Which is more apt to achieve the lofty political goal of universal health care coverage?
ObamaCare? Or CalderonCare?
If it's a race, Mexico has a serious head start. Felipe Calderon entered his presidency with an eye on expanding health care, just like someone else we know.
Mexico's version of Kathleen Sebelius visited Kansas City on Friday, signing agreements on research, training and care with Children's Mercy Hospital and the University of Kansas School of Medicine.
Most of us last saw Jose Angel Cordova Villalobos, Mexico's secretary of health, with a blue mask hanging from his neck as he released the latest news about the swine flu outbreak in his country.
But there is different health news from below our border these days. While our Congress struggles over bills that would not take effect for years, Mexico’s goal is comprehensive care for all by 2011.
The goal got pushed back a year, but it’s still a tall order. According to Cordova, before 2004, only half of Mexico’s population was covered either by private insurance or the government. Mexico's poorest had to seek help at public hospitals and were expected to pay.
Seguro Popular was the first step. That insurance now protects more than 10 million families that are not enrolled in other health care programs.
More recently, Healthy Pregnancy care has expanded to 400,000 mothers and their children. With Medical Insurance for a New Generation, coverage has been extended to 2.2 million children and their families.
Mexico's mortality rate for children younger than 5 has been dropping. The admirable focus on its youngest citizens explains Cordova's presence at Children’s Mercy. The hospital has partnerships with a children's hospital in Panama City, Panama, and one in Quanzhou, China, but the deal with Mexico is the first with another country.
The KU agreement focuses on preventive care.
Cordova said Mexico has added 1,300 clinics or hospitals and 70,000 health care workers in the last three years to serve the expanding patient pool.
The government is trying to drive costs down, such as pushing the generic pharmaceutical industry to bring high-quality drugs to market, Cordova said.
The situation is complicated by access to doctors and ensuring the quality of care, same as factors in the battle here.
"Certainly we need to do more things for the health of Mexicans," Cordova said. “We don't have enough money to cover all of the costs."
Interesting, isn't it, that our poorer neighbor is aggressively bringing more people under the health care umbrella as we, in our vastly richer society, watch more and more of our own citizens lose their coverage.