America has the individual mandate for health insurance and requires hospitals to offer emergency treatment. But Argentina's largest province, Buenos Aires, has the clown mandate: Public hospitals are now required to hire specially trained clowns to help treat child patients.
Dr. Andres Kogan, a pediatrician who oversees a hospital program with clowns, said the law passed in May would be implemented over the next few months. The province, which borders the separate city of Buenos Aires, has about 15 million residents and more than 70 public hospitals.
Kogan told the Associated Press that clowns don't just make children and their families feel better about being in a hospital, they also help doctors get information from children who are shy, have been abused or are not able to communicate.
Alejo Lacone, 9, left paralyzed after being hit by a car in March, is a good example of how that works. Because of a tracheotomy, he can't speak.
However, three clowns at the Central Hospital of Pediatrics Dr. Claudio Zin, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, are able to get him to smile by acting in front of him. The clowns do rounds every Thursday in rooms with children.
“The clowns put on their noses and invite you to play with them,” said hospital director Carlos Kambourian.
Ludmila Arredes, Alejo Lacone's 19-year-old cousin, said the clowns give the child something to look forward to.
“Since the clowns began coming, the nurses have noticed a difference, and so they have asked that they come more frequently,” she said.
Under the law, hospitals will have wide leeway to decide how many clowns come and how frequently.