continues to reach higher levels of development across the board, Mexicans are demanding more in terms of healthcare. The foremost task the government has in making healthcare more accessible is to reduce the currently poor patient-to-doctor ratio, as well as significantly increasing the number of hospital beds. Out-of-pocket spending continues to be both high and prevalent.

Other areas the government needs to work to improve include the shortage of prescription medication. Roughly one-third of prescribed medications cannot be filled due to shortage in stocks, thus requiring alternative treatments. The sector is also, in some areas, lacking technological development. The ability to adequately monitor patients and conduct studies is considerably diminished without certain technologies, which ultimately hampers industry-wide attempts to improve treatments.

Remote areas in the country can be characterized as having poor access to healthcare facilities, and those with proper credentials are often concentrated in major cities. Additionally, healthcare spending in the country is below the OECD average. The 90% of private healthcare spending that comes from out-of-pocket payments is extremely high in comparison to developed countries, and in comparison to other countries in the region, this figure can be as much as twice as high.

To further understand the potential for collaboration between public and private sectors, TBY sat down with Ana Longoria, the Country President of Novartis Mexico, a Switzerland-based global healthcare company that works to address the evolving needs of patents around the world and provide solutions. “We are in a rapidly evolving sector where the traditional business model is not really sufficient to bring solutions to patients,” Longoria said. “We want to provide more of an integrated health solution, and for this we require an openness to look at different business models, especially when it comes to risk sharing. I would like to see more openness to try these new healthcare models and take some risks together for the benefit of patients.”