Crushing costs of Covid care leave grieving Mexican families facing ruin | Global development


F.or more than 50 years, Pedro Martínez drove his truck through the mountains of Jalisco State, keeping stocks for the clothing store during the week, and taking his family on outings at weekends.

Martínez, 90, was long retired when he was hospitalized with coronavirus-related complications in early October. His family prayed that he would soon recover and return home, but 33 days later he died, leaving her emotionally and financially ruined.

“This disease broke us,” said his 54-year-old son Manuel. “The moment came when we had to decide whether to mortgage the house or take out a loan. We sold everything we could: a piece of land, jewelry, my father’s truck – which we sold as trash for $ 300. “

Few countries have suffered more from coronavirus than Mexico, where an average of nearly 1,300 deaths a day during a punishing second wave of infections.

On Thursday – with the President of Mexico and his richest man battling the disease – the country’s official death toll rose above that of India to over 155,000, the third highest number on earth. Many believe that even these numbers underestimate the true magnitude of the disaster and that it actually has the second highest death toll after the US.

For the families of many Mexican victims, the devastating emotional strain came at a brutal economic price: the exorbitant cost of medical care for patients with the virus has left many in debt, bankrupted, or forced to sell everything they need to cover treatment costs. and need hospital bills.

Pedro Martínez had paid for health insurance for more than a decade and thought it would cover his treatment. What he didn’t realize was that once he was hospitalized in western Jalisco state, the deductibles would put his entire family’s finances at risk.

“We had to pay $ 2,500 before they could even admit my father to the hospital. Then, two days later, they asked us for another $ 5,000, ”said Manuel by phone from Cuquío, the village where the family lives two hours’ drive from the hospital in the city of Zapopan.

“My father just got worse and the bill got bigger and bigger. In less than a week they asked us for $ 15,000 bail or they wouldn’t treat him. When he died there was a bill for more than $ 60,000 – more than 13 times the average annual wage in Mexico.

Covid-19 is one of the five most expensive diseases in Mexico today, alongside HIV and cancer. The average cost of treatment is $ 20,000 – although the price can be over $ 1 million in cases where patients are in or in intensive care units to put on fans.

Members of the nonprofit group Oxygen on Wheels are preparing to treat Covid-19 patients by bringing them oxygen tanks at home in Guadalajara, Mexico. Photo: Francisco Guasco / EPA

One of the most common drugs used to treat Covid patients in Mexico is tocilizumab, which has an average price of $ 500 per dose and is not covered by many health insurers.

The economic crisis that Pedro’s family faced was so great that they were forced to stop his pulmonary rehabilitation therapy 10 days before his death.

“There was no money for the treatment, so we had to stop physiotherapy,” said Manuel. “Being intubated was very painful for him and he had therapy twice a day, but we got to the point where there was no more money to pay for.”

According to the Mexican Association of Insurance Institutions, it is almost impossible to cover all costs associated with coronavirus without health insurance. Even if a patient is not admitted to the hospital, home treatment with oxygen and medication costs an average of $ 3,000.

In early November, as Mexico’s second wave of Covid gained momentum, Pedro died of a heart attack. Doctors said he was free of coronavirus by then, but his lungs were weakened and he had detected a bacterial infection from his intubation.

“I keep asking how that is possible,” said his son Manuel when he had come to terms with her loss and destruction. “I just can’t believe that we don’t have the money to pay for electricity, water or gas now – and neither do we have my father.”



Robert Dunfee