The total amount of money embezzled from the Colombian healthcare system exceeds $5 billion, the president of the country’s medical federation said Tuesday.
The situation had reached crisis point, said Sergio Isaza, with $2.75 billion of healthcare money illegitimately taken or diverted between 2007 and 2010.
More than $5 billion was now in the hands of corrupt health insurers, the medic told Radio Santa Fe, asking, “Who is going to return this money to Colombians? How many lives has this cost Colombia?”
A report last year by Colombia’s Ombudsman found that Bogota hospitals were owed $300 million by health insurance companies. EPS, the worst offender, owes $150 million — it’s claimed its employees received training on how to commit fraud.
Colombia’s former Minister of Social Protection Diego Palacio and former Trade Minister Luis Guillermo Plata are being investigated for their role in healthcare embezzlement.
The worst part, said Isaza, was that the money had been diverted to building projects that had nothing to do with healthcare.“They have stolen money to build clubs, golf courses, hotels, to finance teams, and even to export capital.” He lamented that the money could not be returned because of lack of adequate mechanisms in Colombia’s legal system.
The way medical resources were managed through insurers rather than the healthcare system was the main problem, said Isaza. Patients had to pass through two levels of bureaucratic red tape, financial and medical, while time passed and disease threatened their lives.
Another threat to the quality of Colombian health care, said Isaza, was the fact that many insurers were drastically condensing healthcare training programs, giving diplomas after three to six months for degrees that usually require up to four years of training.