The House of Representatives approved on Tuesday night the reform of the health system presented nine months ago to the Congress of the Republic by the Government of Gustavo Petro. After almost 10 hours of discussion, the majority of the Plenary voted in favor of three articles and eliminated two, thus completing the last five that were needed to successfully complete the long process of the project in the House. To be approved, the legislative initiative that proposes a profound change in the health system in Colombia received the key support of the Liberal Party and the Party of the U, in addition to the sure votes of the Historical Pact, the Comunes Party, the representatives of victims and some members of the Green Party, who have always supported the Government.
The president's flagship reform, which seeks to transform the EPS into health managers and allow the state to manage the sector's resources and pay hospitals, clinics and service providers directly, will now have to face two new obstacles to finally become law. It will first have to be approved in the Senate's Seventh Committee, where the government has several like-minded senators, and then in the Plenary, where a much stronger opposition is expected.
In Tuesday's session in the Chamber, in which the Minister of the Interior, Luis Fernando Velasco, and the Minister of Health, Guillermo Alfonso Jaramillo, were present, Articles 122 and 123 were approved by absolute majority, which give extraordinary powers to the President of the Republic. The government managed to obtain 99 positive votes, out of the 94 it required, compared to 23 negative votes from the opposition, which gradually left the chamber, as it has done in recent weeks.
These two articles allow the president to "issue norms with the force of law" that are agreed upon with the communities through prior consultation, "to change the Indigenous Health System of its own and intercultural." They will also serve to regulate the intercultural health model in territories of Raizal, Palenquera, Rrom, Black and Afro-Colombian communities. One of the reform's speakers, Rep. Alfredo Modragón, celebrated this triumph on his X account: "Great support for the Health Reform! With 99 votes, a qualified majority, in the Chamber we have just approved extraordinary powers to President Petro, to issue regulations that will guarantee prior consultation with ethnic peoples, on the management of the health system."
Minutes after this resounding victory, which finally demonstrated the government's majorities to approve the reform, the representatives of the Historical Pact themselves proposed eliminating Article 128, which gave the president extraordinary powers to capitalize the New EPS, a mixed-ownership entity. They sank it to avoid an additional obstacle that could have complicated the approval of the reform.
Later, amid hugs, applause and shouts of jubilation, the representatives approved Article 143. The discussion continued to focus on Article 42, which has generated controversy in recent days because it allows mayors and governors to choose hospital directors at their discretion. In the end, the plenary decided to sink this article with 57 votes for no and 53 for yes.
Despite the fact that the government lost two of the last five articles in the last session, it managed to approve the reform as a whole. With this result, Gustavo Petro obtains his first major victory in Congress related to his three most important reforms: health, labor and pension.
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