Costa Rica is a very healthy country. Costa Rica’s health status is comparable to that of developed nations. The country’s private health clinics have international fame and attract people from around the world for everything from dental care and ocular laser surgery to major cosmetic surgery and life extension treatments.
Costa Ricans are proud of their nation’s achievements in the field of health care. Their up-to-date, affordable, state-run “cradle to grave” health care system reaches all levels of society by offering the same medical treatment to the poor as those with greater resources. Hospitals, clinics and complete medical services are available in all major cities and some small towns. More than 90 percent of the population is covered by the Social Security System.
Many international medical authorities rate Costa Rica as having one of the best low-cost medical care systems in the world, when preventive and curative medicines are considered. The United Nations consistently ranks Costa Rica’s public health system as the best in Latin America and one of the top 20 in the world.
It is no wonder a large number of foreigners are attracted to Costa Rica because of its affordable health care. In the United States, for example, millions of people do not have health insurance because it is prohibitively expensive. For this reason, Costa Rica attracts many retirees from North America. It doesn’t matter if you are a legal resident or a traveler. Everyone is entitled to emergency care at a government hospital.
Costa Ricans are a healthy people. The infant mortality rate of less than 11 in 100,000 live births is lower than that in the United States. This figure is on par with any industrialized country in the world. Life expectancy is 76.3 years for men and 79.8 years for women. Today, an 80-year-old man has a life expectancy of at least eight (actually, 8.4) years. This puts Costa Rica in first place in the world for life expectancy from this age up. Iceland and Japan follow with 7.7 years. Costa Rican women at age 80 are expected to live longer than men of the same age, 9.5 years, slightly behind the women of Japan and France.
Hospitals have the latest equipment, and laboratories are excellent. You can feel safe having most operations without returning to the United States or Canada. Most surgical procedures cost only a fraction of what they do in the United States. For example, a heart bypass operations costs about a third of what it does in the United States.
Even if you are in good health, the probability of needing medical care increases with age. The security of knowing that good health services are available represents an enormous relief.
Costa Rican Doctors
Most Costa Rican doctors are excellent and have been trained in Europe or North America. If you don’t speak Spanish, you don’t have to worry. Many local doctors speak English, but most receptionists and nurses do not. Doctor’s fees for office visits vary. A good private specialist usually charges between $30 and $40 for each visit, although some doctors charge a little more and others a little less.
Unlike many other places, doctors in Costa Rica take time with patients to answer questions and listen. Doctors usually give you their office, home and cell phone numbers as well as pager number. It is not unusual for doctors to call their patients at home to follow-up on care and medications, and they will make house calls.
Doctors here are much less interested in making a profit than serving the people. Considering there are no high malpractice premiums to pay, physicians can make a good living without charging exorbitant prices.
You will be happy to know you can receive first-rate care at any of San José’s three largest private hospitals.
If you have to enter a private hospital, costs will generally be well under a $100 a day. This includes a spacious private room with bathroom and cable TV with English channels. Private and semi-private rooms often have an extra bed or sofa bed so a relative may spend the night, if necessary. It is important to know that the doctor’s bill will always be separate from the hospital bill.
Our son was just operated on for an appendectomy at the Clínica Bíblica. The total cost including the surgeon’s fee was under $1,000. Our INS insurance covered all but $140.
We know an American who spent a couple of days in the private Clínica Católica hospital and said, “The attention was first-class, the food was as good as home cooking, and the same care would have cost thousands of dollars in the States.” It is important to know that payment can be made at most hospitals and clinics with any major credit card. Foreign medical insurance is not accepted, but you may get a reimbursement from your health insurance company if they cover you abroad. In some cases, especially if arranged in advance, your foreign insurance can be used so you can pay the deductible. Talk to your private hospital.
The Clinica Bíblica (Tel: 257-5252, 800-911-0800, Fax: 255-4947,E-mail:email@example.com, www.clinicabiblica.com) in downtown San José is now affiliated with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield network. By 2007 or 2008 it expects to be affiliated with Medicare. A first-class private hospital with an excellent coronary unit, this fine facility is staffed with highly trained doctors. Complete hospital services including maternity, an ER room, MRI equipment and lab work are available. I have used the lab on many occasions and found the service to be excellent. This hospital is a five-star institution and has received international recognition.
Hospital CIMA (Tel: 231- 2781, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, www.hospitalsanjose.net) in Escazú, right off the highway, is the newest private hospital in the San José area and is affiliated with the Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, and managed by International Hospital Corporation of Dallas. It is a full-service hospital that boasts the latest health care technology, state-of-the-art medical equipment and the most sophisticated physical plant in Central America. It offers complete services including X-ray, ultrasound, emergency and intensive care, as well as an advanced coronary unit.
Affordable Medical Insurance
Costa Rica’s health care system is available to retirees (pensionados and rentistas) and other foreign residents. Residents may join the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (Costa Rican Social Security System) and enjoy the same inexpensive medical coverage as most Costa Ricans do. Most foreigners do not enroll in this system because of the long waits for medical appointments, some medications and other delays. However, despite being overburdened, the emergency care provided is very good. There are also clinics all over the country. At a low cost of no more than $60 monthly, the Caja is a good deal for foreigners.
Most foreigners and retirees opt for the medical insurance offered by the government’s insurance company—the National Insurance Institute or INS. Everyone is eligible to apply, including permanent residents, pensionados and even tourists. Elderly people have to submit to a physical before they can be insured. The medical policy covers expenses resulting from illness, accidents, hospitalization, office visits, lab work, medicines and medical costs in foreign countries. However, if you incur medical expenses abroad, INS will pay only the amount equivalent to the same treatment in Costa Rica and you have to pay the difference.
Inesxpensive Dental Care
Many tourists come to Costa Rica to have their cosmetic dental work done inexpensively. The quality of dental work in Costa Rica is equal to that found in Europe, Canada or the United States. On the average, dental work costs about 25 to 30 percent less than in the United States. Most dentists charge about $35 for an initial exam. The approximate costs of the most common cosmetic procedures are: wisdom tooth surgery $175, single root canal $150, new crown $250, implants $750, fillings about $30 per tooth, and regular tooth extraction $40. If you have children, orthodontics are very affordable. Check prices with the dentist of your choice, since rates vary.