Costa Rica Offers Good-Quality Health Care
By almost any standard, Costa Rica has some of the best health care in Latin America. Not only that, but the country’s public and private health systems are constantly being upgraded—new hospitals, new equipment, and improvements in staff training.
Despite the advancements, costs are low in comparison to those in the U.S. and even some European countries. Health care costs are about a third to a fifth of what you’d pay in the U.S., depending on the treatment Doctors, for instance, rarely charge more than $60 a visit, even for house calls. Many doctors, especially in private practice, speak English and have received training in Europe, Canada, or the U.S. Drugs are also much less expensive.
Private health care is also available, which is affordable and high quality. There are three large, private hospitals that most expatriates use: CIMA hospital in Escazú, Clinica Biblica in San José, and Hospital La Católica in San José-Guadalupe.
A new full-service hospital from CIMA is due to open shortly in Liberia, capital of the Guanacaste province. It’s just an hour or so away from northern Pacific Coast beaches like Tamarindo and Playas del Coco, home to many expats. It joins a Clinica Biblica medical center already in town.
Statistics from the World Health Organization frequently place Costa Rica in the top country rankings in the world for long life expectancy. Arguably, one reason for this is the slower pace of living in Costa Rica. And, of course, the healthy, fresh, non-preservative-laden foods found there, and the welcoming tropical climate. Costa Rica just seems to be a healthy place to live.
Costa Rica’s Government-Run Health Care System
With a government-sponsored network of more than 30 hospitals and more than 250 clinics throughout the country, the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) has primary responsibility for providing low-cost health care services to the Costa Rican populace. Although sometimes overburdened, this system has worked well for Costa Ricans for the past 60 or so years. Foreigners living in Costa Rica – legal residents only – can join the CCSS and get free treatment (everything from check ups to prescription drugs to major surgeries) by paying a small monthly fee–based on income. Tourists and visitors can use Caja facilities only in emergencies.
Health insurance from the state monopoly Instituto de Seguro Nacional (INS) is also available to legal residents, valid with over 200 affiliated doctors, hospitals, labs, and pharmacies in the private sector. In 2010, the government made it mandatory for residency applicants to become members of La Caja. The average price is generally less than $50 a month.
Costa Rica’s Private Health Care System
Many of the country’s highly trained physicians and some dentists work in the mornings for the CCSS and operate their own offices and clinics in the afternoons and evenings. While private health care in Costa Rica is more expensive than that offered by the same doctors and surgeons through the CCSS, the price is still far below that of the average office visit in the U.S. For example, a private office visit to almost any medical specialist costs around $$80 – $100. Continued treatments for diagnosed problems will vary, but will almost always be considerably less than comparable treatment in the United States. Dental work, too, is provided at a much lower cost than in the U.S.– prompting a phenomenon known as “medical tourism.”
Three well-known private hospitals, Clinica Biblica, Hospital CIMA, and Hospital La Catolica, where many CCSS doctors practice in the afternoons and evenings, offer first-class, ultra-modern services. Affiliated with U.S. hospitals, these three private providers have costs somewhat higher than the public providers but still considerably below anything found in the U.S.
Many expats elect to use a mix of public and private care due to the wait times for certain procedures and treatments in the public system.
Cosmetic Surgery in Costa Rica
A full range of cosmetic and reconstructive procedures are available in several modern clinics. With the addition of contemporary laser technology, the ability of Costa Rica’s plastic and cosmetic surgeons to provide world-class services has been enhanced. Prices are sometimes 50% lower than in the United States, but it is important to note that each case is different, and prices are quoted on an individual basis after a consultation.
Dental Procedures in Costa Rica
From simple fillings to complicated multiple implants and periodontal work, Costa Rican dentists are as qualified and skilled as dentists anywhere–and prices are far less than most anywhere else. This is another growing area of health tourism–foreign patients seeking dental work arrive in Costa Rica in greater numbers every year. Laboratory work, too, is much cheaper in Costa Rica, and materials used are all FDA-approved and imported from the U.S.
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