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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mexican Universal Health Coverage Working?

I love it when commenters get me thinking and reading. My suggestion yesterday that universal health coverage is a reasonable preventive response to future pandemics drew its own rash of responses, pro and con. Among them, the Palin/Rand fan Alexa drops in from D.C. for a quick round of fallacia, saying that Mexico has a universal health program, so all of my arguments are invalid.

Really? Thank you, Alexa, for getting me reading. First some logic, then some links, copied and expanded from my earlier comment:
  1. What Alexa says invalidates nothing in this post. I never claimed universal health care means no pandemics. I claim universal health care can mitigate the impact. To invalidate anything in the original post, you need to get rid of swine flu, dismantle the Mexican public health coverage system, reintroduce swine flu, and see how many people die.
  2. Mexico, with less than a third of our population and a third of our per capita GDP, passed its "Seguro Popular" program to provide public health insurance to cover catastrophic illness for 50 million citizens who lacked coverage. Citizens pay an income-based premium, with the lowest 20% of earners exempt. The program has been a smashing success at reducing catastrophic health care costs for poor families. Boy, talk about ¡Sí se puede!
  3. (New!) By the way, Mexico's universal coverage isn't universal yet: President Vicente Fox signed it into law in 2003, and it's still being expanded. Then Minister of Health Julio Frenk projected a completion date of 2010.
  4. Interestingly, Seguro Popular has not caused an increase in utilization. That might invalidate my original argument... but it also invalidates Anon's hearsay about those darn Indians (that's what Anon is thinking) and government health care causing overutilization. However, this source gives links saying Mexico has seen an increase in mammography tests and pap smears, an immense decline in tuberculosis, and an overall improvement in the quality of rural health care.
  5. Mexico's health care system has been drawing all sorts of "medical tourism" from Americans who can't afford care here. U.S. hospital chains are building facilities in Mexico to cash in on medical tourism. Not that anyone's going to fly south for an appendectomy this week... but I hope you take the point.
This point from Alexa does get me thinking: The only folks who seem interested in keeping America's patchwork private ration-by-wealth system are the rich people who don't have to worry about it, insurance companies making money off it, and folks trying to protect their ideology by ignoring evidence about it.

But what about Canada, the U.K., France, and all the other industrialized countries (remember, that's all of them except the U.S.) that have universal health coverage: If all the commenters' claims here were true (they're not, but entertain me for a moment), what would be motivating those countries to keep such atrociously ineffective systems? Whose interest in Canada is served by keeping a system that doesn't work? Who would be the nexus of political pressure that keeps such bad policy in place?

And what about Mexico? With the opposing models of the U.S. and Canada to choose from, why would Mexico move toward something more like Canada than the U.S.? Whose interest does universal health care serve?

Update 10:00 CDT: Seguro Popular has improved treatment for high blood pressure.


  1. Mexico is corrupt. It is NOT safe to travel there. Their armed gangs are spreading into the US.

    You need a better example.

  2. Apparently the child who died in Texas got sick in Mexico and his parents brought him to the US for treatment. So much for their trust in Mexico's health care system.

    And now we hear that only seven (7) died in Mexico of swine flu, not the 150+ originally cited. So much for their ability to diagnose this!

    I'll take our system of medical care anyday.

  3. There's no reason the US couldn't do this right.

  4. The solution to the problem really is quite simple, it is called the Public Health Service.

    To insure that a two tier health care system does not exist and that everyone is afforded the same opportunity for health care, how about drafting all medical personal and facilities into the Public Health Service.

    All medical personal would be paid on a government wage scale depending on their specialty.

    No one could use a private doctor or hospital because they would not exist, therefore everyone would be treated equal.

    The cost of care would drop dramatically because PHS medical personal surely do not make 250,000dollars a year.

    Am I serious?

    Joseph G Thompson

  5. But we have a two-tier system now, where we ration care based on wealth (and the luck of the layoff draw). I prefer a single-payer system, but a Seguro Popular for us gringos would be a step in the right direction.

  6. People go to Mexico for two reasons: cheap drugs (knock offs most likely) and FDA unapproved treatments that cannot be administered in the US. How'd that work for Steve McQueen? Oh. Yeah. It didn't.
    Before we ruin what is one of the best health care industries in the world, maybe people who think socialist medicine is a good thing should actually go try it for a while.

  7. Well if it didn't work for Steve McQueen...

    Seriously, I'm going to use that in all of my arguments from now on. "Oh, you're going to pull off an amazingly complicated heist? How'd that work for Steve McQueen? It d-- oh, wait..."

  8. Medical errors by "one of the best health care system in the world" are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. 2.4 million Americans a year suffer from infections or other errors brought on by their American hospital visit.

    I eagerly await the Steve McQueen/"I hate socialism" response...

  9. And would you care to ask Dennis and Kimberly Quaid what they think of the Steve McQueen "argument"? (Yes, "argument" goes in quotes, because Anon never really made one. Feel free to review the details of McQueen's death and see if you can piece one together.)


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