Inequalities in the Age of Universal Health Coverage: Young Chileans with Diabetes Negotiating for Their Right to Health


While universal health coverage (UHC) has been praised as a powerful means to reduce inequalities and improve access to health globally, little has been said about how patients experience and understand its implementation locally. In this article, we explore the experiences of young Chileans with type 1 diabetes when seeking care in Santiago, within Chile’s UHC program, which sought to improve people’s access to health care. We argue that the implementation of UHC, within a structurally fragmented health system, did not lead to the promised equitable health care delivery. Although UHC aimed to equitably provide universal care, locally it materialized in heterogeneous configurations forcing individuals into positions of precarity and generating new inequalities. Furthermore, for the young people in the study, UHC intersected with their health insurance and socioeconomic status, impacting on the health care they could access, consequently making diabetes care and management a difficult challenge.