20 Facts About Healthcare In Colombia Every Expat Must Know

Are you looking for information on expat healthcare in Colombia? Here are the facts. Public healthcare is available, costs are low, quality of care is high, and medical facilities are well-equipped. However, there are some drawbacks to consider. Expats are eligible for coverage, but doctors can be bureaucratic. And while Colombian healthcare is excellent, it’s not without its challenges. minutes

11/01/23

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About the author

Hi, I'm Marco Sison. I worked in finance for Fortune 50 companies before retiring early at 41 years old. I have been an expat for over 10 years, living in over 50 countries to show you the best ways to save, invest, and live in amazing countries outside the USA. I am a trusted resource on personal finance and overseas retirement for US News & World Reports, HuffPost, MSN Money, USA Today, ABC Network, Yahoo Finance, Best Life, Association of MBAs, and the iTunes documentary Seeking FIRE.

Overview of the healthcare system in Colombia

QUICK SUMMARY- Colombian Healthcare Services

  • Colombian healthcare is of high quality. It’s the top-ranked country in Latin America but also beats out the US and Canada.
  • Healthcare in Colombia is affordable. Public plans come with extras like dental and vision benefits, as well as the ability to cover your spouse and children for free.
  • Expats can use private insurance plans to fill the gaps not provided by public plans, providing a higher standard of care, bilingual staff, and faster service for appointments.
  • The state of Colombian health care is in flux. Some companies have gone bankrupt. The high percentage of individuals enrolled causes frustrating wait times.
  • Older expats who need private health insurance might be frustrated to learn that premiums rise drastically at the age of 60, and some plans just stop altogether.

The World Health Organization ranks Colombia 22nd on its list of the world's top healthcare systems. Overall, the healthcare system is easily accessible and affordable, offering world-class health and medical facilities in urban centers. Case in point: Bogota, Medellin, and Cali have some of the best-ranked hospitals in South America. (Keep in mind that rural areas may not offer the same quality of care).

The country’s General Healthcare Social Security scheme (Sistema General de Seguridad Social en Salud, SGSSS) funds the
Colombian health insurance system and provides universal healthcare coverage to the population, including hospitals and clinics.

This post may contain affiliate links. I may get a commission if you purchase something using my link. Please note, there is NO ADDITIONAL COST to you. For more information, please see my disclosure.

6 Quick Tips To Prepare For A Move To Colombia

TIP 1. Understand Colombia's visa policy- A decade of experience living abroad taught me that a country's resident visa and permit situation can make or break a plan to move overseas. Chat with a Colombian visa attorney.

TIP 2. Know your health insurance requirements- Starting July 2022, the government requires all expats living in Colombia to purchase specific medical coverage that includes accidents, illness, hospitalization, disability, repatriation, maternity, and death. 

TIP 3. Save On Moving CostsInternational moves can get expensive. Save hundreds of dollars by getting accredited moving companies to compete for your business. Fill out a quick form, sit back and let our moving partners get you five free moving quotes from trusted and reliable international moving companies.

TIP 4. Set up a Traveling Mailbox- Change all your critical mailing addresses to a traveling mailbox. Don't lose an important tax return, bank statement, credit card, or government document in the mail. Sign up for a virtual mailbox, and you can keep a permanent US mailing address and check your mail via your phone or PC.

TIP 5. Prove your onward ticket- If you only have a tourist visa Colombia requires a mandatory departure ticket. You need a onward travel with a date leaving the country before your visa expires. Save money by using  an onward plane ticket for just $16

TIP 6. Pick up some Spanish Skills- The most common difficulty experienced by expats in Colombia is English being less common than expected. Only 4% of the country speaks English. You can get a free 7-day Spanish language crash course to make your move to Colombia easier.


20 Facts About Healthcare In Colombia Every Expat Must Know


Quality of healthcare in Colombia

The quality of healthcare in Colombia is, in a word, excellent. Ranked #22 by the World Health Organization, it is considered to be better than Canada (ranked #30) and the United States (ranked #37). Consider the following: if health care is a priority for you, especially if you are considering living in Colombia vs. other Latin American countries: a full 41% of Latin America's top hospitals are Colombian.

In fact, five hospitals in Colombia are internationally recognized for their world-class quality and are accredited with the Gold Seal of Approval from the Joint Commission International (JCI), which globally identifies and scores healthcare quality and patient safety in healthcare organizations.

Colombian HospitalJCI Accreditation DateCity
Centro Medico Imbanaco2017Cali
Fundacion Cardioinfantil - Instituto de Cardiologia2013Bogotá
Fundacion Cardiovascular de Colombia-Hospital Internacional de Colombia-Instituto Cardiovascular2009Floridablanca
Hospital Pablo Tobon Uribe2015Medellin
Hospital Universitario Fundacion Santa Fe de Bogota2010 Bogotá

Quality Colombian health care is widely available in all major cities and towns, though the quantity and quality of clinics and medical services decline in remote rural areas. Colombian hospitals offer services from routine office visits to complex inpatient care such as joint replacements, organ transplants, stem cell therapy, and cancer treatment.

map showing other countries using healtcare  in Colombia for medical tourism

The quality of Colombia's healthcare system is receiving worldwide acclaim for medical tourism

Did You Know Most Expats In Colombia Need 3 Types of Health Insurance?

Starting in July 2022, the government passed a law requiring specific medical coverage for foreigners staying in Colombia. Click the button below to ensure you are legally staying in Colombia.

On top of quality, health care in Colombia is relatively inexpensive, especially compared with the US. As a result of this combination of quality and cost, Colombia’s healthcare system is growing the country's reputation in medical tourism. In fact, many foreigners now come to Colombia for healthcare, with transplants, joint replacement, dental treatment, and fertility treatments topping the list.

 INSIDER TIP : Plastic Surgery in Colombia – Unsurprisingly, Colombia has global renown for its cosmetic procedures. Not only are prices for plastic surgery 30% less than in the US or Europe, but the reputation of the healthcare system in Colombia extends to breast augmentation, butt lifts, and nose jobs.

Estimated plastic surgery prices Colombia vs USA

Header

USA

Colombia

Rhinoplasty

$7,800

$4,550

Tummy Tuck

$6,700

$4,500

Breast Augmentation

$6,800

$4,000

Brazilian  Butt Lift

$8,000

$5,000

More Guides On Living In Colombia

Colombia Identification Card: How Expats Get A Cedula De Extranjería
Colombia Digital Nomad Visa Requirements: How to Apply, Work Remote, And Live Cheap
How To Rent Apartments In Medellin Without Getting Scammed
How To Get Health Insurance In Colombia As A Foreigner
Expat Guide To Medellin Nightlife: Best Clubs, Party Areas, Bars, and Dancing
The Best Medellin Salsa Clubs [2023]
The Complete Expat Guide On How To Buy A Car in Colombia
How To Apply For A Colombia Tourist Visa [2023]
The Top 26 Reasons Why You Must Visit Colombia [2023]

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How to access public healthcare in Colombia

There are several factors to consider when choosing expat medical insurance coverage.

1) Purchase travel medical insurance before applying for a Colombian Visa-

As of July 2022, the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs requires all expats applying for a visa to include proof of international health insurance. Depending on your age, citizenship, and required coverage, the cost of the health insurance may range from roughly $40 to $100 per month USD.

You can get free quotes from an accredited Colombian insurance specialist by filling out the form below.

Did You Know There Are 3 Types of Colombian Health Insurance Needed By Most Expats?

Starting in July 2022, specific medical coverage is required to legally stay in Colombia. Fill out the form to learn more from an insurance specialist. This is a FREE No-Obligation Service.

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2) Apply for your resident Visa-

Public health insurance in Colombia is available to all expat residents with a valid visa (retirement visa, marriage visa, or real estate investor visa are all eligible).

Tired of endless hours spent researching complicated visa requirements?

Knowing how frustrating it is to navigate a foreign country's immigration process, I started a new visa service to make life easier for expats who want to live and retire abroad,

I pre-screened and carefully selected Colombian lawyers with decades of expertise helping expats like you cut through the government red tape, clarify the visa options, and ease your worries about moving to a new country.

3) Obtain a Colombia Cedula ID Card to access public healthcare

You must visit the Migración Colombia office to obtain your cedula. These offices are located in all the major cities in Colombia. You can start the process by booking an appointment online and filling out an application form on the Migración Colombia website. Afterward, head to a Migración Colombia office to submit your documents, get digital fingerprints, and have your photograph taken. Your cedula identification card will be ready for pickup in two weeks, four if the immigration office is slammed with applications.

4) Apply for mandatory EPS Insurance-

For more information on EPS insurance in Colombia, check out this detailed article on Colombian health insurance, which gives you more details on the costs, the process, and who is eligible.

After obtaining your visa, head to the migración office to register it and attach it to your cédula. You can then apply for EPS two ways:

  1. Compare providers using an independent Colombian Insurance Agent, or
  2. Directly through an intermediary like SURA that acts as your insurance administrator.

Once you are approved, coverage starts immediately.

Your cedula acts as a health insurance card. To use your insurance, you must present your cédula to the doctor´s office, hospital, lab, or other medical facilities. All your medical records are linked to your cedula number.

5) Pay for your Colombian Health Insurance-

 The cost of EPS is based on your income, but expat coverage usually starts around $50 per month. Most retired expats' premiums will average less than $85 per month with Colombian public insurance. But that price covers your spouse and any minor dependent children at no additional charge.

Basic healthcare includes medical, dental, and vision benefits. By law, every EPS insurance provider must offer the same basic coverage for the same price.

6) Use your EPS to access affordable healthcare services-

Colombia operates their EPS healthcare system like a PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) in the United States. You'll be assigned a Primary Doctor who you will need to see first to get a referral for any specialist visits. To use your Colombian health insurance, you must present your cédula to the doctor's office, hospital, lab, or other medical facilities.

EPS is not the only option. Colombia offers choices for expats. Expats that want better or faster service than what is offered by public health care services, can purchase a private health insurance policy from both local or international private insurers.

Compare quotes from different expat medical insurance companies within 60 Seconds

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20 Things To Know About Healthcare In Colombia

1. Colombia's healthcare system quality is better than you think

Colombian healthcare is also considered to be the best in Central and South America. In fact, 26 of 61 of the region’s best hospitals are located in Colombia, according to the 2021 ranking in América Economía of the best Latin American hospitals. The Joint Commission International accreditation qualifies hospitals in Colombia's healthcare system as having some of the highest standards in the world.

By some metrics, Colombia is ranked higher in healthcare quality than the US. At 22nd, the World Health Organization ranks Colombia above the US (37th).

In other metrics, Colombia and the US are very close. Numbeo's recent 2022 Global Health care Index, which measures a country's healthcare system's waiting times, skill, modern equipment, and cost, ranked healthcare in Colombia at #38 and the United States at #33. Although the rankings are five spots apart, the US scored only 2% better.

However, keep in mind that the quality of hospitals and Colombian physicians drops considerably if you move outside of the major cities. This fact is important to consider if you have chronic medical issues or health concerns. In this case, you should strongly consider staying in Bogota, Medellin, or Cali for access to the best hospitals in Colombia.

BEST HOSPITALS IN COLOMBIA

Top 20 Best Hospitals In Colombia

RankHospitalScoreCity
1Fundación Valle Del Lili97.20Cali
2Fundación Santa Fe De Bogota96.27Bogotá
3Hospital Pablo Tobón Uribe93.82Medellín
4Fundación Hospitalaria San Vicente De Paul82.78Medellín
5Hospital Universitario San Ignacio82.00Bogotá
6Clínica Del Country81.65Bogotá
7Clínica De Marly S.A76.25Bogotá
8Administradora Clinica La Colina SAS76.15Bogotá
9Centro Médico Imbanaco De Cali S.A.73.30Cali
10Hospital General De Medellin Luz Castro De Gutierrez, E.S.E73.29Medellín
11Clínica De Occidente72.53Cali
12Empresa Social Del Estado Hospital Universitario De La Samaritana72.23Bogotá
13Servicios Especiales De Salud Hospital Universitario De Caldas72.21Manizales
14Clinica Medellin S.A72.21Medellín
15Fundación Hospital San Vicente De Paul Rionegro71.49Rionegro
16Clinica Los Nogales Sas70.00Bogotá
17Clinica Del Prado S.A.S69.97Medellín
18Clínica las Américas69.67Medellín
19Organizacion Clinica General Del Norte69.47Barranquilla
20E.S.E. Hospital Universitario Departamental De Nariño69.45Pasto
Source: The World's Best Hospitals Newsweek 2022

2. Healthcare in Colombia is a 3 tier system.

There are 3 types of health insurance in Colombia. One layer is EPS (Entidades Promotoras de Salud), the country's primary public health insurance plan. The second type of health insurance is called "medicina prepagada.” This insurance is for wealthier Colombians and expats unsatisfied with the benefits of the public plan.

Colombians and foreigners may pay extra for “medicina prepagada," or private health insurance that works on top of EPS plans. Keep in mind that the cost of this insurance is extra and varies according to your age, the plan you choose, and any pre-existing conditions.

There’s a third form of insurance, called SISBEN, but it isn’t available to foreigners. This insurance is intended for extremely vulnerable lower-income groups, providing homeless or very poor Colombians with medical care for free or at subsidized rates.

3. Colombia has a universal healthcare system

Colombia's system offers universal health coverage that's affordable and easy to use. The Colombian government subsidizes access to health care for 96% of the population. Compare this coverage to American healthcare, which only covers 28% of adults with public health coverage.

 INSIDER TIP : Public hospitals are required to treat expats, even if they don’t have proof of coverage. However, since you didn’t pay into the SGSSS fund, you will get charged the higher applicable rate for medical treatment.

4. Universal Healthcare in Colombia includes expats

Even expats are eligible for health insurance coverage through EPS. In fact, all temporary or permanent residents MUST enroll in the EPS healthcare system. For most expats, public health insurance in Colombia starts at $50 and ranges up to $200 per month, depending on monthly income.

To renew your visa in Colombia, you will be required to show that your purchase of EPS coverage extends long enough to cover your entire visa duration.

The public healthcare system will even treat you if you are a tourist with a medical emergency. Read that again: If you go to a public hospital and need urgent care, even with just a Colombian tourist visa, they will treat you. The cost isn't free, as you haven't paid into the public healthcare system, but healthcare in Colombia is very affordable. See section #12.

5. You need international health insurance to get a Colombian visa

As of July 2022, the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs requires all expats applying for a visa to include proof of international health insurance. Depending on your age, citizenship, and required coverage, global health insurance costs roughly $75 to $300 per month USD.

  • The level of coverage required depends on your Colombian visa type:
    • Visitor Visa (V): $35,000 USD
    • Migrant Visa (M): $60,000 USD
    • Resident Visa (R) : $100,000 USD