Colombia has one of the world’s best healthcare systems and health insurance is relatively inexpensive in Colombia in comparison to other countries. In this article we look at health insurance in Colombia and how to sign up with SURA health insurance in Colombia.
In addition, Medellín is gaining a reputation as a top foreign retirement location. Health care is important for retirees and Medellín has seven of the top ranked hospitals in Latin America.
Some of the most frequently asked questions on the Medellin Guru site by foreigners considering moving to Colombia have been about health insurance. So, we now cover health insurance in Colombia.
Colombia’s Healthcare System
The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks Colombia’s healthcare system as #22 out of 191 countries it ranked. Also, no other countries in Latin America were ranked higher than Colombia. So, according to WHO, Colombia has the best healthcare system in Latin America.
In addition, Colombia’s healthcare system is ranked higher than many wealthier countries like the United States (#37), Germany (#25), Canada (#30) and Australia (#32).
In Colombia, it is possible to have access to world-class healthcare at a fraction of the cost compared to the healthcare costs in the U.S. or Europe. Furthermore, the costs for healthcare in Colombia can be significantly lower than the costs found in the U.S.
It is possible to find costs that are from 50 percent to even over 70 percent less expensive in Colombia compared to the U.S. And medical insurance is also relatively inexpensive in Colombia in comparison to the U.S. and Europe.
With lower medical costs than many other countries, Colombia is experiencing an increase in medical tourism each year. Foreigners are coming to Colombia for dental care, eye surgery, cosmetic surgery and other surgeries due to the lower costs in Colombia. So, many hospitals in Colombia have some bilingual staff.
Colombia has the Best Hospitals in Latin America
Colombia has 23 of the best hospitals in Latin America, according to a study in late 2018 by América Economia that looked at the top 58 hospitals in Latin America. So, 40 percent of the best clinics and hospitals in Latin America are found in Colombia.
Medellín has nine hospitals that are on the list of the top 58 hospitals in Latin America as follows with their Latin American rankings:
- Hospital Pablo Tobón Uribe (#9)
- Hospital Universitario de San Vicente Fundación (#16)
- Clínica las Américas (#23)
- Hospital General de Medellín (#28)
- Clínica Universitaria Bolivariana (#34)
- Clínica El Rosario (#43)
- Clínica Cardio Vid (#44)
- Clínica Medellín (#53)
- Clínica Las Vegas (#58)
Also, Bogotá has eight hospitals that are on the list of the top 58 hospitals in Latin America as follows with their Latin American rankings:
- Fundación Cardioinfantil (#5)
- Clínica Universidad de La Sabana (#25)
- Clínica del Occidente (#29)
- Méderi (#36)
- Clínica Universitaria Colombia – Colsanitas (#38)
- Clínica Universitario Infantil de San José (#49)
- Clínica los Nogales (#54)
- Centro Policlínico del Olaya (#57)
In addition, Cali has two hospitals on the top 58 hospitals list, Pasto has two, Bucaramanga has one and Manizales has one.
We also looked at these top 23 hospitals in Colombia in more detail. The best healthcare in Colombia is found in the largest cities in Colombia.
Health Insurance Options in Colombia
One of the reasons that Colombia has such a highly rated healthcare system is due to a new constitution that Colombia drafted in 1991 that made access to healthcare a basic human right to all citizens of Colombia, as well as foreign residents of Colombia.
There are three types of health insurance available in Colombia:
- EPS – Entidadas Promotoras de Salud – this is the public health insurance that is mandatory for everybody who is a resident of Colombia. The monthly premium is calculated as 12.5 percent of the monthly gross income that you declare to the EPS.
- Prepagada – this is private healthcare insurance in Colombia. The monthly premium for Prepagada varies depending on your age, the plan you choose and any pre-existing conditions.
- SISBEN – this is a free government subsidized healthcare system, which is only for very poor or homeless Colombians.
Health Insurance Providers in Colombia
There are several providers in Colombia offering private health insurance including:
In addition, there are many providers offering EPS health insurance including:
- EPS Suramericana (EPS SURA)
- Aliansalud EPS
- Sánitas EPS
- Compensar EPS
- Salud Total EPS
- Nueva EPS
- Coomeva EPS
- Famisanar EPS
- Serv. Occ. de Salud SOS EPS
- Comfenalco Valle EPS
- SaludVida EPS
- Cruz Blanca EPS
- Cafesalud EPS
Here’s an article (in Spanish) ranking the EPS providers in Colombia with EPS Suramericana (EPS SURA) ranked as number one.
I found that trying to research all these insurance companies in Colombia was taking too much time. So, we only look at SURA in more detail in this article, which is considered by many to be the best health insurance provider in Colombia.
More About Grupo SURA
Grupo SURA is Colombian company based in Medellín that was started in 1944. Grupo SURA is a multinational company that does business in Colombia and several other countries in Latin America.
In addition, Grupo SURA is part of Grupo Empresarial Antioqueño also known as Sindicato Antioqueño, which is a large Colombian conglomerate composed of about 125 companies including owning a large percentage of shares in Bancolombia, Grupo Nutresa and Grupo Argos.
SURA’s primary businesses are health insurance, life insurance, investment banking and asset management.
Grupo SURA is a profitable company that reported revenue of 4.76 trillion pesos and a net profit of 310.153 million pesos in the first quarter of 2018.
Also, SURA reportedly has over 4,600 doctors and over 400 hospitals and medical centers in their network.
EPS Health Insurance in Colombia
EPS is the government health insurance in Colombia that is available to everyone with a cedula (local ID), Colombian citizens as well as foreigners with a visa and cedula.
The EPS health insurance in Colombia is available to everyone who is a resident, including people that are not eligible for private health insurance due to age or pre-existing conditions.
In an EPS plan, the delivery of services is through a network of public health providers/facilities. Keep in mind that the EPS plans cover everyone. So, it means longer waiting times to see doctors and receive medical care. Also, EPS plans include dental insurance.
In addition, to see a specialist, run diagnostic exams like blood tests or x-rays or to get a surgical procedure, with an EPS plan you will need a referral from your general practitioner.
Also, family members and dependents can be added to an EPS plan. These include:
- A spouse or permanent partner
- Children under 18 years old
- Children between 18 and 25 years old, if they are financially dependent on the insured
In an EPS plan you will be assigned an IPS (Instituto Prestador de Salud), which is basically a health center, which will be your primary care location.
In addition, one thing to be careful with is that some of the EPS providers in Colombia aren’t in great financial shape. So, they are slow in paying medical providers leaving thousands of Colombians without health care services.
For example, Saludcoop EPS was in financial problems and was liquidated in 2016 and moved to the Cafesalud EPS as seen in this article (in Spanish).
We recommend EPS Suramericana (EPS SURA), which is typically ranked as the number one EPS in Colombia.
Prepagada Health Insurance in Colombia
In comparison, a prepagada health insurance plan in Colombia is private health insurance. Prepagada plans use private networks of health care facilities and medical providers. The focus of prepagada plans is to offer high-quality care in a timely manner.
The key benefits of a prepagada plan include:
- Referrals are not needed for diagnostics, specialists and procedures. You can call directly to schedule an appointment with no need for a referral from a general practitioner.
- You get access to the best doctors and health care providers in Colombia with preferential treatment.
- Travel insurance is included for up to 90 days on each trip (there is no travel insurance included in an EPS plan).
- Prepagada plans are available as a supplemental policy to EPS plans. Prepagada plans offer an expanded availability of hospitals and specialists and shorter waiting times.
In addition, Prepagada plans have no deductible but have small copayments, as seen in the following table of costs:
EPS plans also have small copayments that are normally slightly lower than the prepagada copayments.
With a prepagada plan, you can get an appointment with a specialist within days and to get a surgery approved typically takes only 48 hours. In comparison, with an EPS plan in Colombia, it can take up to a few months to get an appointment with a specialist and it can take months to get a surgery approved.
Also, with a prepagada plan you can use out-of-network doctors and pay the difference between the standard reimbursement from the insurance plan and the doctor’s fees.
Colombia Health Insurance Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
The following are three of the most common questions about health insurance in Colombia.
FAQ #1 – Do you need to be a Colombian resident and have a visa and cedula to sign up for health insurance? Or is a passport enough?
To sign up for an EPS plan in Colombia, you will need to have a visa and a cedula. But to sign up for a prepagada plan in Colombia, a passport is sufficient according the the broker listed below. So, a foreigner without a visa can get health insurance in Colombia.
FAQ #2 – What about people who are older than 60 who want health insurance?
After age 62, it is almost impossible to sign up for most prepagada plans, except possibly with AXA Colpatria that is up to age 65. But an EPS plan will still accept you.
Between age 60-62, there is an additional premium for a prepagada plan. So, it’s best to sign up for a prepagada plan before age 60.
FAQ #3 – What does health insurance cost in Colombia?
The cost of an EPS plan is 12.5 percent of your gross income declared to the EPS.
The cost of a prepagada plan is based on your age, pre-existing conditions and the specific plan you choose. And the premiums fall in age brackets: from age 0-14, 14 to 40, 40 to 60 and 60 and up.
In example, for a 60-year-old, SURA’s prepagada plan premium is approximately 800,000 pesos ($277 USD) per month.
Young kids are relatively inexpensive and the premium increases by age. In addition, the premium is increased each year by the annual inflation in Colombia.
How to Sign Up for SURA Health Insurance
It is possible to sign up for SURA health insurance yourself. But the forms are in Spanish and can be complicated.
So, we recommend working with an insurance broker who is bilingual. Angela Berrio is a bilingual insurance broker who speaks English and Spanish. And she has many foreigner clients.
Angela is an independent insurance broker but she prefers selling SURA insurance since they offer the best coverage. Also, she believes that SURA has the best private clinics in Colombia and is the most solvent health insurance provider in the country.
Angela is based in Medellín but can sell insurance throughout Colombia and even to clients overseas working via the phone and email.
For either the EPS or prepagada plans, Angela will conduct a short interview to gather your personal information. This should take less than 60 minutes and she will take care of filling out the SURA paperwork for you.
Approval is typically received within 48 hours with the prepagada plan. But if you are over age 45, a medical exam will normally be required. And with an EPS plan, they cannot reject you.
The Bottom Line: Health Insurance in Colombia
In Colombia, it is possible to have access to world-class healthcare at a fraction of the cost compared to healthcare costs in North America or Europe.
Health insurance is also relatively inexpensive in Colombia in comparison to health insurance costs in the U.S. and many countries in Europe. In addition, it’s fairly easy for a foreigner to sign up for health insurance in Colombia.
Editors note: updated on December 22, 2018 with new 2018 Colombian hospital rankings.