Health Care in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has some of the best health care in Latin America. The country’s public and private sectors are constantly being upgraded. Despite the building of new hospitals, new equipment and the improvements in staff training, costs remain low in comparison with the U.S.

La Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, known as Caja, is the government agency that operates nearly three dozen hospitals and 200 hundred clinics in the public system. Expats can access this service for a small monthly fee based on income. It is now compulsory to join Caja when applying for residency and most expats pay about $50 per person per month but this varies as it is based on income. After that all their care – doctor visits, prescriptions, diagnostic testing, surgeries – is free.

Public hospitals and clinics generally provide adequate care, but they are often crowded and staffed with people who often speak little English. Costa Rica’s private hospitals are as good as those in the U.S.

Private health care costs are about half, a third, or even a quarter of those in the U.S., depending on the specific treatment. Doctor appointments and medicines (many available without a prescription) are also much less expensive.

There are three general hospitals with a full range of services, Centro Internacional de Medicina (CIMA), Clínica Bíblica and Hospital La Católica.

CIMA has nearly 200 doctors in a range of specialties and has become the favorite hospital of American expats.

Clínica Bíblica is smaller than CIMA and is a nonprofit private hospital with a good reputation in surgical, pediatric, and maternity cases.

La Católica was founded by the Franciscan Sisters and is located in the suburbs of San José. It has a full range of hospital services including emergency care.

Most doctors in Costa Rica have been trained in North America or Europe, so it is not difficult to find one that speaks English, although a higher percentage of private hospital doctors will have a knowledge of English.

Medical tourism has played a growing part of business in Costa Rica due to its low cost for procedures like knee and hip replacements, heart surgery, and more. The World Health Organization ranks Costa Rica’s health care system higher than the U.S. This is due to the large government investment in the health sector.

With hundreds of board-certified physicians, surgeons, and dentists practicing in or near the capital of San José, health travel has gained foothold in the country.

Around 15% of international tourists go to Costa Rica to take advantage of its medical services, cosmetic surgery, and dental care.

A full range of cosmetic and reconstructive procedures are available in various clinics. Laser technology has increased the ability of Costa Rica’s plastic and cosmetic surgeons to provide world-class services. Costa Rican dentists are as qualified and skilled as dentists anywhere and prices are far lower than in most other countries. This is another growing area of health tourism, foreign patients seeking dental work arrive in Costa Rica in greater numbers every year.

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