Health Insurance and Healthcare in Colombia

Colombia has a great healthcare system, the costs for medical care and health insurance here are much more affordable compared to other industrialized countries. In this article, I explain how you get health insurance here in Colombia through Sura, my experiences with Sura, and my thoughts on healthcare here in Colombia. Medellín and Colombia in particular are known for having some of Latin America’s top hospitals. The low cost for doing medical and dental procedures here in Colombia, mean that Colombia and Medellín are increasingly becoming popular destinations for medical tourism.

 
clínica el rosario, sede el tesoro. image courtesy of  | Intervé   |   ieinterventoria.com .

clínica el rosario, sede el tesoro. image courtesy of | Intervé | ieinterventoria.com.

 

Colombia’s Healthcare System

It may surprise some people to learn that the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked Colombia’s healthcare system as #22 out of 191 countries whose healthcare systems it ranked. There are no other Latin American countries whose healthcare system is ranked higher than Colombia’s healthcare system. Therefore, according to the WHO, Colombia has the best healthcare system in Latin America. Moreover, Colombia’s healthcare system is ranked higher by the WHO than wealthier and more industrialized countries such as Germany (#25), Canada (#30), Australia (#32), and the United States (#37). Here in Colombia, it’s possible to access amazing healthcare at a fraction of the price compared to what you can expect to pay in the United States and Europe. Given that medical insurance here can be pretty economical and given that I use my health insurance a lot, this is a great thing for me.

Given that the costs to receive medical and dental care here in Colombia are frequently much lower compared to other countries, the amount of people coming to Colombia to take advantage of the world-class doctors, facilities and affordable prices is increasing. It is not uncommon for people to come to Colombia for dental care, eye surgery, plastic surgery, and other procedures because you can receive high quality care and treatment at a more economical price point. Given the increase in foreigners who are coming to Colombia to take advantage of Colombia’s excellent medical and dental care, many hospitals, clinics, and other facilities have bilingual staff and international patient services to support foreign and English speaking patients.

In 2018, Colombia was recognized as having 23 of the best hospitals in Latin America out of the 58 Latin American hospitals ranked by Revista América Economía. The best hospitals in Colombia can be found in larger urban areas particularly in Medellín and Bogotá. Anecdotally, I know people whose family have traveled from other cities in Colombia to Medellín to receive treatment here at hospitals in Medellín because the hospitals here are some of the best in Colombia and in Latin America. The only other city in Colombia with a larger number of highly ranked hospitals in Colombia and in Latin America, is the capital, Bogotá.

 
image courtesy of unsplash

image courtesy of unsplash

 

Medellín’s Top Hospitals

 

# 1 in Medellín: Hospital Pablo Tobón Uribe (#9 in Latin America)

Calle 78 B # 69 – 240, Medellín, Barrio Córdoba, Robledo

+57 (034) 445 9000

Pablo Tobón Uribe, El Poblado

Calle 14 #43B-146, Barrio Manila, El Poblado at Hospital Infantil Santa Ana

+57 (034) 360-4788, Option 5 for appointments

Hospital Pablo Tobón Uribe’s International Patients Service

Monday to Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
+57 034 445-9425 or (034) 445-9655
internacionales@hptu.org.co
Availability 24 hours on the phone: (+57) 317-401-3663

In 2018, Hospital Pablo Tobón Uribe in 2018 was recognized as the best hospital in Medellín. It is a private, non-profit Catholic teaching and university hospital located in Robledo. Pablo Tobón Uribe is a general hospital, whose specialties for adults include bariatric surgery, cancer, renal care, general surgery, rheumatology, urology, endocrinology, cardiology, neurology, neumology, transplants, and cardiology, as well as a variety of pediatric specialties. However, it appears that there are no specialists at Pablo Tobón Uribe working in obstetrics, gynecology, maternal, fetal, and/or neonatal medicine. Pablo Tobón Uribe also has a 24-hour interdisciplinary trauma center and rehabilitation unit for plastic surgery, orthopedics, and neurology patients at their main location in Robledo. The rehabilitation unit provides physical and occupational therapy for patients being treated at this hospital.

Pablo Tobón Uribe has an international patients service, to support foreigners coming to Medellín to receive medical treatment. Staff from Pablo Tobón Uribe’s international patients service work with foreign patients while interfacing with patients’ providers in their home countries. There are staff from Pablo Tobón Uribe’s international patients service who speak English, Portuguese, and French.

During November 2018, Pablo Tobón Uribe opened a new location in the Manila neighborhood in Poblado, in alliance with Hospital Infantil Santa Ana. This new outpatient consultancy location has practitioners specializing in internal medicine, pediatrics and other specialties for adults and children. This is the hospital that my Colombian colleagues recommended that I go to if I ever became gravely ill since it’s such a good hospital. I luckily have not had the privilege of visiting this hospital so I cannot comment on what it is like being treated here, but I have only heard positive things about this hospital.

 
image courtesy of wikimedia commons.

image courtesy of wikimedia commons.

 

#2 in Medellín: Hospital Universitario de San Vicente Fundación (#16 in Latin America)

Medellín: Calle 64 # 51D-154, Barrio Sevilla, Medellín (located adjacent to the Hospital Metro Station)

+57 (034) 444 1333 (Medellín)

Hospital Universitario de San Vicente Fundación International Patients Service Medellín

+57 (034) 444-1333, Ext. 2939 y 2940

internationalpatient@sanvicentefundacion.com

Rionegro: Vereda La Convención, Vía Aeropuerto Llanogrande Km 2.3., Rionegro

+57 (034) 444-8717

Hospital Universitario de San Vicente Fundación International Patients Service Rionegro

+57 (034) 444-8717 Ext. 2902

internacional@sanvicentefundacion.com

In 2018, Hospital Universitario de San Vicente Fundación was recognized as the second best hospital in Medellín. It is a private hospital located in Barrio Sevilla, adjacent to the Hospital metro station. San Vicente has three specialty centers Cardiopulmonary and Peripheral Vascular Center, Digestive Diseases Center and an Organ and Tissue Transplant Center, as well as an Infant Hospital. San Vicente’s Medellín location also includes providers specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, oncology, general surgery and variety of surgical subspecialties, orthopedics, psychiatry, physical medicine and rehabilitation, as well as a variety of other specialities. Anecdotally, I have heard that San Vicente is an important research hospital since I knew someone from the United States who came to San Vicente to conduct research here.

San Vicente also has a health center in the municipality of Rionegro, near José María Cordova International Airport. San Vicente’s location in Rionegro offers 24 hour emergency services as well as a cardiopulmonary and vascular system center, digestive disease center, organ and tissue transplant center, and an oncology center. San Vicente Rionegro’s location also includes providers working in sports medicine, clinical psychology, pain relief, and palliative care, plastic surgery, pediatrics, psychiatry, and neurosurgery, as well as a variety of other specialties.

San Vicente and Hospital Pablo Tobón Uribe are two of the hospitals that almost everyone in Medellín, from my colleagues, friends and other doctors have told me is a great hospital. One important thing to note is that if you see a doctor here at San Vicente, since all of the doctors who work here are affiliated with this hospital, which means that they will be able to see your medical records and collaborate with other providers at San Vicente, which makes it easier to maintain a continuity of care.

 
Hospital Universitario de San Vicente Fundación, ImAGE COURTESY OF WIKIPEDIA.

Hospital Universitario de San Vicente Fundación, ImAGE COURTESY OF WIKIPEDIA.

 

#3 in Medellín: Clínica las Américas (#23 in Latin America)

Diagonal 75B # 2A-80/140, Barrio La Mota, Belén, Medellín

+57 (034) 342 1010

Centro Médico Las Américas, Centro Comercial City Plaza, local 164c

Calle 36D Sur No. 27A-175, Loma del Escobero, Envigado

cad@lasamericas.com.co

+57 (034) 345-8202

Clínica de las Américas International Patient Service

+57 (034) 345-8357 (Medellín and Colombia),

+ 1 (800) 625-4759 (Calling from the United States

soporteinternacional@lasamericas.com.co

Clínica Las Américas Instituto de la Mujer

Diagonal 75B # 2 A - 80. Tercer Piso – Torre 3, Barrio La Mota, Belén, Medellín

+57 (034) 345 83 43

insmujer@dos.correolasamericas.com

Clínica de Las Américas Vaccine Clinic

Torre Médica Las Américas, Diagonal 75B, 2A-80, second floor, consult room 205, Barrio La Mota, Belén, Medellín

+57 (034) 345-9205

Clínica de las Américas is a private hospital with two locations. It’s first, and primary location is located in Barrio La Mota in Belén, near the Enrique Olaya Herrera airport. Clínica de las Américas reportedly has 500 health professionals, in 77 specialties and sub-specialties. Clínica Las Américas also has an ambulatory care center located in San Fernando Plaza, in the Milla de Oro sector of Poblado and a Torre Médica which is adjacent to the primary clinic in Belén. They also have an international patients service for foreign patients being treated here.

Clínica de las Américas is unique in that it has a specific multidisciplinary women’s institute serving women at all stages of their life, from their reproductive years through post-menopause. Some of the specialties at the women’s institute include gynecologic oncology, endocrinology, assisted reproduction, Maternal-Fetal medicine with providers who specialize in supporting people through low and high-risk pregnancies and more. Clínica de las Américas also has a breast (mastology) center at their San Fernando Plaza location in Poblado. They also have providers specializing in palliative care and pain relief, as well as many providers in a large variety of specialties and sub-specialties.

Clínica de las Américas also has a second location, Centro Médico Las Américas, located in Loma del Escobero in Envigado, a suburb south of Poblado. They are in the midst of building a new location in Envigado, Clínica del Sur which will reportedly have 144 beds and is scheduled to open sometime during the beginning of 2020.

They also have a vaccine clinic for children and adults, and they can administer the yellow fever vaccine for both children and adults. The vaccine clinic is located at Torre Médica Las Américas, Diagonal 75B, 2A-80, second floor, consult room 205, you can schedule an appointment by calling +57 (034) 345-9205. And the vaccine clinic is open from Monday to Friday 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM and Saturdays, 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM.

 
Clínica las Américas, photo by SajoR in wikimedia commons.

Clínica las Américas, photo by SajoR in wikimedia commons.

 

#4 in Medellín: Hospital General de Medellín (#28 in Latin America)

Carrera 48 # 32-102, Medellín

+57 (4) 384 7300

Hospital General de Medellín is one of Medellín’s public hospitals and Medellín’s city government supports it. Hospital General de Medellín has 24 hour emergency services. The hospital has providers from a variety of specialties including cardiology, general surgery, gynecology and obstetrics, internal medicine, neurology, neurosurgery, oncology, orthopedics, plastic surgery, pediatrics, and pulmonology.

It is important to note that Hospital General de Medellín is the only hospital on this list, which does not have an international patient service that caters to foreigners being treated at this hospital. If you are a foreigner visiting Medellín and you reading this post, my recommendation would be for you to go to one of the other hospitals I discuss in this post, since this hospital mainly serves people from Medellín and the surrounding metropolitan area.

 

#5 in Medellín: Clínica Universitaria Bolivariana (#34 in Latin America)

Carrera 72A # 78B-50, Robledo, Medellín

+57 (034) 445 5900

Clínica Universitaria Bolivariana International Patients Service

+57 (034) 448 83 88, option 2

clinicaupb.internacional@upb.edu.co

Clínica Universitaria Bolivariana is a teaching hospital which is part of the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana (UPB) system. The Clínica Universitaria Bolivariana offers a variety of ambulatory and hospital services in a variety of clinical and surgical specialties. Some of the services and specialties for the providers treating patients here include maternal-fetal health, various pediatric sub-specialties, pelvic floor rehabilitation, pediatric and adult psychiatric services, general surgery and a variety of other types of surgeries, obstetrics and gynecology, urogynecology, physical therapy, and sports medicine among others. This hospital also offers an international patient service for foreigners being treated at this hospital.

 
Clínica Universitaria Bolivariana, photo courtesy of CLÍnica Universitaria Bolivariana.

Clínica Universitaria Bolivariana, photo courtesy of CLÍnica Universitaria Bolivariana.

 

#6 in Medellín: Clínica El Rosario (#43 in Latin America)

El Centro: Carrera 41 No. 62-5, Villa Hermosa

+57 (034) 295-9000 (Clínica El Rosario El Centro)

El Tesoro in El Poblado: Carrera 20 No. 2Sur-185

+57 (034) 295-9100 (Clínica El Rosario El Tesoro)

+57 (034) 444 1555-Line for both clinics

Clínica El Rosario International Patients Office

+57 (034) 326-9100 Ext. 5041

Clínica El Rosario Vaccine Clinic (El Tesoro)

Carrera 20 No. 2Sur-185, El Poblado

+57 (034) 444-1555, EXT. 5110

vacunacion@clinicaelrosario.com

Clínica del Campestre

Calle 17 sur No. 44-06, Barrio Santa María de los Ángeles, El Poblado, Medellín

+57 (034) 444-2006-Appointments

Open: Monday-Sunday 6 AM-9 PM

Clínica El Rosario is a private, non-profit hospital with two locations in Medellín, in El Centro and El Tesoro, in Poblado. The Clínica El Rosario location is located near Parque Comercial El Tesoro. It is important to note that Revista América Economía only recognizes Clínica El Rosario’s location in El Tesoro as #43 of the 58 best hospitals in Latin America, but it is unclear to me as to why this report did not recognize Clínica El Rosario’s location in El Centro as well. However, it appears that Clínica El Rosario’s location in El Tesoro is larger and has much more to offer than their location in El Centro. Clínica El Rosario also appears to have an affiliated clinic, Clínica del Campestre, located in the Santa María de los Ángeles neighborhood of Poblado, near Medellín’s southern border with the suburb of Envigado.

Clínica El Rosario provides 24-hour medical services, cardiovascular surgery, general surgery, imaging, intensive care, plastic surgery, neurosurgery, and outpatient surgeries as well as a variety of other services. Clínica El Rosario’s location in El Tesoro has a neonatal intensive care unit, pediatric intensive care unit, and an adult intensive care unit, as well as a maternal surgery unit, oncology unit, obstetrics and gynecology unit, Fetal Emergency Unit (day and night), coronary care unit, and a heart institute. Here is a link with more information about the specialties at both of Clínica El Rosario’s locations in Medellín. Finally, Clínica El Rosario has an international patients office which works with foreigners receiving treatment at Clínica El Rosario.

Clínica del Campestre, located in Santa María de Ángeles in Poblado, appears to be affiliated with Clínica El Rosario. Clínica del Campestre has urgent care (consulta prioritaria) appointments available every day from 6 AM to 10 PM. The other specialities available at Clínica del Campestre include orthopedics, dermatology, anesthesiologists specializing in pain management for people undergoing surgery and chronic pain patients, internal medicine, and sports medicine. They also have a laboratory, radiology department, physical therapy, and an ambulatory surgery center for orthopedic surgeries not requiring in-patient hospitalization. Clínica del Campestre does not appear to have an international patients service, although it’s possible that they may have some English speaking staff. I have never visited Clínica del Campestre so I cannot comment on what it is like or the quality of the care. I know other foreigners here who recommended Clínica del Campestre to a friend of mine, when she needed medical attention.

Special note for those who have chronic pain, Clínica El Rosario’s location in El Tesoro’s integrated oncology unit, has a palliative care focus and pain specialists. When I was having a pain crisis last July (2018) and went to the specialized neurology clinic, the doctor who I saw referred me to the pain specialists at this clinic. While I ended up not seeing the pain specialist at this clinic, this is information that I imagine could help someone else in a similar situation.

Also for those of you who are looking for a vaccine clinic, Clínica El Rosario’s location in El Tesoro has a vaccine clinic for mothers, newborns, children, adolescents, and frequent travelers. The vaccine clinic is reportedly open from Monday to Friday from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM and from 12:30 PM to 7:30 PM. For more information or to schedule an appointment at the vaccine clinic, you can call (034) 444-1555, EXT. 5110 or email vacunacion@clinicaelrosario.com.

 
clínica el rosario, sede el tesoro. image courtesy of  | Intervé   |   ieinterventoria.com .

clínica el rosario, sede el tesoro. image courtesy of | Intervé | ieinterventoria.com.

 

#7 in Medellín: Clínica Cardio Vid (#44 in Latin America)

El Poblado: Carrera 48 # 20-74

+57 (034) 322 7090 ext. 4020

Robledo: Calle 78B # 75-21,

+57 (034) 322 7090

International Patients Service at Clínica Cardio Vid

+57 (034) 322 7090 ext. 4608

afernandezr@vid.org.co 

Clínica Cardio Vid, part of the Congregation of Mariana, are two hospitals specializing in diagnostics, emergency, and comprehensive care for cardiovascular, thoracic, pulmonary and neurovascular diseases in adults and children. Clínica Cardio Vid is known as a leader in Colombia for heart and lung transplants, as well as for treating for patients with complex congenital heart defects. Clínica Cardio Vid also has an international patients service for foreign patients receiving treatment at their clinics.

 
Clínica Cardio Vid Medellín, Image courtesy of  Atardeceres VID .

Clínica Cardio Vid Medellín, Image courtesy of Atardeceres VID.

 

#8 in Medellín: Clínica Medellín (#53 in Latin America)

El Occidente: Carrera 65B # 30-95

+57 (034) 444 6152

El Poblado: Calle 7 # 39-290, El Poblado (The clinic faces Avenida El Poblado/Carrera 43A)

+57 (034) 311 2800

International Patients Office at Clínica Medellín

Between its two locations in Medellín, Clínica Medellín offers a wide variety of medical services. The services provided at Clínica Medellín include and are not limited to: anesthesiology, cardiology, cardiovascular surgery, thoracic surgery, general surgery, plastic surgery, pediatric surgery, vascular surgery, dermatology, gynecology, obstetrics, intensive care, pulmonology, neurosurgery, ophthalmology, oncology, orthopedics, otolaryngology, pathology, pediatrics, radiology, urology and several others. They also have a sleep and physical therapy unit. Moreover, Clínica Medellín has an international patients office with staff who work with foreigners receiving treatment at Clínica Medellín, advising them before they arrive in Medellín, during their stay and following their departure.

I have visited the emergency room at Clínica Medellín in Poblado, twice in 2018 and before you ask, no I did no go to the emergency room at Clínica Medellín for research purposes for this blog post. I first visited in March, soon after I had first arrived in Medellín, I fell walking in the street with some friends and sprained my foot/ankle (pre-Sura). Later in 2018 August, I had another fateful visit to Clínica Medellín after I paid the price for spending close to six hours on the ciclovía on Avenida Poblado without sunscreen. I learned my lesson to ALWAYS WEAR SUNSCREEN WHEN YOU ARE ON THE CICLOVÍA since it is not fun to be in so much pain from your sunburn that it hurts to wear clothes. Both times I went to Clínica Medellín I found the staff to be professional, the doctors kind, courteous, good listeners, and professional with a good sense of humor. When you are someone like me who has spent a good amount of time in the clinic for one reason or another, you really appreciate the doctors who can help you, are kind, good listeners, and laugh with you and/or at your jokes.

Luckily, I am not as well as well-acquainted with Clínica Medellín or the staff at the Poblado location, like I was with Clínica Alemana emergency room staff after some mishaps with hot water and cactus spines. After many follow up visits at Clínica Alemana in June and July 2015, after having a pendeja moment with a hot water bottle that led to a second degree burn, it got to the point, where I had to go to Clínica Alemana’s emergency room for follow up treatment for the burn that I began recognizing the emergency room doctors and they began recognizing me.

To my friends and family who are reading this, bless y’all’s hearts and thank you for trying to have a sense humor with me about how I am trying to save myself, from myself. However, real talk y’all, for everyone reading this, if I did not need to be saved from myself a lot which results in too many “pendeja moments,” I would be at a loss for material for a lot of my jokes. I would have missed out on the opportunity to learn a lot of Spanish, develop a sense of humor in Spanish and not be as good as laughing at myself and solving problems. Usually, when I have my pendeja moments, I go by myself to the clinic, since I avoid dragging my friends and family, into my messes.

Clínica Medellín’s Poblado location also has a large Torre Médica with a variety of doctors, including doctors specializing in neurology and alternative medicine. They also have a CediMed location, where you can get an MRI done under anesthesia. When I had to get a head and spine MRI at the CediMed location at Clínica Medellín under anesthesia during September 2018, I had as good of an experience one could have while getting an MRI. The anesthesiologist and other staff were kind, professional, respectful and competent. This hospital also has an international patient service for foreigners being treated at this hospital, but this office is open only during regular business hours.

 
Clínica Medellín Poblado photo courtesy of Skyscraper City.

Clínica Medellín Poblado photo courtesy of Skyscraper City.

 

#9 in Medellín: Clínica Las Vegas (#58 in Latin America)

Calle 2 Sur # 46-55, El Poblado

+57 (034) 315 9000

International Patient Service at Clínica Las Vegas

+57 (034) 315-9000

Orvé: Centro de Fracturas y Ortopedia Las Vegas S.A.S.

+57 (034) 444-4517 (Landline)

+57 (321) 769-8095

Clínica Las Vegas located off Avenida Las Vegas (Carrera 48) in Poblado is a hospital offering a large variety of healthcare services, the specialties here include anesthesia, cardiology, cardiovascular surgery, neurosurgery, plastic surgery, orthopedics, and otolaryngology. In particular there are many orthopedists and physical therapists here. According to my physical therapist here at Clínica Las Vegas, this apparently the place where a lot of people who are in motorcycle and car accidents come here for treatment. Two of the other core strengths at Clínica Las Vegas besides orthopedics include cardiovascular specialties and infectious diseases. There are also a variety of doctors and other health professionals who have offices here. Additionally, Clínica Las Vegas has an international patients office with an English speaking staff to support international patients. I have used the International Patient Service at Clínica Las Vegas and found it to be helpful for me, during July 2018, with scheduling appointments and dealing with Sura when I was having a pain crisis.  This clinic also has the emergency room for EPS Sura.

Clínica Las Vegas is the only clinic I have ever been to and believe me, I have been to many clinics, too many clinics, that has a hair salon and laser hair removal. Yes, on the main floor in the Fase I building, you can get your hair cut and styled and also go to the doctor. Before you ask, I have not done anything beauty related at Clínica Las Vegas, but if someone wants to Venmo me money so I can do that and write about it for the blog, I would be happy to go and report back.

Clínica Las Vegas has three buildings, Fase I, Fase II and Fase III, which house the clinic and doctors’ offices. One thing that frustrates me about Clínica Las Vegas is that it can feel like a maze with the three buildings and since the buildings are older, they might have the infrastructure to accommodate as many people as comfortably as say Clínica Medellín’s location in Poblado does. And they do not have wifi available if you are not a patient at the hospital here.

Additionally, all of the doctors and other healthcare professionals that are not working inside the hospital itself are all independent here at Clínica Las Vegas, so this means if you see an internist and an orthopedist at Clínica Las Vegas, they cannot share patient records with each other since they are independent practitioners not affiliated with Clínica Las Vegas. This is not the case at Clínica Alemana in Santiago where all of the doctors there can see all of your medical records with other medical professionals at that hospital since they are work Clínica Alemana, which makes for easier continuity of care. I think there are some great doctors here at Clínica Las Vegas, but in general there is definitely room for improvement here. Given my experiences with people at Clínica Las Vegas not billing properly for consults and that I had a bad experience getting an MRI here, I am not inclined to return to do anything significant at Clínica Las Vegas or recommend anyone get an MRI at Clínica Las Vegas.

On other hand, I have never had any such problems at Clínica Medellín and have always found the staff there to be friendly, helpful and professional. Having now gotten an MRI at both Clínica Las Vegas and Clínica Medellín in Poblado, I found the doctors and staff at Clínica Medellín’s location in Poblado and CediMed at Clínica Medellín in Poblado to be more organized, professional, helpful, and efficient than the people I encountered in Clínica Las Vegas’ radiology department.

Note about orthopedics and Orvé at Clínica Las Vegas: This is for anyone looking for an orthopedics clinic in Medellín. I have seen a few orthopedists here in Medellín for different things, but I particularly liked Orvé. Orvé is one of the big orthopedics centers at Clínica Las Vegas, located on the first floor of Fase I, in front of the food court area. I personally have seen Dr. Bacca here at Orvé, he is an English speaking doctor, who specializes in treating people with foot and ankle issues and is on faculty for at least one medical school here in Medellín. Dr. Bacca’s experience, research, publications, and CV, is on par with some of the really good specialists I have seen in the United States. When I started going to physical therapy here at Clínica Las Vegas for a foot and ankle injury and was in a significant amount of pain, this is the doctor that my physical therapist told that I should see. And I was able to get an appointment for this doctor the next day, which was amazing, since I was expecting to have wait at least week to get into to see this doctor.

When I first saw Dr. Bacca, I was in a significant amount of pain, he really understood that I was in pain and needed help. It was quite a different experience for me to have a doctor acknowledge that my pain was real and significant and that getting to the root of it is a priority. When I was told that he wanted me to get an MRI that same day, he made sure that someone from his office went with me to try to help me schedule an MRI as soon as possible. While I was not able to get an MRI for the same day, I got an appointment to get an MRI two days later. For the record, I have had MRIs in many places and I have never been able to get in for an MRI anywhere that quickly. This is not say that there are not other good orthopedists or orthopedists centers in Medellín, I wanted to share my experience. Before seeing Dr. Bacca, I had seen a different orthopedist a few weeks earlier for the same problem. This other doctor gave me walking boot, an injection of pain meds, some prescriptions and prescription for physical therapy, and told to come back if my foot ankle were still hurting. However, I have only seen Dr. Bacca here at Orvé, so I cannot comment on how good the rest of the doctors are at Orvé and what they are like.

 
Clínica Las Vegas in Medellín, photo by SajoR, Wikipedia commons.

Clínica Las Vegas in Medellín, photo by SajoR, Wikipedia commons.

 

Options for Health Insurance in Colombia 

One of the reasons that Colombia has such a highly-rated healthcare system is in part due to the new Colombian constitution drafted in 1991, which made access to healthcare a right for all Colombian citizens and foreign residents in Colombia. There are three types of health insurance in Colombia. 

1.     SISBEN: This is a free government subsidized healthcare system only for extremely poor or homeless Colombians.

2.     EPS (Entidades Promatoras de Salud): This is mandatory public health insurance that all people residing in Colombia must pay into. Your monthly premium is calculated as 12.5% of the monthly gross income you declare to EPS.

3.     Prepagada/Póliza: These are private health insurance plans, such as Sura. The premium you pay varies depending on your age, the plan you choose and any pre-existing conditions you may have. You do not need to be a permanent resident, a Colombian citizen or even have a cédula in order to be eligible for a private health insurance plan.

 

Health Insurance Providers in Colombia

There are several providers in Colombia offering private health insurance including and not limited to:

There are many providers offering EPS health insurance including:

While there are a variety of EPS providers, EPS Suramericana (Sura) in 2018 was ranked as the best EPS provider in 2018. While there are a variety of health insurance providers, there is a general consensus Sura arguably is the best EPS provider and they have best coverage for prepagada plans, hence why I am only discussing Sura in this post.

 

Health Insurance Through EPS 

EPS is the government health insurance available to everyone who has a Cédula de Ciudadanía (CC), Colombian citizen’s identity card, as well as foreigners with a visa and Cédula de Extranjería (CE) Health insurance through EPS in Colombia is available for everyone residing in Colombia, including people who are not eligible to be covered by private health insurance plans due to their age and/or pre-existing condition(s).

With EPS, you receive services through a network of public health providers/facilities. Since EPS medical and dental plans cover everyone, this means that you will wait longer to see a doctor and/or receive medical care. EPS plans also include dental insurance. If you need to see a specialist, receive diagnostic tests such as blood work, x-rays, or undergo surgery with an EPS, you will need a referral from your primary care doctor. However, EPS plans cover family members and dependents such as spouses and permanent partners (companeñerxs permanentes), children under 18 years of age, and children between 18 and 25 years of age if they are financially dependent on the insured. 

With an EPS plan, you are assigned an Instituto Prestador de Salud (IPS), a health center which serves as your primary care location. However, it is important to be careful with which EPS provider you choose since some EPS providers in Colombia are not financially solvent. What this means is that they are slow with paying medical providers, which leaves thousands of people without access to healthcare. The crisis surrounding EPS, funding EPS, and how to resolve these issues is something that is frequently debated and discussed in the news. Based on what I have read about EPS in Colombia and the U.K.’s National Health Service (the NHS), a lot of the issues that plague EPS in Colombia in some cases are similar to issues that people living in the U.K. have with the NHS, especially related to funding.

Given that EPS Suramericana (SURA) is consistently ranked highly and is financially solvent, I would only recommend trying to get on an EPS Sura plan. When I was teaching in 2018, I had international health insurance so even when I had EPS, I never actually had the opportunity to use it. I was told that EPS is good for small things like colds but not for the bigger things. Given how much everyone pays for EPS, the quality of care and the timeliness in which receives care through EPS are not great. However, going through EPS means that you will have a smaller copay than the copay you would have if you have a private/prepagada health insurance plan. Another reported benefit of having EPS is that your medications are supposedly covered under your EPS plan from what I have heard from other expats who have EPS Sura, but I cannot confirm this. While your prescription medications under a prepagada plan with Sura are not covered, the only time Sura will cover your medications is when you are being hospitalized.

 
image courtesy of semana.com

image courtesy of semana.com

 

Grupo SURA

Grupo SURA is a large multinational Colombian company based in Medellín, with outposts in Colombia and other Latin American countries. SURA primarily deals with health insurance, life insurance, auto insurance, other insurance products, investment banking, and asset management. Sura reportedly has over 4,000 doctors and over 400 hospitals and medical centers in their network.

 
image courtesy of seguros sura on twitter @segurossura

image courtesy of seguros sura on twitter @segurossura

 

Prepagada (Private) Health Insurance in Colombia 

By comparison, prepagada, private health insurance plans in Colombia are usually much better than EPS. Prepagada plans such as Sura use private networks of healthcare faciltities and medical providers, and these plans aim to offer high-quality care in a timely manner. I have a private health insurance plan here through Sura, and it has been great.

Important benefits you gain from having a prepagada/private health insurance plan

  • You do not need a referral from your primary care doctor to receive diagnostic tests, see specialists or undergo procedures. This means that I can search the Sura’s online medical directory for a specialist who takes my insurance in my area and call a specialist directly to make an appointment without needing a referral from my primary care doctor. And if a specialist needs for me to have blood work or something else done, they just give me the order and I can get this done at Salud Sura for free or at a facility that is in-network for Sura and I will have a small copay.

  • With my prepagada plan with Sura, I have access to preferential treatment at hospitals and clinics within Sura’s network, as well as access to the best doctors and hospitals in Colombia.

  • My health insurance plan with Sura also covers me overseas for up to 90 days at a time in certain situations. EPS plans do not offer this benefit.

  • Prepagada/Póliza plans can be purchased as an additional supplemental policy to an EPS plan. These plans allow you to access a larger network of hospitals and specialists with shorter waiting times.

  • With a prepagada/private health insurance plan, you can get an appointment to see a specialist within days or weeks depending on their availability. It reportedly typically takes approximately 48 hours to get a surgery approved with a prepagada (private health insurance) plan. With an EPS (public health insurance) plan, it can take months to get into a specialist and then months for a surgery to be approved.

  • With a private health insurance plan, you can see out-of-network doctors and pay the difference between the standard reimbursements from your insurance plan and the doctor’s fees. I have done this when I saw a holistic doctor at Clínica Medellín.

Additionally, prepagada plans only have small copays but they do not have a deductible. An adult between 40 and 60 years of age can reportedly expect to pay somewhere between $150 and $275 USD per month for coverage depending on their plan, pre-existing conditions, etc. My monthly plan is much less than $150 USD per month since I am younger than 40 and I pay for three months of coverage at a time, which also lowers the cost of my premiums.

 

My experiences with Sura

I personally have the Salud Clásico plan and it has been great for me since it covers so much more than my American insurance. Getting Sura has changed my life here and makes a difference when I go to the clinic or doctor here. The first time I went to Clínica Medellín with my international insurance during March 2018 which had no agreements with any hospital in Medellín, it was not ideal situation and payment procedure was slightly confusing. But when I went the second time to Clínica Medellín with Sura, it was much easier, I paid my copay and that was it, and then I was quickly attended to. The beautiful thing about Sura is if you had the Salud Clásico plan and went to the emergency room at Clínica Medellín, you would pay your copay and Sura should cover the rest. I never have gotten any additional hospital or doctors’ bills after going to the clinic, doctor or hospital and paying my copay with Sura.

Recently, in January when I fell crossing the street and sprained my foot/ankle and went to Salud Sura, y’all since I fell, I PAID NOTHING, NOT ONE PESO to be seen by a doctor, receive a pain medication injection and an X-Ray. This is not always the case but thanks Sura for saving me once again. When I talked to my Spanish roommate about my experience at Sura, she said that this is what it would be like if I had a public health insurance plan in Spain, I would go to the doctor/hospital/clinic and not pay anything. It was quite a revelation and reminder about how dysfunctional and broken the U.S. healthcare and health insurance systems are. Going to the doctor here is almost always reminds about the reasons why I do not miss the U.S. medical system.

Here is a link to a guide my broker sent me in October 2018 in English which explains the three types of plans Sura offers, Evoluciona, Salud Clásico, and Salud Global, the plan with the most extensive coverage in Colombia and overseas. Here is an example of a quote for Salud Clásico from 2018 in Spanish.

 

Sura's private health plans

There are three options for a private health insurance plan with Sura, Salud Evoluciona (the least expensive plan with the least amount of coverage), the Salud Clásico plan (the medium plan–the plan that I have), and the Salud Global plan, the most expensive plan, with the most expansive coverage in Colombia and internationally.

Salud Evoluciona: This plan is customizable and the least expensive option. Salud Evoluciona covers you throughout Colombia for outpatient and hospital services. This plan does not cover you outside of Colombia. A friend of mine has this plan and really likes it, knowing myself and my tendency to use my health insurance a lot, I chose a plan with more expansive coverage in Colombia. This plan does cover you for dental accidents. 

Salud Clásico: This plan provides much more comprehensive coverage within Colombia and covers you somewhat overseas. It has been great for me since with Sura I pay a small copay to go to therapy here in Medellín that not is at Salud Sura. However, if I were traveling regularly outside of Colombia, I would consider upgrading to the Salud Global plan. However, this plan still ensures that I am able to access top quality medical treatment here in Colombia and it covers me in case of a dental accident. When I told my family about this in the U.S. about this, they were surprised, to say the least. This plan covers me for up 90 days outside of Colombia. 

Salud Global: This plan includes everything you get with a Salud Clásico plan, preferential treatment and access to great doctors and hospitals in Colombia while providing pretty comprehensive coverage if you are traveling overseas. If you plan to travel outside Colombia a lot, I would recommend that you consider enrolling in this plan. This plan will cover you for up 90 days outside of Colombia. It’s possible, (I need to confirm if I am remembering this correctly) that with this plan if you had an illness, they could not treat here in Colombia, Sura might be able to pay for you to get treatment overseas. This plan also covers you in case of a dental accident.

 
image with sura’s 2019 copays courtesy of seguros sura. all of these copays are the same regardless of your plan Salud Evoluciona, Salud Clásico, or Salud Global.

image with sura’s 2019 copays courtesy of seguros sura. all of these copays are the same regardless of your plan Salud Evoluciona, Salud Clásico, or Salud Global.

 

Questions you may have about Sura and EPS

Can you get Sura with just your passport or do you need a Cédula? 

You can enroll in Sura with just your passport; you do not need a visa and a cédula to be eligible for Sura. However, if you want to get an EPS plan in Colombia as a foreigner, you will need a valid visa and a cédula de extranjería

What about people who are older than 60 years of age who want health insurance?

After age 62, it is reportedly almost impossible to sign up for most private health insurance plans except with the possibility of AXA Colpatria, which accepts people up to 65 years of age. However, you will still be eligible for an EPS plan. Apparently, between the ages of 60 and 62, you will pay an additional premium for a private health insurance plan. I would recommended that you try to enroll in a private health insurance plan here in Colombia before you turn 60. Sura offers a plan for people who have had Sura’s Salud Clásico and Salud Global plans before they turned 60, up-to-date with paying their premiums, and living in Medellín, Bogotá, Barranquilla or Cali they are automatically taken to Sura’s options for mayores.

How much does health insurance cost in Colombia? 

You will pay 12.5% of your monthly gross income as declared to EPS as your EPS premium. If you are working in Colombia depending on your type of work contract, either your employer will be responsible for paying 4% of your annual salary and you will be responsible for paying 8.5% of your monthly salary into EPS and paying for your Seguridad Social (Social Security), accident, risk and liability insurance (ARL), pension plan and Caja de pensión (Confama or Comfenalco in Antioquia) or if you are an independent contractor, working under a contract for a “prestación de servicios,” you will be responsible for affiliating with EPS and Seguridad Social and paying this whole amount monthly. If you are legally working in Colombia, i.e., not working under the table, you are required to have and pay for Seguridad Social and pay into EPS. Affiliating with EPS and Seguridad Social is not super challenging, you will need your cédula, a labor contract or letter from your employer with your salary, and some other documents to take with you to meet with the person who will be your asesor, who manages all the paperwork for you doing this.

When I briefly had a prestación de servicios contract in Medellín during the summer of 2018, my boss gave me time off to go “afiliarme”. She spoke with my boss, and they figured out an arrangement that satisfied this requirement to pay into EPS and have Seguridad Social for the time that I was working, and then I paid in cash for the time that I would need to be affiliated with Seguridad Social. Although I hear that if your employer makes you figure this out every month that it can be a pain and time-consuming.

The cost of private health insurance premiums vary depending on your age, pre-existing conditions and your specific plan. Premiums reportedly fall into the falling age brackets: age 0-14, 14 to 40, 40 to 60, and 60 and up and premiums increase with age. Additionally, premiums increase each year with annual inflation in Colombia. With 2018 costs, a person between 14 and 40 years of age could get a Sura Salud Clásico plan paying three months at a time for less than $100 USD per month. However, in 2018/2019, someone between 40 and 60 years of age might pay $606.000 COP premium per month for Sura’s Salud Clásico plan (approximately $200 USD) and 60 year old’s prepagada plan premium might be approximately $800.000 COP ($280 USD) per month based on what I have heard from other older expats. However, it is important to remember that healthcare and other things such as the minimum monthly salary and other costs in Colombia increase yearly to keep pace with yearly inflation.

What if I am going to be here in Colombia for less than a year, can I still get Sura?

Yes, you can get Sura and only pay for the time that you will be here. If you will be here, you can get a plan for six months or a year, you could pay monthly (mensulamente), every three months (trimestral), every six months (semestral) or annually and cancel it when you are done, that’s all.

Where I can find a list of all of the Salud Sura locations outside of Medellín?

Here is a link to a complete list of the Sedes Salud Sura Locations in Colombia. I hope this helps.

 

Salud Sura Locations in Medellín 

Salud Sura Industriales: Carera 48 (Avenida Industriales) No.26 A 50

This Salud Sura location is humungous, located on Avenida Industriales across from Bancolombia’s Dirección General and a few blocks from the Industriales metro station. They have radiology, urgent care, a 24-hour Emergency Room, and more at Salud Sura Industriales. I have been to the emergency room here at this Salud Sura location twice, it’s nice and clean, but it is overly air-conditioned, if you run cold like me, I highly recommend to wear layers and/or adopt one of my Mom’s phrases, BYOB-Bring Your Own Blanket if you are going to the emergency room here. 

In my experiences at Salud Sura Industriales, the staff have always been incredibly kind, attentive, professional, and helpful. They even have blankets on all the beds for the emergency section which helps if you run super cold like me. Even when I went on late on a busy Saturday night, you would have never guessed how busy it was since it felt calm and quiet compared to other hospitals.

Salud Sura Sao Paulo: Carrera 43A No. 18 Sur-135, local 123, El Poblado
+57 (034) 310-8880
This location is located on La Frontera between Envigado, a suburb due south of Poblado, in El Poblado. They have primary and urgent care (atención prioritario) as well as other providers.

 Salud Sura la 33: Avenida 33 # 74 e 156, Piso 5, Laureles

+57 (034) 322-3318

Additional Salud Sura locations in Colombia

 

Signing up for Sura

If you are interested in signing up for Sura, you can speak with my broker, Luis Ossa who is bilingual. Luis will conduct a brief interview to gather your personal information, this conversation should take less than an hour. Then Luis can file the SURA paperwork for you. Approval for SURA’s prepagada plan should take somewhere between 48 hours and a week. Reportedly, if you are over age 45, a medical exam will usually be required. It should take approximately a month for you to receive your carnet (SURA ID card) in the mail once you have been approved. Once you have been approved you can go to any Salud Sura location and begin using your plan, even if you have not received your carnet de Sura, just make sure to bring your passport or cédula with you if you do not have your Sura card yet when you go to any Salud Sura location, they should be able to find you in the system with your passport number or the number for your cédula.

If you are reading this post and wanting to sign up for Sura, I am recommending my asesor, Luis. A friend of mine referred me to Luis last year when I was signing up for Sura and he has been incredibly helpful, kind, and patient. He has patiently answered many of my questions, and helped me so much ever since I signed up for Sura, so I highly recommend him. I am not receiving any financial benefit by recommending or re Luis.

Luis Ossa (Sura)

Phone/WhatsApp: +57 (311) 370-2600

Email: luis.ossa@asesorsura.com

 

Signing up for EPS in Medellín

If you want an EPS plan, you can call my contact Gloria Perez who does EPS, Colpensiones and Seguridad Social, although I cannot comment on Gloria’s level of English, her office is Centro Comercial Monterrey near the Poblado metro station. You will need a Cédula to get on EPS, but EPS cannot reject you because of your age and/or any pre-existing conditions you may have.

Gloria Perez (EPS and Seguridad Social)

Phone/WhatsApp: +57 (310) 398-2908

 

The opinions expressed here in this post about my experiences are my own and do not constitute any medical advice, since I am not a healthcare professional. You might go to the same places or seem the same doctors and have a completely different experience. Also if you are looking into Sura, whatever price you may vary depending on your age, pre-existing conditions and other factors*

 

Special thanks to my mentor Kate, for helping me get onto Sura last year and Luis, my broker at Sura, for patiently answering my questions and sending one of the guides, that I ended up using in this post.

If there is something that you believe that I should cover, that I have not already covered on the blog, please let me know. If this post has helped you in any way or if you have learned something, please tell me in the comments, slide into my DMs or send me an email, since I LOVE hearing from my readers. Finally, if you are enjoying reading my blog and want more, do not forget to click the subscribe button below and you will receive emails from me on a weekly basis whenever I have posted new content on the blog.

 
AMANDA DRAPER IS THE FOUNDER AND AUTHOR OF "MI VIDA EN MEDELLÍN". SHE IS A WRITER, CONTENT CREATOR, AND TEACHER. A WASHINGTON DC NATIVE, SHE CALLS WASHINGTON D.C. AND MEDELLÍN HOME. SHE HAS A SERIOUS AJÍ ADDICTION, SO YOU WILL PROBABLY FIND HER WITH A BOTTLE OF AJÍ IN HER BAG. IN HER FREE TIME, SHE ENJOYS EXPLORING MEDELLÍN, EATING, READING, WRITING, AND HAVING ADVENTURES.

AMANDA DRAPER IS THE FOUNDER AND AUTHOR OF "MI VIDA EN MEDELLÍN". SHE IS A WRITER, CONTENT CREATOR, AND TEACHER. A WASHINGTON DC NATIVE, SHE CALLS WASHINGTON D.C. AND MEDELLÍN HOME. SHE HAS A SERIOUS AJÍ ADDICTION, SO YOU WILL PROBABLY FIND HER WITH A BOTTLE OF AJÍ IN HER BAG. IN HER FREE TIME, SHE ENJOYS EXPLORING MEDELLÍN, EATING, READING, WRITING, AND HAVING ADVENTURES.