One of the main concerns I had when I first got here was healthcare. The main question being, would I be able to afford it? I had to start with choosing a Healthcare Provider (EPS) of course. My aunt recommended Compensar and off we went.
We arrived at a big building where I took a number and waited my turn. When they called me up I went to the teller she asked me how I would file as—I said independent and she of course gave me some paperwork. The paperwork asked for the usual personal information, then it asked if I would pay pension. Pension? I decided it would be a good idea, so we went to get me affiliated with a pension provider! We had to do this before affiliating with Compensar, so we went a couple of blocks to the nearest one and a couple of copies of my ID some fingerprints later we were back. We gave the form back to the teller and she also took my fingerprints. From that point on I was officially affiliated with Compensar! Then, finally what I had been dreading: how much I would have to pay?
$163.000 ($85USD). That included pension at $45USD, healthcare at $34USD, and social security at $6USD. That’s about the U.S. equivalent of one visit to a very cheap dentist where he merely looks at my teeth and tells me I need another more detailed check-up. With this kind of price I was a bit skeptical about the healthcare itself. As a side note, included in this is also access to their sports fields and other various fitness facilities that we have yet to explore.
Flash forward 4 months later, about late September early October. I got some kind of sinus infection and I was coughing nasty green mucus all over the place (sorry if you’re squeamish). At this point I knew I needed antibiotics and I needed them as soon as possible. I decided I would go to the ER. After some research, our closest ER turned out to be the Red Cross, an about 10 min bus ride from the apartment. I arrived there and it looked pretty modest, for lack of a better word. Not too many people, no one looked like they were dying. I got my number and waited for about half an hour to be called into Triage, where they would determine how serious my “emergency” was. I went in told the doctor my symptoms and she labeled me as Triage 3 and gave me the appropriate form. This meant that I needed to be seen by the doctor within the next 12 hours.
Of course then I went to around the building to the clinic part with my form and they gave me an appointment within the next hour! I was called within 20 minutes. The doctor again asked me what my symptoms were quickly diagnosed me after some exams and ordered me some medications and an x-ray to make sure I didn’t have bronchitis. I went to get the x-ray, which took a total of 10 minutes including waiting time. Directly after I went to get my medication which was a kind of inflammation-reducer/pain-reliever/fever-reducer shot. Basically instant relief. My next stop was inhalation therapy with a nebulizer (usually used for people with asthma) where I sat for about 10 minutes inhaling medication that also cleared up my sinuses instantly and left me feeling a little woozy but capable of breathing. I had to do 3 of these and this is where I spent the most time. I then went up again and was called into the doctor. Here she told me she had looked at my x-rays and they were fine and then prescribed medication for my infection, rhinitis, and fever. I then went to the cashier where I was charged a whopping $3USD for x-rays and doctor’s visit and was directed to the nearest pharmacy. I felt pretty satisfied and left optimistic, but also a little worried about paying for medication thinking that antibiotics weren’t really cheap. The pharmacy was packed so I had to wait quite a while, but finally the pharmacist said “next” and it was my turn. I passed her the prescription and she brought all my medication out and charged me $1.5USD for all of it.
Here is where I think, “if Colombia is a so-called third-world, developing country, then why does it have a more comprehensive healthcare system than the US, a world-power?” I mean let’s be honest, would you really have gotten the kind of healthcare that I did every time you went to the doctor for only $30USD a month? Would you really even consider walking up to the ER without being prepared to fork over your life savings and possibly die while waiting for hours? Colombia may be lacking in some things, but I feel much more at ease getting sick here than in the states, and that’s saying something.
*Syd would like to note that she had to do some serious cleaning-up of this post, and also that she was present for significant portions of this ordeal and did not abandon a sickly Manu to fend for herself.