Health Financing/Insurance

Colombia rushes to plug USD 500 million health budget gap

Colombia’s government will rush a tax bill to Congress this week to fill a budget hole that opened up when the Constitutional Court struck down a presidential decree aimed at funding healthcare. The court’s decision threw out Alvaro Uribe’s February decree imposing a levy on alcoholic beverages, cigarettes and gambling. Money raised by these taxes was to go toward funding Colombia’s cash-strapped healthcare system. But the court decided that Uribe’s emergency healthcare reform — which would have provided USD 500 million through 2011 — was not justified as an utive order and that the measure would have to be voted on by the legislature. Recognizing the financial problems that Colombia’s health system faces, the court delayed the effect of its decision until mid-December. This will allow the decreed taxes to remain in effect until then and give Congress time to pass a healthcare funding package of its own. Other aspects of Uribe’s decreed healthcare reform sparked protests from critics who said the plan would reduce services, especially to poorer sectors. Earlier this year, the Constitutional Court struck down a plan to hold a referendum intended to enable Uribe, a Wall Street favorite popular for his U.S.-backed crackdown on leftist guerrillas, to run for a third term.

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