Minister: Colombian health care plan draws from successful systems worldwide
Medellin, Colombia, Feb 27 (EFE).- A controversial plan to overhaul Colombian health care has borrowed elements from systems elsewhere with a proven track record and would cost less than what some experts are projecting, Health Minister Carolina Corcho said.
“We reviewed the health systems of the European Union, the best-rated systems in Latin America, like Costa Rica, to take what was best (from each one) … and generate a viable alternative for our country,” Corcho, a psychiatrist and political scientist, said in an interview with Efe in this northwestern Colombian city.
The senior official said that in the area of primary care, one of the pillars of the proposed overhaul submitted to Congress on Feb. 14, close attention was given to the Spanish model.
“The issue of primary care, primary care centers and having a payer that pays those centers, clinics and hospitals is a very successful Spanish experience that we want to implement in Colombia,” she added.
Different ideas from outside the EU and even Asia also are being brought on board, according to the minister.
“Different countries of the world that have offered (to share their experiences) are going to come. A delegation is coming, for example, from the United Kingdom because here (in Colombia) we’ve taken into account many of the experiences of their health care system. We’ve even got into contact in Spain with some experts, in South Korea, where there’s experience with a single payer,” she added.
The government also has heard from an expert delegation from the World Health Organization that recently visited the country and made a “very important” contribution.
“They were very surprised at our level of technical detail from an economic and financial perspective. They’re helping us a great deal with the transition because the WHO has participated in different health reforms. It’s important to get that message out to the country,” Corcho added.
The cost of implementing the ambitious reform remains unclear.
Some say it will be in the range of 80 trillion pesos (around $16.54 billion) and exceed the state’s funding capacity, but Corcho said that number doesn’t correspond to reality.
“They’re talking about 80 trillion (pesos) because they want to saddle the reform with all the debt the system has left us with, saddle the reform with the neglect of (public) hospitals,” the minister said. “But of course, that doesn’t correspond to the health care overhaul.”
Corcho said an economic team headed by Luis Jorge Garay, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology-trained economist who has served as an adviser to the Inter-American Development Bank and other national and international institutions, is in place to gauge the fiscal impact of the plan.
She added that costs are being bandied about that are not part of the overhaul and instead correspond to commitments “the Colombian government has to assume because they’re historical debts (related to) the basic right to health care,” including professional training, formalization of the workforce and infrastructure maintenance at public hospitals.
Over the next four years, the government plans to direct funds as far as possible toward remedying problems the Colombian government has failed to address for the past three decades, Corcho said.
“But this would have to be done with or without the reform,” she added.
The minister also said that no thought is being given to importing doctors from abroad to bring primary health care to all corners of the country.
“No, that’s not under consideration at all,” she said. “At no time does this bill consider that foreign doctors should be brought in.” EFE