When most foreigners think ‘Colombia,’ the first thing that comes to their mind is rural neighborhoods in a third-world country. For most of them, a good health system is the farthest thing from their minds.
So, it might surprise you to hear that the Colombian healthcare system is actually ranked 22nd out of 191 countries!
While that may be true, navigating the world of insurance and healthcare in Colombia isn’t easy. Whether you’re new to Medellin or have been here a while, keep reading for what you need to know about expat insurance in Colombia.
Medellin Expat Health Insurance Options
In Medellin, there are two main ways for people to get healthcare:
- Through the EPS system
- Through prepaid medicine
Let’s take a closer look at each of these.
Entidades Promotoras de Salud (EPS)
The EPS system, or the Entidades Promotoras de Salud, covers 96% of Colombia’s population. This is more or less what you’d call government insurance, and is required if you’re working for a Colombian company.
Expats are entitled to EPS coverage, too. However, you’ll need to have a foreign identity card, also known as a cedula, if you want to take advantage of that healthcare system.
There are a number of different EPS providers, including:
Of course, you can enroll in a number of other EPS systems too. In many cases, the EPS you enroll in is dictated by your Colombian employer, although you can enroll as an independent as well.
Note: You can’t get a cedula with just a passport if you want to enroll in the EPS system. You’ll need a valid Colombian visa, among other requirements.
Besides the EPS system there’s also something called Polizas Prepgadas de Salud Privada, or prepaid private health policies. This works the same way as a standard health insurance plan back in the states.
The real reason that prepagadas are so popular, however, is that they give you access to a larger range of doctors and specialists. On top of that, these plans tend to provide faster healthcare service.
Just like in the US, these plans are your own responsibility. While some employers offer private healthcare plans as a benefit, that’s not the case for every employer.
In general, the cost of your prepaid plan depends on the following factors:
- Your age
- The chosen plan
- Presence of pre-existing conditions
Many prepaid healthcare plans have a maximum age limit of 69. If you try to enroll after that, well, tough luck!
But, that’s a pretty rare situation for most people. So, chances are good that you’ll be able to get that extra coverage anyway.
Pro tip: If your EPS is the same as your private healthcare coverage provider, you can get special benefits. These include faster access to medicine or waived copays.
Private Healthcare vs Public Healthcare for Expats
When it comes to choosing between private and public healthcare, this can be a real struggle for expats. Most expats aren’t aware of the differences between the two systems.
To make it easier to understand, we’ve put together this table.
|Government healthcare||Private healthcare|
|Difficult appointment scheduling and long waits||Fast appointments with wait times as little as one day|
|Need referrals to see a specialist||No referrals needed to set up specialist visits|
|Public hospital rooms for in-patients||Private hospital rooms for in-patients|
|Copays for treatment||Exempt from most copays, or if you choose a plan with a copay you get unlimited doctor visits|
|Only 3 EPS hospitals in Medellin available for care||Best private hospitals in the country|
|General urgent care that can be slow||Best urgent care|
|No dedicated emergency line||Dedicated EMI emergency number|
|You need authorization from the EPS system to get additional specialist services||Don’t need authorization for treatment|
|You must go to the hospital for treatment||Doctors will come to your home|
In summary, the government healthcare system will provide you with a pretty basic level of care. On the other hand, prepaid plans will get you better and faster services.
In Medellin, for example, you can find several private healthcare institutions offering top-notch facilities and treatment procedures.
Another thing to note is that many private insurance plans will include dental and vision services. This can be a huge help if you’re planning to stay in the country for a longer period of time!
Benefits of Expat Insurance in Medellin
Some expats choose to go insurance-less. This is a big mistake, however!
Although there are insurance plans for travelers available from the US, many don’t cover individuals who are permanently living abroad. What’s worse, those that do cover you come with hefty copays or deductibles.
The good news is that taking out an expat insurance plan in Medellin can provide you with a number of different perks. Let’s go over a couple of them.
Health insurance plans in Colombia tend to be just as (if not more) affordable as in the US. For example, you can wind up paying just a few hundred dollars a year for full coverage!
Many providers offer three-tiered insurance plan systems to help keep costs low, too. The lowest tiers are usually the most basic plans while the highest tiers offer full coverage, no deductibles, and even international insurance coverage.
Overall, these plans can often be about ⅓ of the price of a private health plan in the US. Talk about good value!
Easy Application Process
Unlike the EPS system, all you need to take out expat insurance in Medellin is your passport. When you work with an insurance broker, they’ll even do the hard work of sifting through plans and pulling up the best options for you.
The application process is fast, too, usually only taking a couple of weeks. Once you’re approved, you can start receiving care. All you have to do is take care of the policy payment and show up for your appointment!
Although no one wants to get hurt on vacation, the reality is that this can sometimes happen. With the EPS system, expats are often forced to wait for lengthy periods of time to get treatment, which can cause illnesses to get worse.
With a private health insurance plan, on the other hand, expats get fast access to doctors. Many healthcare providers even have virtual appointments where you can get medicine recommendations and diagnostic scripts.
Downsides of Expat Insurance
The only real downside to getting insurance for expats in Colombia is the language barrier. If you can’t speak Spanish, it can be tough to navigate things like policy payments or setting up appointments.
The good news is that there are bilingual insurance providers out there who can help. One such provider is Angela Berrio, an insurance agent who grew up in the US and is fully equipped to provide assistance to expats in need.
Better yet, she offers a concierge service to take care of handling situations like scheduling or rides home from the hospital.
On top of that, she offers a sheet that lists all the bilingual specialists in various cities. So, you’ll have no problem finding a doctor you can communicate with her.
If you’re planning a move to Medellin, expat insurance is a must. Not only does it keep you protected, but it makes sure you get the care you need in the event that something does go wrong.
Ready to get started with an expat insurance plan of your own? Contact Angela Berrio Seguros today to get a quote for your new healthcare plan.