Located in South America, the Republic of Colombia has one of the largest territories in the region. The nation houses the third-largest population in Latin America, with nearly 51 million inhabitants. In the area of healthcare, the country has recently concentrated its efforts on providing universal services to its citizens. In 2022, the Colombian government allocated the equivalent to nine percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on current health expenditure, and is forecast to keep that level of investment in the coming years. This figure ranks below the ten percent allocated by countries like Argentina and Brazil, but above a six percent reported by Mexico and Peru.
The provision of essential healthcare in Colombia is intended to be universal, with 95 percent of the population affiliated to the General Health Social Security System and a share of citizens exempted from the current policy included in other independent structures. Known in Colombia as "Sistema General de Seguridad Social en Salud (SGSSS)", the policy looks to assure all citizens with basic health services. The system is divided into two main programs. While a contributive program is mandatory for all individuals earning at least a minimum wage, a subsidized scheme is available for people with less resources, including those who would otherwise not be eligible for health insurance. In 2022, contributors and subsidized people accounted for a similar share of total affiliates to the national healthcare system. However, there are marked regional variations, with subsidized affiliates accounting for 21 percent of people insured in the country’s capital of Bogotá and 94 percent of those in Vichada.
These discrepancies are relevant, not only because of the way the system is financed, but because there are also disparities among the services provided for each program. Moreover, within the services offered, people frequently miss the necessary treatment due to constraints, leading wealthier individuals to take on supplementary private coverage. As of 2021, it was estimated that approximately 28 percent of people with health problems in the country did not request or receive medical attention due to supply barriers such as distance or lack of timely available medical appointments.
The COVID-19 pandemic
Colombia has been one of the most affected countries by the COVID-19 pandemic in Latin America. The nation is not only among those with the highest number of cases in the region along with other highly populated nations such as Brazil and Mexico, but has also one of the highest mortality rates. Though the South American country has been performing a great number of tests in comparison to other territories in Latin America, it is believed that the actual number of cases could be higher.
Colombia launched its vaccination campaign against COVID-19 in mid-February 2021. By May 2023, the country had administered over 90 million doses, the fourth largest number in the region. However, in terms of vaccination rates Colombia ranks below less populated countries such as Cuba, Chile, and Uruguay, but also below Brazil. The vaccines that have been administered to the Colombian population include those developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, Sinovac Biotech, AztraZeneca/Oxford University, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna.
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