Colombia’s proposed health reform could push spending to $234 million next year

Colombia's proposed health reform could push spending to $234 million next year

BOGOTA, Nov 29 (Reuters) – Colombia’s health sector could see spending grow by 929 billion pesos ($234.7 million) by 2024 if the government’s proposed health reform is approved by Congress, the finance ministry said on Wednesday. .

Health sector costs could hit 92.3 trillion pesos ($23.3 billion) next year if the controversial bill is approved, compared to an expected 91.3 trillion pesos if the reform is blocked.

The health reform is one of a series of proposals being pushed by President Gustavo Petro’s government, which looks to reduce poverty and inequality in Latin America’s fourth-largest economy.

The reform will result in higher costs in the short and medium term, the Ministry of Finance said, citing the expansion of primary care, training of healthcare workers, and strengthening of hospital infrastructure, among others. more steps.

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“In the long term, it is expected that the emphasis on prevention will translate into lower costs for the care of medium and high-complexity (diseases),” added the ministry.

The health reform will also push the expansion of Colombia’s health care deficit to 3.2 trillion pesos in 2024, which is estimated at 2.3 trillion pesos if the bill is not passed, the ministry said.

Analysts have expressed concern about the length of cost increases stemming from the health bill and how it will affect public finances.

“If the deficit expands to 3 trillion pesos, it will cause long-term fiscal accounts and long-term sustainability to be more affected than if it was a one-time event,” said Sergio Olarte, the chief economist of Scotiabank. for Colombia.

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While spending in the first years after the reform was higher “that situation will reverse starting in 2036,” the ministry said.

Petro’s reforms have been criticized by lawmakers and disagreements over them have fractured the president’s majority coalition, making any agreement uncertain.