In 2012, Mexico achieved a significant milestone – enrolling 52.6 million previously uninsured Mexicans in public medical insurance programs and thereby achieving universal health coverage in less than a decade.
A November 21, 2012 article in The Economist notes that while the Seguro Popular (Popular Insurance) program is still a work in progress, it has already made impressive gains since the program began in 2004. Deaths from rotavirus, a common cause of diarrhea, have dropped by 60%. The survival rate for acute leukemia in children improved from three in ten to seven in ten. The rate of women dropping out of breast cancer treatment because they could not afford it has dropped from nearly a third to almost zero.
HSPH Dean Julio Frenk was Minister of Health in Mexico from 2000-2006 and architect of the reforms approved by the Mexican Congress which enabled the introduction of Seguro Popular. In the Economist article, Frenk recalled meeting a family facing financial calamity due to medical bills. “People liquidated their productive assets and their poverty was transmitted to the next generation,” Frenk said. Since the program’s inception, the number of families pushed into poverty by a medical emergency has dropped from 7% to less than 3%.