Mexico to launch first phase of universal health system in June

Merida's General Hospital Agustin O'Horan. (PHOTO:

The road to a unified and universal health care system in Mexico is just beginning its first phase, an exchange of services among the hospitals of the different health institutions, a change that is expected to offer improved medical care for the end user.

Beginning next month, any beneficiary will be able to receive medical attention at any Social Security Institute (IMSS), State Workers’ Social Security Institute (ISSSTE) or federal or state health secretariat hospital, regardless of the institution to which the patient is affiliated, reports

This first stage towards a planned universal health system will consist in the exchange of 700 medical services, those which have been identified as the most needed among the general population, said the head of the National Commission for Social Protection through Health (CNPSS).

Under the new scheme, said Dr. Gabriel O’Shea Cuevas, patients with particular medical needs not available in the state or federal health secretariats will have the opportunity to be transferred to other IMSS or ISSSTE hospitals, and vice versa.

Merida's General Hospital Agustin O'Horan. (PHOTO:
Merida’s General Hospital Agustin O’Horan. (PHOTO:

O’Shea believes that the first stage will give medical institutions the opportunity to learn a great deal, mainly in the referral and counter-referral of patients, but also in billing.

The new exchange system is all about reducing costs, he continued, as expensive equipment is often underutilized in some hospitals. Sometimes patients are sent to another city or state when a facility in the same city, but that of another institution, has the necessary equipment.

A new cancer treatment center in Baja California Sur illustrates the benefit of sharing.

“The construction of a new oncology center will begin in La Paz in a few weeks. The number of patients using Seguro Popular would not justify such a facility, but when the patients from IMSS and ISSSTE are taken into consideration, a center like that can be justified,” said O’Shea Cuevas.

To determine what services are available and can be exchanged, CNPSS polled states about what they have and what they need.

“It’s a two-way street. This exchange of services is a great step towards the Universal Health System . . this is a good start for all those involved, for all of us who have dreamed of it,” he said.

“Health in this country should not be based on an individual’s employment status, but in every Mexican’s right to have access to medical services.”