Although the public sector has made huge advances, the country is still far from implementing universal healthcare. According to Javier Potes, Director General of Consorcio Mexicano de Hospitales, there is still a huge part of the population unattended and it is unclear how sustainable the public healthcare sector is regarding offering service in the future.

Working toward the ideal of universal healthcare was a critical topic discussed during one of the panels at Mexico Health Summit 2018, which took place on Thursday at the Hotel Sheraton María Isabel in Mexico City. Potes acted as moderator of the discussion that covered different sides of universality, including access, financing, service and prevention. According to Antonio Chemor, National Commissioner of Seguro Popular, to reach universality it is not necessary to integrate all participants in the healthcare sector. “IMSS, ISSSTE and Seguro Popular have grown at their own rates to cater to different areas of the population,” he said. “The goal should be for communication between all systems.”

This opinion was shared by Miguel Alberto Salazar, President and Director General of Boehringer Ingelheim México, who said that even though there is already a huge offering of services, healthcare education, doctors, medicine and equipment, the challenge now is to attract the patient and work as a unified front. “We already have the technology to make healthcare available to everyone but we must work together,” he said.

Not everyone in the panel agreed on the alleged advances on universality in healthcare. Efrén Ocampo, President of Grupo Neolpharma, pointed out that Seguro Popular and universal healthcare are not synonyms and even highlighted that life expectancy has been stuck for the past 10 years. “Universal healthcare without budget is not possible,” he said. “The government has continuously reduced healthcare budget and many hospitals are not working properly.”

The vision of the government has been flawed, according to Guillaume Corpart, Managing Director of Global Health Intelligence, who said the country has looked at healthcare as an expenditure when it should be seen as an investment in productivity of the able workforce. “Our GDP is growing because of an increase in our workforce instead of growing because of an increase in productivity,” he said.

Salazar countered by saying that although healthcare was not a priority for the current administration in the beginning, the Peña Nieto government has done much for the sector. “However, there is still not enough expenditure to address the main issues in the country,” he said. Efficiency is key, both in resources and infrastructure, according to Chemor. “There is already collaboration between the public and private sectors and thanks to this, out-of-pocket expenditure has been reduced,” he said. Chemor also highlighted that the Peña Nieto administration has invested over MX$29 billion (US$1.5 billion) in renovation of equipment and infrastructure. “Investment is still needed but we have learned to manage our resources to make the system more efficient.”

Ocampo disagreed, saying that public expenditure in healthcare is still low. “Mental health issues are not addressed while child mortality is on the rise.” Even though he agreed that there had been investment, Salazar argued that the general population perceives public as bad in terms of service, although he pointed out that the perception of the public service depends on where the patient is being treated. “There are deficiencies in the system but we must also consider how much the country has advanced and how it compares to other regions in the world,” said Chemor. “In Mexico, over 40 percent of the population does not have to spend anything on healthcare no matter what the cost of the treatment.”

Regardless of how much the healthcare system advances, Roberto Esses, Country Manager of Gympass, said attacking health issues at their root was key for the country’s healthcare system to advance. Almost 70 percent of all hospital entries are related to obesity and sedentarism, he said, while an active lifestyle could help diminish this. “The active population can reduce health-related costs for companies by 60 percent,” Esses said. “For each dollar we invest in prevention, we can earn over US$3 dollars.”

Mexico Health Summit 2018, organized by Mexico Business Events, is also the launch event for the fourth edition of Mexico Health Review, a publication by Mexico Business Publishing.

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