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Health in Argentina after 12 years of “Kirchnerismo”

By Sara Ardila-Gómez
on July 9, 2015

The end of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner´s government is near; time to assess the achievements of 12 years of the same government in Argentina, with (first) the late Néstor Kirchner and (then) his wife Cristina Kirchner.

The Kirchners provoke passions: you either love them or hate them, and this makes an analysis of Argentina’s progress and problems over the last decade or so difficult. Any opinion will readily be qualified as pro or contra “Kirchnerismo” . The Kirchners rose to power after a severe crisis in Argentina in 2001, comparable with the situation in Greece right now.

If we focus on health, two things stand out after 12 years: first, one has to acknowledge important achievements in the field of social determinants of health. Time will tell if these can be sustained with a change of governments, since sadly, in Argentina policies and actions tend to be linked to persons, and state policies are seldom firmly established, let alone carved in stone. Second, not much has been achieved when it comes to changing “the rules of the game” of the health system.

With respect to social determinants, it cannot be denied that the lives of the poor have improved,  thanks to a higher income more in particular. An emblematic example is the Universal Allocation per Child, although this is not the only policy measure in this area; a series of plans and subsidies for vulnerable groups saw the light. Nevertheless, and although the Gini index has considerably improved through these redistributive measures, the endemic problem of inflation in Argentina remains a constant threat. Because of this, people, although enjoying better lives, cannot save or access credit for housing.

Regarding the health system, in spite of intentions of coordination and stewardship by the Ministry of Health (in a strictly federal country), the system still shows large differences between regions, lack of coordination between municipal, provincial and national levels, and the main problem of the Argentinian health system still stands: segmentation in three subsystems, public, private, social security. This implies that, just like 12 years ago, an Argentine will still have a different destiny and  be treated differently, according to where he/she lives and in which subsystem he/she is taken care of. It is a tragic paradox that the unions, managers of the social security funds, are a key obstacle on the road towards the achievement of more equal healthcare.

Abolishing the segmentation of the health system and the unequal treatment that follows, is a battle that Kirchnerismo did not want or dare to fight. This will remain as one of its great debts to Argentinian society. In this failure it does not stand alone: the same can be said of most populist or center-left governments in Latin America over the last decade.

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