Healthcare in Colombia: Your Complete Guide

Read the complete guide to healthcare in Colombia, options for expats, costs, and what you can expect.

Healthcare in Colombia
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Colombia, a country known for its rich culture and stunning landscapes, has rapidly become a shining example of modern healthcare in Colombia. Ranked 22nd in the world by the World Health Organization, Colombia’s healthcare system offers a unique blend of public and private options, delivering high-quality care at an affordable price. For expats, this presents an incredible opportunity to experience world-class healthcare while enjoying the vibrant lifestyle that Colombia has to offer.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of healthcare in Colombia, from its accessibility and affordability to navigating it as an expat. Whether you’re considering a move to Colombia or simply curious about the state of healthcare in this beautiful country, this guide will provide you with invaluable insights and practical tips for making the most of your healthcare experience in Colombia.

Key Takeaways

  • Colombia’s healthcare system offers a range of cost-effective and quality options for locals and expats.
  • Like most countries, larger cities offer more accessible and advanced healthcare options than more rural options.
  • Expats will be eligible to enroll in Colombian private health insurance before obtaining a visa but will have access to the full range of public health coverage once they obtain a visa.

Colombia's Healthcare System: An Overview

Colombia Colombia’s healthcare system has come a long way over the years, boasting 96% universal coverage and an international reputation for medical tourism. With a mix of public and private healthcare systems, the country offers its residents a wide range of services and facilities, ensuring that quality care is accessible to all. The American-style “mixed-market” Colombia healthcare system has earned Colombia a well-deserved spot as one of the top healthcare providers in Latin America.

One of the key factors contributing to Colombia’s healthcare success is the emphasis on electronic medical record systems and state-of-the-art equipment, particularly in larger hospitals.

Overall, Colombia’s healthcare system offers a strong foundation for those searching for high-quality, affordable care within the country’s healthcare system.

Public vs. Private Healthcare

Regarding healthcare options in Colombia, expats can choose between public and private systems. The EPS (Entidad Promotora de Salud) public health insurance system offers all residents a low-cost public health insurance plan, contributing to Colombia’s universal health coverage. Public healthcare is cost-effective and accessible through the EPS system, one of the country's health-promoting entities. Retired expats typically have to pay public insurance fees to the EPS, depending on the foreigners income.

On the other hand, private healthcare provides:

  • Quicker access to specialists
  • Bilingual personnel
  • Virtual options
  • Expedited service
  • Access to a broader selection of healthcare services
  • More luxurious facilities

While private healthcare comes at a higher cost, it offers many advantages for expats.

The decision between public and private healthcare ultimately depends on an individual’s priorities and financial situation.

Urban vs. Rural Healthcare Facilities

Colombia’s healthcare facilities and services vary between urban and rural areas. Urban centers like Bogota, Medellin, and Cali boast nearly 100% health insurance coverage, indicating excellent healthcare standards within Colombia’s healthcare system. These major cities are home to some of the best healthcare facilities in Latin America, such as Medellin, which is renowned for its top-notch medical centers.

In contrast, rural areas in Colombia often have limited access to quality care and public health services. The World Health Organization’s healthcare assessment in Colombia highlights the disparities between urban and rural healthcare facilities and services.

Expats mulling over relocation to Colombia should consider these differences while selecting a place to reside and avail of healthcare services.

Navigating Colombian Healthcare as an Expat

Expats navigating Colombian healthcare with health insurance card

For an expat in Colombia, the healthcare system might initially appear intimidating. After all, finding a doctor in your home country can be difficult - let alone finding a doctor in a new country.

Yet, gaining a clear comprehension of insurance options, locating bilingual healthcare providers, and distinguishing between public and private healthcare systems can make the task manageable.

Acquainting yourself with these facets of Colombian healthcare and global health intelligence equips you to make informed decisions about your healthcare needs and avail the finest services.

Securing suitable health insurance is one of the most vital aspects of navigating Colombian healthcare as an expat. Whether you opt for public health coverage through EPS insurance or private health insurance, securing coverage is necessary to ensure access to health care services in the country. Additionally, being aware of the availability of bilingual healthcare providers can help alleviate language barriers and improve your overall healthcare experience.

Insurance Options for Expats in Colombia

Expats in Colombia have several insurance options to choose from. Mandatory EPS public health insurance is popular, with a network of over 4,600 physicians and 400 medical centers and hospitals. Expats typically pay a minimum of $36 and this price can go up depending on much you declare your income to be. The price is calculated at a 12.5% of income per month for EPS coverage, however these percentage may vary when the foreigner is retired, pregnant and others.

Private health insurance is another option for expats in Colombia, offering more comprehensive coverage and faster access to care through private insurance plans. The cost of private health insurance varies depending on factors such as age, coverage level, and medical history. While private insurance may be more expensive than EPS, it provides additional benefits such as access to bilingual healthcare providers, modern facilities, and shorter appointment wait times.

Finding Bilingual Healthcare Providers

Language barriers can significantly challenge expats seeking healthcare services in Colombia. While many physicians in the country are bilingual in Spanish and English, office staff, nursing staff, and technicians may only speak Spanish. As such, proficiency in Spanish can significantly improve your ability to navigate the healthcare system and communicate with healthcare providers.

Bilingual healthcare providers are more commonly found in private facilities and in larger cities, making it easier for expats to receive care in their preferred language. Numerous bilingual doctors are available in major cities like Bogota, Medellin, and Cali.

Costs and Affordability of Colombian Healthcare

Colombian healthcare is known for its affordability, making it an attractive option for locals and expats. Public healthcare costs are based on income, allowing for accessible care regardless of financial status. Meanwhile, private healthcare offers competitive prices compared to other countries, particularly for specialized care and procedures.

The affordability of healthcare in Colombia significantly attracts expats and medical tourists. Understanding the cost differences between public and private healthcare and available insurance options allows expats to make informed decisions about their healthcare needs and plan their budget accordingly.

Public Healthcare Costs

With public healthcare costs directly linked to income, Colombia’s system ensures that all residents can access the care they need without facing financial strain. This income-based system contributes to the overall affordability and accessibility of healthcare in the country, making Colombia an attractive destination for expats seeking high-quality, cost-effective care.

Private Healthcare Costs

While private healthcare costs in Colombia are generally higher than public healthcare, they still offer competitive prices compared to other countries. This cost competitiveness extends to specialized care and procedures, making private healthcare an attractive option for those seeking more comprehensive coverage.

In addition to the high-quality care private healthcare facilities provide, expats can benefit from shorter wait times, bilingual staff, and state-of-the-art equipment. Though private healthcare comes at a higher cost, its affordability compared to other countries and its range of benefits make it a worthwhile investment for many expats residing in Colombia, the cost of private health care per year may range between $350.00 USD to $900.00.

Medical Tourism in Colombia

Colombia's growing medical tourism industry sees patients worldwide seeking high-quality, affordable treatment in various medical fields. Cosmetic surgery and dental care are two of the most popular choices for international patients, as Colombia’s healthcare system offers world-class services at a fraction of the cost found in more developed countries.

The combination of skilled medical professionals, modern facilities, and cost-effective care has positioned Colombia as a leading destination for medical tourism. As the industry continues to expand, Colombia’s reputation as a hub for high-quality, affordable healthcare will only grow stronger.

Cosmetic Surgery

Colombia’s reputation for cosmetic surgery is well-established, with the country offering a wide range of procedures at affordable prices. Renowned for its breast augmentation, butt lifts, and nose jobs, Colombia attracts patients worldwide seeking top-quality care and results. In fact, rhinoplasty procedures in Colombia are approximately 60% less expensive than those in the United States.

The affordability of cosmetic surgery in Colombia, combined with its high-quality care and experienced surgeons, has made the country a popular destination for medical tourists. With a growing number of people seeking cosmetic procedures in Colombia, the country’s standing as a leader in the field is set to continue.

Dental Care

Dental care is another area where Colombia excels in providing affordable and high-quality services to both local and international patients. English-speaking dentists in major cities offer a range of services, including:

  • Routine cleanings
  • Fillings
  • Extractions
  • Root canals
  • Crowns and bridges
  • Dental implants
  • Orthodontics

The cost of dental care in Colombia is generally lower than in many other countries, with a routine cleaning costing as little as $20 USD.

Colombia presents an attractive option for those seeking dental care with its affordable pricing and skilled professionals. Whether it’s a simple cleaning or a more complex procedure, patients can expect excellent care at a fraction of the cost found in more developed countries.

Preventative Measures and Common Health Concerns

While Colombia’s healthcare system offers top-quality care, it’s important for expats and travelers to be aware of common health concerns and take appropriate preventative measures. Vaccinations and travel medicine are crucial considerations before embarking on a trip or moving to Colombia, as certain regions may require specific immunizations and other precautions.

Awareness of potential health risks, such as mosquito-borne diseases, and protecting oneself can help ensure a safe and healthy stay in Colombia. By staying informed and taking necessary precautions, expats and travelers can enjoy all Colombia offers while maintaining their health and well-being.

Legal Requirements and Healthcare Access for Expats

Colombia's expats must grasp the legal requirements and available healthcare access options. Obtaining health insurance is a crucial step in the visa application process, and expats must familiarize themselves with how to access emergency medical care in the country.

Understanding the healthcare system and its related legal requirements enables expats to be prepared for any medical situations that may arise during their stay. This knowledge can help expats feel more confident and secure in their healthcare choices while living in Colombia.

Visa Requirements and Health Insurance

Expats will find that when applying for a Colombian visa, they often need international health insurance. The cost of health insurance for expats in Colombia depends on factors such as age, coverage level, and medical history. Securing comprehensive health insurance coverage fulfills visa requirements and ensures access to healthcare services in the country.

After obtaining the visa, foreigners will have access to a full range of health insurance options in Colombia and can typically cancel an international plan in favor of a Colombian plan.

A comprehension of the visa requirements and health insurance options in Colombia empowers expats to make informed decisions regarding their healthcare needs and budget. This knowledge can help ensure a smooth transition into life in Colombia and facilitate access to the country’s renowned healthcare system.

Accessing Emergency Medical Care

In Colombia, emergency medical care is available to all residents and tourists, regardless of their insurance status. Public hospitals provide treatment even for those without insurance, ensuring everyone can access emergency care. When seeking emergency medical care, it’s essential to have identification documents, such as a passport, to enable identification in the event of an accident.

Understanding how to access emergency medical care in Colombia is an important aspect of living in the country as an expat. Getting familiar with the process and requirements equips expats to be ready to handle any medical emergencies that may occur during their stay.


In conclusion, Colombia’s healthcare system offers a unique blend of affordability, quality, and accessibility, making it an attractive destination for expats and medical tourists alike. By understanding the intricacies of the healthcare system, from insurance options and bilingual providers to preventative measures and common health concerns, expats can make informed decisions about their healthcare needs and access the best possible services.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the biggest health problem in Colombia?

Cardiovascular diseases have been estimated to be responsible for 40% of all deaths in Colombia and are a priority health concern, alongside tropical diseases such as malaria, as well as non-communicable diseases like cancer.

Can a foreigner get health insurance in Colombia?

Yes, foreigners can get health insurance in Colombia as healthcare is a basic right provided by the constitution for all citizens and foreigners.

There are both public and private health coverage options available.

What is the best country for healthcare?

Taiwan, South Korea, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, New Zealand and Germany all rank among the world’s best countries for healthcare. According to the CEOWORLD magazine Health Care Index, Taiwan tops the list with its modern, efficient healthcare system that features well-equipped medical facilities and extensively trained professionals who provide high quality care. Colombia's healthcare system ranks 22 according to the World Health organization.

Who funds healthcare in Colombia?

Funding for healthcare in Colombia comes from the General Healthcare Social Security Scheme (SGSSS) and private insurers known as EPS, which are funded by social security payments.

What is the difference between public and private healthcare in Colombia?

Public healthcare in Colombia is accessible and affordable through the EPS system, while private healthcare offers more advanced services with access to a wider range of healthcare options and luxurious facilities.

Private healthcare is often more expensive than public healthcare but can provide access to a broader range of services and facilities. For those who can afford it, private healthcare can be an excellent option for getting the best care available.

Daniela Cordoba
Founder and Lead Attorney

Daniela Cordoba is a lawyer specializing in immigration and commercial law. Daniela Cordoba has helped individuals and businesses live and operate in Colombia for over a decade. She also has training in compliance with the respective accreditations to serve as Compliance Officer.

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