In 2015 the GDP growth rate in Argentina was 1.2%. Overall, looking at the GDP rate since 2011, it has been a turbulent up and down, coming from as high as 8.4% in 2011 to a forecasted -1% in 2016. Healthcare expenditures in Argentina were around €20 bn in 2015, approximately 4.6% of the GDP.
National Care Provision
Inflation in Argentina is high and continues to increase due to a chain reaction originating from a prior series of disorganized macroeconomic policies. The related dynamics have resulted in a drain on foreign exchange reserves and a gap between official and market exchange rates.
The budgetary deficit in Argentina was quite high in 2015 at -7.4% of GDP, however new measures to curb spending are expected to take effect in 2015-2016 and decrease the deficit to about -5.5% of GDP by 2017.
The healthcare expenditure has been decreasing steadily since 2011; a 40% decrease in total over the last 5 years. Per capita expenditure currently is around €460 (it’s per capita expenditure is comparable to that of South Africa or Bulgaria). About 56% is funded publicly, while the remaining 44% is coming from private health insurance and patient contributions.
Argentina provides universal medical coverage through a tax-funded public insurance program.
The healthcare system in Argentina can be broken down into 3 main sectors, each with their own network and funding mechanisms; public, private and union-run.
The main challenges for Argentina’s healthcare system in the coming years are:
- Changing demographics and increased incidence of chronic diseases
- Lack of integration: outdated protocols and long waiting lists
- Inequalities in accessibility and quality of care
- Cost management
- Deterioration of public structures and outdated technologies and treatments
Changing demographics and increased incidence in chronic diseases
As the population in Argentina continues to age, the number of chronic diseases and morbidities is growing and increasing the demand for services in the healthcare system.
The most coveted services are in orthopedics, dentistry and cardiology.
Changing lifestyles are also contributing to the increased incidence of chronic illness (e.g. increased stress levels, changes in eating habits, less manual labor resulting in a more sedentary life style, etc.).
These factors coupled with the delicate economic climate will pose an increasingly significant challenge in the years to come.
Lack of integration: outdated protocols and long waiting lists
The healthcare system in Argentina is quite fragmented, resulting in a variety of challenges:
- Public hospitals have long waiting lists for treatment and surgery. Adding to this pressure are some of the private patients which choose to have expensive procedures in a public setting due to the expense or high premiums in the private sector.
- Ineffective referral and overconsumption of primary care, leading to higher (unnecessary) hospitalizations.
- Outdated reforms and action plans.
- Underinvestment in tertiary care infrastructure and resources.
Inequalities in accessibility and quality of care
As is the case in many Latin American countries, there are inequalities in the healthcare system which result in some of the poorer and rural populations not getting their basic needs for care met.
The public sector is not evenly accessible, overcrowded, and in many cases the facilities available offer mediocre or insufficient services. The delicate economic situation has resulted in even less funds, straining the system even further.
In most of the urban areas, higher quality and less crowded services are available from private clinics, however these are unaffordable for the majority of citizens. Private hospitals tend to cater to the wealthier populations.
The fragmented healthcare system and a lack of a set national standard for quality of care, has resulted in significant differences in terms of clinical practices and resources from province to province. For example, a city like Buenos Aires has a wide array of high quality and modern healthcare facilities to choose from, while rural provinces like Jujuy remain underserved.
Those most affected patient groups are:
- Patients on waiting lists for surgery in the public sector
- Citizens living in poverty
- The elderly
- Indigenous populations
Healthcare expenses are rising rapidly and threatening the viability of public health insurance systems as well as inflating the out-of-pocket costs for patients.
There are various drivers for the rising healthcare costs:
- The ageing of the population, increasing the need for care (e.g. chronic diseases) and contributing less in terms of financial resources
- The increasing awareness of quality standards for care delivery
- Limited tertiary care infrastructure and resources
- Inequalities in care provision and staff training between the public and the private sector
Deterioration of public structures and outdated technologies and treatments
Although many hospitals in Argentina are quite modern, offering high quality care and boasting the latest technologies, this is not the case for the majority of the public institutions, especially those in rural and underserved areas.
Many public hospitals are underfunded and struggle to offer basic levels of care. In many cases, renovated exteriors hide deteriorated internal infrastructures (i.e. peeling paint, cracked floors, etc.).
The areas most in need of advancement are diagnostic equipment and minimally invasive procedure equipment.
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