The Jujuy Province government intends to start charging foreign patients who resort to its public hospitals to get treatment. In several contacts with press, provincial Health Minister Gustavo Bouhid outlined the bill that the Executive Branch will introduce once the legislative year begins on March 1st.
Bouhid said that hospitals would not charge for treating emergency procedures resulting from accidents, but they would for “complex or chronic treatments” that represent high costs for the province’s health system, such as cancer treatments.
He went on to explain that charging foreigners is part of a broader initiative aimed at implementing a so-called “financial retrieval law.”
“If [an Argentine] person gets treated in a public hospital in Jujuy and has nation-wide coverage, the hospital does not get paid and the provincial administration does not have the legal means to get the money back that, for example, Salta and other provinces have,” Bouhid said.
In regards to foreigners, he said that while there are cases of people who do have insurance, that’s not the usual case. “On the contrary, it is a daily flow of people who are even referred to the provincial hospitals to get extremely expensive treatments,” said Bouhid, who singled out Bolivia as the country from which most foreigners come.
However, he clarified they intend to have “the Bolivian state pay” for its citizens’ medical attention through a reciprocity agreement, rather than charging single individuals. “We want reciprocity. Today, Argentines are charged in Bolivian hospitals but we don’t charge them,” said Bouhid. He then pointed out the Jujuy administration already has an agreement of the kind with the Chilean city of Antofagasta. “We hope to reach agreements with all neighboring countries,” he added.
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 an agreement “between US $20 and $30” at the border, as a mandatory health insurance.
In an interview with Jujuy news site El Tribuno, Bolivian Consul in Jujuy Nelson Guarachi Mamani said the potential measure “causes a great deal of sadness”, “since the [Argentine] state has always had a humanitarian stance in the past, the fact that they don’t look at the immigrants’ situation with the same eyes is saddening.”