Health care in Argentina

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Argentina’s health care system is composed of three sectors: the public sector, financed through taxes; the private sector, financed through voluntary insurance schemes, and the social security sector, financed through obligatory insurance schemes. The Ministry of Health and Social Action (MSAS), oversees all three subsectors of the health care system and is responsible for setting of regulation, evaluation and collecting statistics.

The public sector is funded and managed by Obras Sociales, umbrella organizations for Argentine worker's unions. There are over 300 Obras Sociales in Argentina, each chapter being organized according to the occupation of the beneficiary. These organizations vary greatly in quality and effectiveness. The top 30 chapters hold 73% of the beneficiaries and 75% of resources for all Obras Sociales schemes and the monthly average a beneficiary receives varies from $5-80 dollars per month. [1] MSAS has established a Solidarity Redistribution Fund (FSR) to try to address these beneficiary inequities. Only workers employed in the formal sector are covered under Obras Sociales insurance schemes and after Argentina’s economic crisis of 2001, the number of those covered under these schemes fell slightly (as unemployment increased and employment in the informal sector rose). In 1999, there were 8.9 million beneficiaries covered by Obras Sociales.[2]

The private health care sector in Argentina is characterized by great heterogeneity and is made up of a great number of fragmented facilities and small networks; it consists of over 200 organizations and covers approximately 2 million Argentines.[3] Private insurance often overlaps with other forms of health care coverage, thus it is difficult to estimate the degree to which beneficiaries are dependent on the public and private sectors. According to a 2000 report by the IRBC, foreign competition has increased in Argentina’s private sector, with Swiss, American and other Latin American health care providers entering the market in recent years. This has been accompanied by little formal regulation.[4]

The public system serves those not covered by Obras Sociales or private insurance schemes. It also provides emergency services. According to above-mentioned IRBC report, Argentina’s public system exhibits serious structural deterioration and managerial inefficiency; a high degree of administrative centralization at the provincial level; rigidity in its staffing structure and labour relationships; no adequate system of incentives; inadequate information systems on which to base decision-making and control; serious deficits in facilities and equipment maintenance; and a system of management ill-suited to its size.

The public system is highly decentralized to the provincial level; often primary care is even under the purview of local townships. Since 2001, the number of Argentines relying on public services has seen an increase. According to 2000 figures, 37.4% of Argentines had no health insurance, 48.8 were covered under Obras Sociales, 8.6% had private insurance, and 3.8% were covered by both Obras Sociales and private insurance schemes.[5]


  1. IDRC Reshaping Health Care in Latin America
  2. Armando Barrientos "Reforming Health Insurance in Argentina and Chile" Health Policy and Planning 15(4): 420
  3. IDRC Reshaping Health Care in Latin America
  4. IDRC Reshaping Health Care in Latin America
  5. Armando Barrientos "Reforming Health Insurance in Argentina and Chile" Health Policy and Planning 15(4): 420