Chapter 17: Health and social protection policies for older people in Latin America
Most Latin American countries devote relatively large amounts of funding to social policies, especially policies of particular relevance to older people, such as pensions (ECLAC, 2007). Despite this, the capacity of these schemes to enhance the situation of older people from poorer sections of society is often quite limited. Across the region, many older people remain excluded from pension schemes and have little access to appropriate health services. The main reason for this is that social spending is mainly devoted to social insurance schemes that focus on better-off groups. Despite the high degree of inequality and exclusion generated by these schemes, they have remained resistant to reform, due to the political influence of those groups they benefit. This chapter provides a general overview of these issues and then sets out some alternative models of social provision for older people. In more recent decades, several Latin American countries have established or extended social assistance schemes for their older populations. These include large-scale social pension schemes in Brazil and Bolivia, and a pioneering health insurance scheme in Mexico. The chapter briefly reviews these schemes and their impacts on older people, before identifying lessons for Latin America and beyond.
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