Skip to comments.Mexico plans health care for migrants
Posted on 07/23/2005 11:00:28 AM PDT by SwinneySwitch
Acknowledging many of its citizens in the United States lead risky lives without medical coverage, the Mexican government will unveil a new program next month offering them unprecedented access to treatment back home.
Meant as a move to improve both health care and relations with its northern neighbor, the program actually is an extension of Mexico's Seguro Popular, a national low-cost health care system akin to Medicare. The government covers most of the cost.
About 400,000 migrants are expected to be eligible this year, said Juan Fernández Ortiz, a national health commissioner in charge of the program. He said President Vicente Fox will officially launch the program in Zacatecas in August.
"We want Mexican citizens in the United States to know that now they can come back home and be assured of medical care," Fernández said. "At the same time, we'd expect to reduce costs to U.S. hospitals."
A study this year concluded Houston-area hospitals will take a $50 million hit in uncompensated costs of treating undocumented migrants, while a more comprehensive report in 2000 found border county hospitals lost $200 million that year to treat and transport them.
U.S. government officials and health care analysts were unaware of the move. When told about it, they welcomed it with lukewarm optimism, praising its intentions but questioning how well it will work in practice.
Adolfo Rodríguez, president of Club Guanajuato in San Antonio, who represents a Mexican state that, like Zacatecas, is known for its high count of U.S-bound émigrés, welcomed the program.
"That will be really great," he said. "So many of our paisanos don't have any medical insurance. Now at least they'll have something at home, which is better than nothing here."
Undocumented immigrants can seek medical care at U.S. emergency rooms, but those facilities can't address chronic or complicated conditions. Those from Mexico currently can get treatment back home but have a hard time making their way through that nation's labyrinthine health care bureaucracy.
Under the new program, they won't get the run-around they'll get immediate, low-cost care, Fernández said.
He said the program merely is a first step toward a more sophisticated system. Eventually, he said, enough funds will be available to fly people with serious medical conditions home.
And ideally, he added, the program will work out agreements with U.S. insurance companies so immigrants can get immediate access to basic medical services here.
The new program will not question migrants' legal status in the United States but will require their families in Mexico to sign them up, Fernández said.
Though it'll be launched in the non-border state of Zacatecas, eventually it will include all government-run hospitals and clinics, he said.
Immigrants in South Texas, for example, would be able to receive care across the border in cities like Matamoros, Reynosa and Nuevo Laredo.
Though he saw it as a good move, Manuel Robles Linares, executive director of the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Association in El Paso, questioned the program's ultimate popularity.
Most migrants here illegally won't want to share personal information with Mexican government officials fearing it also could be shared with U.S. officials and will hesitate to go south of the border for treatment because of the risks involved in returning north, Robles said.
He also suspected the timing of the announcement could be linked to politics. Mexico holds presidential elections next year and it's still pursuing a seemingly unending quest to reach a definitive immigration accord with U.S. leaders.
Still, Robles noted, even if not many migrants take advantage of Seguro Popular, it will at least ensure medical coverage for their families in Mexico. Plus, he added, it should reduce U.S. hospitals' monetary bleeding.
For Ronald Dutton, director of the Office of Border Health at the Texas Department of State Health Services, the most interesting and challenging goal of the new program will be connecting with U.S. insurance companies.
It would be an unprecedented step in offering coverage to thousands of undocumented people that otherwise wouldn't seek medical help, he said.
U.S. hospital officials weren't too confident the program would save them much money.
Treating everyday emergencies will still take its toll, said Leni Kirkman, spokeswoman for the University Health System in San Antonio.
But at least the Mexican government will be able to take on longer-term, complicated and likely expensive cases that would be unavailable to undocumented migrants here, she said.
Fernández readily recognized the program isn't all-encompassing. But he dismissed criticism that it won't work.
He already has seen data showing migrants do go home to see doctors and then return north, so he doesn't buy the argument that not many will sign up.
And they won't need to worry about passing along personal information all inquiries will be handled through their families in Mexico, so they'll never even have to talk to government officials.
Fernández did concede that U.S. hospitals will still handle emergency care, but insisted that Seguro Popular will open doors for medical treatment that most migrants would deem out of their reach, including organ transplants and treatment for strokes, AIDS and other diseases.
And the Mexican nationals will be be voting in the US next year!
This is progress, at least.
I'm going to make sure our Board of Supervisors get a copy of this article.
This is progress, at least.
At least some of them will be 'forced' to cross the border,, headed South, for a change.
Don't let the Canadians hear about the medical care or they'll be stampeding to Mexico too. :)
Seguro Popular Ping!
Please FReepmail me if you want on or off this South Texas/Mexico ping list.
Yes. Vicente Fox is actually very "progressive".
So is el Presidente Jorge Arbusto.
(Bush Budget Raises Cost of Medicare)
Under NAFTA, both the U.S. and Mexico can enjoy universal government healthcare, just like Canada.
And with CAFTA, Jorge can provide compassionate healthcare for all of Latin America's children.
Whatever made me think that he was at least a little different than Fidel Castro is a complete mystery.
But like you say, that's "progress". </sarcasm>
But, at least we now know the Mexican authoity to which all bills for service provided to illegal crimnal Mexican invaders in the US should be sent! But, I still don't understand why illegals would go home for treatment; they are criminals leaching off the wealth of the US, they aren't stupid.
Oh, yeah.....like they'll be going back home to get that drug-resistant tuberculosis taken care of.
This changes nothing, costs Mexico nothing, which is why they proposed it. Illegals get all the care they want/need for free here, unlike citizens, so why go home to get it?
.....on the other hand, maybe they can be deported right from the emergency room.........
Don't be fooled. Mexico will not pay the bills or the insurance companies will get stiffed by being reimbursed at rates comparable to what they get in Mexico.
"This changes nothing, costs Mexico nothing, which is why they proposed it. Illegals get all the care they want/need for free here, unlike citizens, so why go home to get it?"
Of course, it's why they made the proposal. At the rate the illegals here use US hospital emergency rooms for runny noses and other non-emergencies, what are the chances they are going to bundle everyone up in a car to travel to Mexico every week? Mexico has kept their citizens from being properly education for a reason.
sorry - education=educated
You're right. They aren't going to go home. They will continue to drive up the cost of health care in this country.
Oh yeah. They'll definitely travel back over the border instead of going to the closest emergency room!
And the dime ones are for non-citizens?
This story is HORRIBLE NEWS!!!
And will the Mexican Government pay for the billions in health care costs incurred by previous illegals?
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.