A burgeoning middle class and aging population are creating greater demand for health care services beyond what Mexico’s state-run medical programs can offer, potentially opening up an opportunity for private investments, panelists told attendees of the Mexico PE Day conference, hosted by the Mexican Association of PE & VC Funds in New York on Thursday.
“Mexico is underinvesting in health care,” said Hector Valle, a health-care consultant who has worked for IMS Health Inc.IMS -0.05% in Latin America. Mr. Valle noted that Mexico currently spends around 6.2% annually on the industry, compared with an average of 7.4% across other Latin American countries. By comparison, the U.S. spends close to 17% of its gross domestic product on health care, according to data from the World Bank.
There aren’t enough hospital beds or specialists to meet demand, said Daniel Broid, medical infrastructure planning coordinator at Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, Mexico’s state-owned health care and social services institution. Those, coupled with treatment of degenerative diseases such as cancer, offer the biggest opportunities for providers, he said.
“Money coming from private investors would be well-received,” said Mr. Valle.
“The infrastructure is underdeveloped,” said Harry Krensky, managing partner of Discovery Americas, a Mexico-focused private equity firm. “The government has done a good job creating a safety net, but demand for private services is outstripping supply.”
There is also a regional disparity within the country, said Mr. Krensky. Some places, such as Monterrey, are also much better-served than others, with “too many beds,” he said.
Mr. Krensky said his firm, which has been focusing on building out a hospital platform with 250 beds, has also zeroed in on the assisted-living space.
Life expectancy in Mexico is slightly higher than average among Latin American nations, and similar to many other countries, the percentage of young people is trending down. Twenty years ago, 36% of the population was under 14 years old. In 2013, 28% of the population fell into that demographic, according to data from the World Bank.
The country, which undertook a massive overhaul of its health-care system over the past decade, still has room for improvement to entice private investment, according to some of the panelists.
“There’s space for reform in the health-care sector,” said Mr. Valle, adding that there are few examples of private investment in the space.
While investment in the health-care space in Mexico may be lagging, private equity firms put $1.31 billion to work across industries there in 2014, more than double what was invested a year earlier, according to data provided by the Latin American Private Equity and Venture Capital Association.