Colombia Medical Insurance
The Republic of Colombia is the fourth largest country in South America, bordering 5 different countries as well as both the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The country is blessed with substantial natural resources and a diverse culture that reflects the indigenous Indian, Spanish and African origins of its people. Colombia has a population of 45 million people with over 75% living in urban areas. The capitol, Bogotá, is the country’s largest city and financial heart and is one of the most influential metropolises in Latin America. Colombia was infamous for being blighted by decades of violent civil conflict involving drug cartels and insurgent militias. However the rebel militant forces have seen their power wane considerably under former President Uribe’s ‘democratic security’ measures and this stability has enabled the international business and tourism industries to really develop.
Colombia’s health care system has undergone significant reforms and now attempts to offer both public and private medical service options for all of its citizens. Under the new Constitution of 1991, health and social security became rights in Colombia. These mandates became authorized gradually through Law 60, which governs matters relating to the authority, distribution and resources of the various territorial entities, and it culminated in the enactment of Law 100 of 1993, which set the framework for a national health insurance system. The ambitious goal was to increase insurance coverage and ensure entitlement to a basic package of services for all. While there has been a significant increase in the proportion of the population covered, the reforms have not reached their universal coverage goal and have encountered problems. Public health programs have been adversely affected by the transition. Decentralization transferred public health responsibilities to the municipalities which lack the required technical training and supervision of the Ministry of Health. Funding shortfalls limit institutional capacity and maintain discrepancies in the quality of medical services between those who can afford to contribute to the national scheme and those who cannot.
The social security laws introduced a system of coverage to Colombians under both contributory and subsidized insurance regimens based on a partnership scheme of income redistribution that could grant universal benefits through protection of the insured and their dependents. The contributive system (for those that can afford to pay) is financed exclusively by 12% of the declared income contribution, two-thirds paid by the employer and one-third by the employee. Independent workers must pay all of the corresponding contribution themselves. The poor must apply to their municipality and undergo a means test. If they are under a certain level of income and there are enough medical resources available in the municipality they will qualify for the subsidized health insurance option. The subsidized system is financed by general taxes collected by the national government and transferred to the municipalities. These funds are reinforced by departmental and municipal contributions plus aid from the private system. Private insurance companies compete in both the contributive and the subsidized regimes within contracted limits. All companies must offer the same package of services set by the Ministry of Health but will compete in efficiency and quality of service.
There are both public and private medical facilities in Colombia. Cities and large municipal towns will all include several hospitals, clinics and private practices. Concerned with the capacity of the state’s health care sector (1.1 physicians per 1000 people in Colombia versus a Latin American average of 1.5), private medical services are becoming increasingly popular. There are an estimated 55,000 hospital beds in the country with a 60% public and 40% private split. All of these public and private hospitals compete in the market to contract with insurers to provide health services.
Foreign nationals who require medical treatment while in Colombia will find the standard of care good, but expensive. Visitors to the country are not permitted to participate in the government health system and will be liable for to pay all fees out of pocket. Doctors and hospitals expect cash payment prior to providing medical services, including for emergency care. Emergency rooms may be overcrowded, even at the better health amenities. The standard of medical facilities provided by private hospitals in Bogotá and other major cities is good. Outside of major cities, however, facilities can be very limited and in some rural regions non-existent.
It is in these more remote areas where communicable diseases such as malaria, dengue and yellow fever are widespread. When traveling to Colombia it is strongly recommended you safeguard yourself with a comprehensive medical insurance policy covering all eventualities. It is important you ensure your policy includes emergency evacuation cover as this can be a significant financial cost that can amount to tens of thousands of dollars. Travel infrastructure has been affected by exceptionally heavy rains in many areas recently and an air evacuation may become the most efficient treatment in emergency circumstances.
Pacific Prime will consult and offer a wide range of policies to meet your individual needs should you plan to travel to Colombia. We offer a wide variety of health care plans and travel insurance policies with possible benefit packages including dental, maternity, inpatient, outpatient, specialist consultations, and many more. Please contact our professional advisors today for a free quote