Some Latin American Consulates Provide Health Care Services to Foreign Nationals Living in U.S.
Latin American consulates in Washington, D.C., have begun providing some health services, such as eye exams and medical tests, to foreign nationals living in the U.S., the Washington Post reports. The Salvadoran consulate two years ago began a health care program for nationals, which last year served an average of 50 people per week. The services usually include a referral to a health center or clinic that provides care regardless of economic or immigration status.
The Mexican consulate last year began a similar program that offers health services to nationals. Mexican Secretary of Health José Ángel Córdova said the Mexican government wants nationals living in the U.S. to have the "peace of mind of having access to basic health services." He added that he hopes to provide "health care to all Mexicans regardless of where they are" as part of the country's goal of providing universal health coverage by 2010. Córdova noted, "The migratory phenomenon has been growing (around the world) and it is something we will be grappling with for some time," adding, "I believe there should be agreements among countries to guarantee a basic service such as health."
According to the Post, U.S. officials "don't deny the universality" of the problem of immigrants' lack of access to care. William Steiger, director of the Office of Global Health Affairs at HHS, said, "From our perspective, there is no border in terms of health anymore," adding, "We know that not just immigrants but travelers in this age of globalization can represent a challenge because they can bring diseases and export them as well." In addition, Latin American immigrants often are employed in low-wage jobs that do not offer health insurance.
Steiger and Córdova said the U.S. and Mexico are discussing the possible creation of a binational health plan that would provide coverage to U.S. citizens living in Mexico and Mexican residents living in the U.S. Córdova suggested that such a plan provide full coverage to U.S. citizens living in Mexico, but only primary care for Mexicans living in the U.S. because there is a greater number of Mexican nationals living in the U.S. Mexicans with more serious health programs could be sent to their home country for treatment, under the potential plan (Sanchez, Washington Post, 11/19).