The recognition of the Unified Health System in this year’s presidential elections is unprecedented. From left to right, the 12 candidates reaffirmed in their government plans the need to improve and strengthen public health.
The SUS gained centrality and began to be treated more seriously by all political fields. Simplifying proposals for the health system, such as “vouchers” or popular health plans, lost strength in government programs.
To a large extent, the recognition of SUS is due to its role in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the structural weaknesses, errors and omissions in the conduct of fighting the disease, it was the SUS that guaranteed the vaccines to the beds. In this way, precepts of the system, such as universality and gratuity, gained a concrete dimension in people’s lives.
There is some unanimity in the presidential candidates’ plans. The defense of investment in primary care is one of them. The incorporation of health technologies is another consensus that meets what the population expects from the next government, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Private Hospitals and Poder Data.
Even on the topic of immunization, which has a representative of the anti-vaccination movements on the extreme right, there was an inflection by the incumbent, who expressly recognized that vaccination against Covid-19 prevented about 1 million deaths in Brazil by the end of 2021 — although stated in its plan that immunization was provided to citizens who wished to.
It is clear that between declarations of intent and practice there is a huge gap, and it is not possible to infer that this political consensus will necessarily reflect progress in health policies.
A concern that emerges from reading the government plans is the limitation of proposals regarding structural problems of the SUS. The four candidates with the highest scores in the polls did not address how they intend to face the bottleneck of underfunding of the system, which is a Gordian knot.
Issues such as access to specialized care, the organization of queues, the training of human resources and the equation of international dependence on strategic health supplies were not satisfactorily addressed.
Who knows, these matters may be better explained by the candidates based on the demands of public opinion.
Even so, it has to be recognized that the SUS is no longer seen only by the image of crowded emergency rooms with a line of patients at the door. However, given the seriousness of the health crisis experienced in the country, it is necessary to go beyond recognition.
This year’s elections are a unique opportunity to establish a national pact around concrete actions to strengthen the SUS and consolidate it as the most efficient social policy in the nation, an achievement of democracy and the Brazilian people.
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