The Bolivian government today rejected the possibility of signing a reciprocity agreement with Argentina to provide free medical attention to its citizens in both countries’ public hospitals.
The Argentine government had extended the proposal following the debate sparked by the announcement made by the Jujuy Province regarding plans to introduce a bill aimed at charging foreign citizens for use of its public hospitals. Taking into account that representatives of the provincial administration conceded they were mostly talking about Bolivian citizens, the conversation, at least in Jujuy, was circumscribed to this country.
When proposing the agreement, Argentina emphasized on the fact that it provides free healthcare to the country’s citizens and requested “the same benefits be applied to Argentine nationals in Bolivian territory. “
However, the Evo Morales administration argued that the Bolivian law only provides healthcare to the following demographics: “pregnant women since the beginning of their pregnancies until six months after the birth, children younger than five years old, men and women over 60, women who are still fertile but only when it comes to services that have to do with sexual and reproductive health, and people with disabilities.” “Therefore, the signing of the treaty does not correspond,” the letter finishes.
When going over the bill, Jujuy’s Health minister Gustavo Bouhid had explained that the provincial administration’s goal was to have “the Bolivian government pay” for its citizens’ medical attention through a reciprocity agreement, rather than charging single individuals.
The minister then explained that, should a deal not be reached, the government is analyzing the possibility of charging foreigners who don’t have health insurance or are not reached by some sort of arrangement “between US $20 and $30” at the border, as a mandatory health insurance.
Asides from what Jujuy may end up doing, the national government has signaled its willingness to expand the debate to the entire country. In a press conference, Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña said the “there are not many examples in the world of countries providing free healthcare to non-residents. It does not exist and it happens for a reason,” said Peña. However, he called for a “mature debate,” considering that “associating this discussion with xenophobia or discrimination is extremely low.” The debate has just began, and it will surely continue for a while.