“Vales de medicinas para todos”, or “drug vouchers for all” has been a staple of The Mexican Green Party’s (PVEM) platform for several years, and now that Peña Nieto and the PRI are running in alliance with the PVEM for the 2012 elections, Peña Nieto has recently come out officially in support of the proposal as part of his presidential campaign (here and here, in Spanish).
The proposal is fairly simple to understand. For all Mexicans who use some arm of the Mexican public health care system, the ISSSTE, IMSS, or Seguro Popular, if the public agencies are out of a prescribed medicine, an individual would get a voucher to obtain the same medicine from a private pharmacy. The proposal actually passed a few years ago in the Chamber of Deputies, but was blocked in the Senate. To me it is unclear how much of a problem it is that public pharmacies lack the necessary drugs, but on the face of it, the proposal sounds like a good one.
The proposal has been criticized by the left as a move towards privatization of public health care, but that criticism seems a little disingenuous considering that the entire system was built on a public-private partnership because the state just did not have the resources to create a completely public health care system autonomous of private doctors and hospitals (for more info on the development of the Mexican health care system, see Michelle Dion’s excellent Workers and Welfare.
What is really at issue here is that the PVEM is closely linked to the González Torres family, which controls Farmacias Similares, Farmacias del Ahorro, and Farmacias el Fenix, discount generic pharmaceutical chains that are all over Mexico, Central and South America. Jorge González Torres founded the PVEM in 1991 and was the party’s president until 2001, when the party leadership was taken over by his son, Jorge Emilio González Martinez (El Niño Verde). Jorge Emilio González led the PVEM until last year. The PVEM is largely a family business, and their drug vouchers proposal is classic rent-seeking behavior for personal, political and financial benefit.
Does it matter? Maybe not. The proposal itself may benefit a lot of Mexicans by ensuring they get access to the medicine they need, regardless of who provides it. However, it is always useful to know that seemingly progressive policies being supported by the Mexican political class are often for private financial gain.