Dr. José Edmundo Urquieta

Quality in the health system: One of Mexico’s development agenda points. In 2004, the healthcare sector was transformed with the creation of the Social Health Protection in Mexico, an initiative geared toward guaranteeing universal coverage based on two main instruments: the Social Security system—linked to the formal-employment market—, and the Popular Insurance—financed mainly with fiscal resources. There are still many challenges.

Compared to spending by OECD countries, Mexico invests three times less in the healthcare sector (9.6% vs. 2.86% GDP, respectively). Moreover, as Dr. José Edmundo Urquieta’s—a graduate of the Tecnológico de Monterrey School of Government and Public Transformation—research shows, real access to quality service has not improved substantially since the expansion of social-security coverage, and the inequalities among population groups still exist. In a conversation with José, we delved into the challenges of the healthcare sector in Mexico.

Why is the topic of the healthcare system in Mexico relevant?

The topic is essential for any country. We must remember that the two areas with the most government spending, because of their importance to development, are health and education. We are constantly seeking new formulas to make healthcare more equal and sustainable, because the need for the service grows exponentially day by day, because there are emerging public-health problems such as obesity and diabetes, specific problems like influenza in Mexico, or simply because the population begins to age. There is no doubt that quality research is needed to offer better public-policy options in this sector.

How do you think healthcare systems affect the development of countries?

The link between health and development has been shown over and over. An efficient healthcare sector helps to reduce inequality, even in economic growth. The healthcare system, just like the educational system, should be based on a series of policies geared toward reducing social gaps and providing quality services to improve the population’s opportunities.

What do you consider the main contribution of your research to the topic?

I think there are two main contributions. The first was to show that increasing coverage and insurance is not enough, but rather it must go hand-in-hand with ongoing improvement of health coverage, in both prevention and attention, favoring quality and improving medical attention. The second contribution was identifying the topics to be researched, such as the indirect effects of insurance coverage, risk protection, and effective insurance working. On this last topic, for example, a research area could be linked to the impact of insurance on a person or family’s decisions regarding saving or spending. Another example might be an analysis of the differences between private insurance or universal coverage, by identifying current packages and figuring out how effective they are in coverage and quality. It is important to realize that healthcare is a public good that concerns all of society and that we should approach it and benefit from it.

What do you think are the main challenges in the Mexican healthcare system?

One is financial feasibility. Today, there are very big budgetary restrictions, so we must consider how to make this sector efficient and feasible in the future. Considering the development of tax tools could be an option. Another no-less-challenging problem has to do with the quality of services; there is a generalized mistrust among the population about the services offered in public healthcare institutions.

If you want to learn more about José’s research, here is a link to the publication.