The Colombian healthcare system is of generally fair quality, especially the private one. Its comparably low prices by international standards attract increasing numbers of "medical tourists" from abroad. Various reforms made during the 1990s and early 2000s have split the Colombian healthcare system into the health insurance system, which is fully privatized, and the health providing institutions, which may be public or private.
Nevertheless, the best services are not the most affordable to the average Colombian and the public health system has been highly criticized for its overcrowded hospitals, long waiting times and the unavailability of good services for all. The regional disparities typical to the country are also found in the quality of healthcare, with big cities boasting high performing facilities with the latest technology, while many rural areas lack access to basic equipment and medications.
Access to the health institutions is made by contracting a mandatory health insurance plan from one of the country's EPS institutions (Entidades Promotoras de Salud). Quotas depend on the subscriber's income, and amount to 12% of the gross salary, paid between the employer and the employee.
Once you have become an affiliate of an EPS, you will be assigned to an IPS (Institucion Prestadora de Salud), which is generally a local clinic, hospital or health center that will be your first stop for any health issues. Appointments are requested through your EPS, and services will be provided at a discounted rate. Keep in mind that, if you only have the basic mandatory health insurance, waiting times for appointments are usually high, and may take as long as six months.
No health cards are required, as every service will be registered based on your local I.D.
Alternatively, you may request medical appointments and check-ups at the city's numerous private hospitals and clinics. The services are excellent in many of them, and you will be quickly attended, but your EPS will most likely not cover the costs.
EPS institutions vary in quality and coverage, and make sure you get recommendations from friends and request quotations before subscribing to one.
Some of the best EPS in Colombia are:
Emergency services are provided free of charge in public hospitals and health centers.
After signing up with an EPS, you will be assigned a health center (centro de salud) in an area of your choice. You will not be assigned a practitioner, but a doctor in the health center will consult you on your appointments and refer you to a specialist if needed. You will need to make another appointment with the specialist through the EPS.
Alternatively, you can use the services of any medical doctor in the private clinics around the city, if you are willing to pay. Many doctors speak good English, are highly trained in Colombia or abroad, and you will generally be attended on the spot. However, the costs are significantly higher than in public clinics.
Dental procedures are usually covered by the EPS basic plans, including orthodontics. Dentists in Colombia work in clinics and health centers, and you will find them in the IPS you are assigned to. As in the case of medical doctors, dentist appointments are made through the EPS, but you can also use the services of a dentist in a private clinic, where payment is made up front. Expect to pay around 35-50 usd for a regular dental check-up.
Services are good, with modern equipment and highly trained personnel.
Dentists are best found through recommendations from people you know, but your company may also be able to recommend a practice.
With so much to deal with before leaving your home country, (taxes, moving house, paperwork etc.) the careful planning of your expatriation to Bogotá is an essential step. As far as healthcare is concerned, your local social security scheme won’t be accompanying you to your host country and, once abroad, you might be surprised by the care system you find in Colombia. So, before leaving, make sure you have appropriate cover!
EasyExpat.com works in partnership with APRIL International to provide specific insurance solutions for travelling or staying outside your country of nationality.
Designed for either short or long stays, APRIL International’s insurance policies offer protection against any problems that might arise before departure or during your time in Colombia: cancelling your trip, medical expenses following an illness or accident, needing to be repatriated, causing damage to a third party or losing your luggage.
For more information on expat health insurance in Colombia, visit our partner APRIL International