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The expansion of public health insurance in Mexico: health, financial and distributional effects

Sáenz de Miera Juárez, Belén (2017) The expansion of public health insurance in Mexico: health, financial and distributional effects. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.bn9ba3po4y1g


During the past decade, the Mexican government launched an ambitious expansion of public health insurance through the Seguro Popular programme (SP). As a result, health care access was legislated as citizens’ entitlement, a generous benefit package was offered, and public health expenditure was significantly increased. In 2011, the programme had reached 52 million affiliates. However, there is limited evidence on its effects on a number of outcomes and their distribution. This thesis analyses three aspects that are key to evaluate health system performance. Specifically, using quasi-experimental methods and recent distributional measures of pure health, it examines the effect of universal insurance coverage on infant mortality, non-medical consumption, and health inequalities. Drawing on municipality-level data, the first article finds that the programme led to a 3.9 per cent decrease in infant and neonatal mortality. These reductions were concentrated in more populated, urban, and less marginalised municipalities, however, probably because this type of municipalities have been traditionally better equipped and are thus better prepared to offer all the interventions from the benefit package. Based on data from the Mexican Family Life Survey (MxFLS), the second article shows that unexpected health events such as accidents and deterioration in physical capacity are associated with large declines in non-medical consumption. Social security seems to provide protection against both types of shocks, but endogeneity-corrected estimates show that the SP only protects consumption against accidents. This suggests that income losses associated with disability shocks for which the programme does not offer protection, are likely larger than medical care expenditures, and poses the question of whether other social security benefits, such as disability insurance, should also be extended. Finally, the third article analyses the distribution of health in the context of the SP implementation. Unlike traditional studies, pure health inequality and mobility are analysed using a recently developed class of indices appropriate for categorical data. If a downward-looking definition of status is employed, the distribution of health appears stable, but if an upward-looking definition is adopted, a significant increase in inequality is observed. Evidence of strong persistence in health was also found. This lack of improvement in the health distribution suggests that factors other than health insurance coverage, such as institutional performance, are more important determinants of health inequalities. Overall, this thesis finds important health effects from extending health insurance coverage but limited effects on economic welfare and the distribution of health status across the entire population.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2017 Belén Sáenz de Miera Juárez
Library of Congress subject classification: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Sets: Departments > Social Policy
Supervisor: Costa-Font, Joan

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