Private and public health care

How the system works in Colombia

Private and public health care

Public healthcare in Colombia has come under fire in recent years for corruption and allegations of financial mismanagement. However, the private sector is of a very high standard and attracts medical tourists looking for cheap treatments.

Public health system in Colombia

Since the 1980s public health care has improved enormously in Colombia. Prior to 1993 public care was provided through a single public insurer. In 1993, Law 100 introduced private insurers in regulated competition. Employees could purchase a private health plan through their salary payments. Unemployed people, the very poor or those in irregular employment are still publicly funded.

This reform widened the coverage of public health care, meaning 85% of the population were covered in 2007, an improvement on 21% pre-1993. The General System of Social Security in Health (Sistema General de Seguridad Social en Salud, SGSSS) was created with two regimes: the contributory for those who can afford to pay, and the subsidized for the poor.

While coverage and access has improved, public hospitals are struggling with long waiting times, costs and poor quality of services. Emergency rooms in particular are overcrowded as, by law, they cannot turn away any Colombian nationals.

The vast majority of expats will have some kind of private health insurance for their stay in Colombia. However, those expats with a contract and how meet the minimum salary requirements must join the contributory health system. The contribution is 12% of the declared income, two thirds paid by the employer and one third by the employee.

Private healthcare in Colombia

Colombia boasts a modern private healthcare system, centred on the major cities. Expats can buy health insurance from a variety of local or international providers. The private healthcare here is attracting more and more medical tourists, especially from the U.S., who are wooed by the high quality of care and the low prices.

For expats with private health insurance seeking treatment will pose little problem. The quality is high and doctors are often trained abroad in the USA or Europe.

Find out more at healthcare in Colombia at Expat Health Tips: 

Further reading

Does this article help?

Do you have any comments, updates or questions on this topic? Ask them here: