Health reform bill in Colombia advances with approval in House Commission

The health reform bill seeks to transform the current system in Colombia. Amongst other things it calls for creating healthcare access points in each neighborhood and town of the country to ensure access to all citizens

May 24, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Members of the Seventh Commission of the House of Representatives celebrate the passing of the reform. Photo: María Fernanda Carrascal

On Tuesday, May 23, the Seventh Commission of the House of Representatives of the Colombian Congress approved the health reform bill proposed by the government of President Gustavo Petro and Vice-President Francia Márquez. The reform bill received 14 votes in favor and six against in the debate which is the first stage in the parliamentary process.

During over 8 hours of debate, the members of the commission incorporated 14 new articles and eliminated nine proposed articles. The representatives approved a series of new articles with proposals related to topics such as capitation payments, identification of human talent in health, among others.

Similarly, the officials rejected articles that proposed allocating funds on a regional basis, strengthening of the Health System Resource Administrators (ADRES), among others. Health Minister Guillermo Alfonso Jaramillo reported that the decisions were made together with the different political parties, in order to advance the debate and seek a middle ground.

In addition to the members of the ruling left-wing Historic Pact coalition, the legislators of the Liberal and the U parties, despite their reservations, voted in favor of the majority of the articles.

The approval of the health reform was celebrated by President Petro, health minister Jaramillo, among other leaders.

“Hard work, deep debate. Much deeper than when Law 100 was passed [in 1993]. I congratulate the work of congressmen and congresswomen,” wrote President Petro on twitter, welcoming the approval of the reform.

For his part, health minister Jaramillo thanked the Commission for approving the reform, adding that the government wants “the best for Colombia” and that it “will continue working for the country to have a great public healthcare system.”

The commission approved 143 articles “that will change the country’s health system and will allow all Colombians to have a model with quality infrastructure, health workers with good salaries and working conditions, and patients with comprehensive care. We will continue to build a better country,” tweeted the Health Ministry.

The health reform promoted by the Petro government seeks to make healthcare a universal right. It proposes a public-private hybrid model that prioritizes primary care to prevent deaths. It suggests creating healthcare access points in each neighborhood and town of the country to ensure every Colombian has access to this service. It advocates the elimination of the intermediation exercised by private insurers (EPS) and the creation of a national health system based on a social insurance model, financed by parafiscal contributions from social security contributions and the nation’s own resources. It also guarantees good conditions and benefits for workers in the sector. The reform is one of the pillars of the national government and marks its agenda of changes for the country.

To become a law, the bill will have to go through three more debates and votes: one in the plenary session of the House of Representatives and two in the Senate.

This week, the commission is also scheduled to debate on the labor reform bill presented by the Petro government. The labor reform bill proposes to reduce working hours, boost overtime pay and expand workers’ rights, among other measures.