Argentina is a country of 41 million people and a GDP amounting to $380 billion (2010). Overall healthcare expenditures in Argentina have traditionally accounted for approximately 7-10 percent of GDP, among the highest in the region. Imports in the overall healthcare sector have been estimated to account for around 70-75 percent of the total market. The United States continues to lead the Argentine import market of medical products and equipment, and currently holds 26 percent market share, particularly in higher-end technology products. Argentina remains a key market for U.S. exports to Latin America. However, current market challenges may lead import figures to remain sluggish during 2012.
Imports of medical equipment, devices and instruments experienced an exceptional surge during 2011 and reached for approximately $778 million, with $198 million of this from the U.S. Import figures may remain sluggish during 2012 and it is unlikely that imports will grow so rapidly during 2012-2013.
Argentina remains a key market for U.S. exports to Latin America. However, market challenges arising from slowing economic activity, inflationary pressures, and a host of import and foreign exchange restrictions imposed by the Argentine Government in late 2011 and early 2012 are expected to adversely affect imports and slow GDP growth in 2012 to 1-2 percent, down from about 8 percent in 2011.
Medical products that cannot be manufactured locally present opportunities for U.S. exporters, particularly when offering high quality products at competitive prices. Niche opportunities for U.S. exports may include middle and higher-end equipment such as imaging diagnostics equipment, medical ultrasound equipment, and electrocardiograph equipment. There may be potential for implants, stents, cardiac valves, pacemakers, specialized disposables, molecular biology products, and diagnostic reagents.
Simpler technology is more easily financed and thus considered mass-market. In this competitive market the demand for these products is for the most part met. In any case, product potential should be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Over 2000 companies are registered to sell medical products and equipment in Argentina, of which 25 percent are manufacturers and 75 percent are importers. Brazil poses strong competition since imports enjoy a zero tariff under Mercosur. U.S., Japanese and Europeanmade equipment is known for its high technology and precision, whereas Argentine equipment, although durable, is generally low-tech.
Domestic production has been growing, although in general it is limited more to lower-middle range equipment and supplies, such as x-ray devices, peripheral equipment, illumination systems, furniture, operating tables, echographs and ECGs, monitors, oximeters, cobalt pumps, anesthesia equipment, sterilization equipment, basic lab equipment, instruments for arthroscopy, fixation instruments, instruments for video endoscopy surgery, wheelchairs, scales, etc
While imports are mainly carried out by importers/distributors, there are some few direct purchases by health care institutions that are registered to import. End users for medical equipment and products can be divided into three segments: 1) public sector institutions; 2) universities; and 3) private sector institutions.
The health care service sector in Argentina is a mixed system made up of four distinct service providers. The first group has the public hospitals, in place mainly for the uninsured. The second is the social security healthcare system (or union-run system, known as “obras sociales”), which is designed for people with fixed salary employment. The third is private medical insurance (“pre-pagas”), which gathers those who can afford pre-determined services. The fourth is the healthcare system for the elderly (PAMI), similar to Medicare in the United States.