Healthcare in ArgentinaThe system used today for providing healthcare in Argentina was developed during a period of economic glory for the country. This economic reform was achieved throughout the 1940-50s period of urbanization, industrialization and labor movements. Since then, healthcare in Argentina has been largely decentralized and privatized to provincial-level support. Healthcare services and resources are divided across three sectors. The public sector offers all services free of charge and is used primarily by those without social security. The Obras Sociales sector, which is funded by compulsory social security, is used primarily by workers. The private sector, which users pay for entirely out of pocket, is the most exclusive. On average across sectors, a ratio of 3.6 physicians treats 1,000 people.

5 Important Facts Related to Healthcare in Argentina

  1. The gross domestic product (GDP) expenditure for healthcare in Argentina is high. According to World Bank statistics from 2017 for Argentina’s current health expenditure, health services contribute to 9.12% of the annual GDP of the country. This percentage is significantly higher than that of 2016, which was 7.54% of GDP. Argentina’s health expenditure is also 1.1% higher than the average for its Latin American regional context. Argentina can still make improvements by creating universal health services across the country, but since the introduction of a Universal Health Plan in 2016, Argentina’s health expenditure has risen. Because of the shift from state to provincial-level control of healthcare in Argentina, there are inconsistencies between the provincial-level distribution of funds toward the healthcare system. The physician to population ratio between the autonomous city of Buenos Aires and the Misiones province can trace the inconsistency of healthcare access across provinces. In Buenos Aires, 10.2 physicians serve a population of 1,000, while in Misiones there are just 1.2 physicians to every 1,000 people.
  2. Argentina has successfully lowered rates of poverty-linked communicable diseases, like Chagas. Chagas, which is a vector-borne disease, has seen lower rates of transmission within eight out of the 19 endemic provinces of Argentina that it has previously been found. The interruption of vector and congenital transmission of the Chagas disease achieved these lowered rates. The development of strategies to combat other communicable diseases within Argentina, like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB), are still in dire need of support. One organization, called Mundo Sano, is working on strategies to interrupt the transmission of congenital HIV/AIDS between mother and child as of 2020. Statistics from United Nations AIDS (UNAIDS) research shows that as of 2016, 91% of women living with HIV/AIDS were already seeking out either antiretroviral or prophylaxes treatment to prevent vertical transmission. As a result, an estimated less than 100 children contracted the disease. With support from Mundo Sano, vertical transmission rates of HIV/AIDS could decrease even further.
  3. Argentina has developed action plans to combat the prevalence of multiple non-communicable diseases. As of 2014, metabolic diseases accounted for 4% of all deaths and cancers accounted for 20% of deaths. Most notably, 28% of all deaths in the country were attributed to diseases of the circulatory system. Once implemented, policies will be used to regulate food advertising, fiscal policies and front-of-package labeling. With funding to support the implementation of these policies, the incidence of certain non-communicable diseases could decrease significantly in Argentina.
  4. Natural disaster relief is available to all 23 provinces of Argentina. Instances of climatic stress to the diverse terrain of the country emerge most commonly as volcanic eruptions, floods, earthquakes, landslides, mudslides, tornados, storms, heatwaves and wildfires. The Argentine government established the National Directorate of Health Emergencies agency to prevent and mitigate the effects of a disaster. Environmental threats to public health across Argentina are combatted locally by provincial disaster response teams that operate under the national level agency.
  5. The aging population has free healthcare in Argentina. The National Institute of Social Services for Retirees and Pensioners (PAMI) in Argentina was created in 1971 to provide comprehensive healthcare and support to the country’s aging population. Since its beginnings, PAMI has implemented multiple programs for the betterment of health for Argentina’s elderly. Among the services available through PAMI are free healthcare for those 65 or more years old, along with preventative care resources like immunization and support networks. According to 2018 data from the World Bank, the average life expectancy across the Argentine population from birth is 76.52 years old, which has been steadily increasing since the creation of PAMI.

Since the 1940-50s economic reform in Argentina, the healthcare system has grown fragmented across the public, social security and private sectors. Healthcare sectors depend on the autonomous power of provincial-level governments and are therefore divided from one another.

In 2016, the government of Argentina responded to the fragmented nature of the system and introduced a Universal Health Plan. This plan is meant to increase the efficiency of coverage by compiling national health records into a single system, making patient identification more accessible across sectors. With cross-sector recognition and agreement for universalizing healthcare in Argentina, along with financial support for the cause, the country could achieve a healthier population overall.

Lilia Wilson
Photo: Flickr