Many medical experts say that Costa Rica offers some of the best health care in Latin America. The World Health Organization praises Costa Rica for its exceptional government-run health care system, and has ranked it better than the U.S., despite spending far less on health care per capita. This achievement is the result of a large government investment in the health sector. The influx of foreigners in Costa Rica has also been a big incentive for private hospitals to open and expand their operations. www.InternationalLiving.com
Costa Rica’s top-quality health care is inexpensive—on average about a third of what you’d pay in the U.S. Doctors, for instance, rarely charge more than $60 a visit, and most of them charge considerably less, even for house calls. Yes, many physicians in Costa Rica still make house calls!
Medications are also much cheaper, especially at pharmacies outside the tourist areas of San José. And don’t worry about a prescription when you buy medicine in Costa Rica. Pharmacies don’t usually require them, except for strong painkillers that could become addictive. Drugstores are even allowed to prescribe medicines, including on-the-spot injections.
In 2010, the government made it mandatory for residence applicants to become members of Costa Rica’s universal health care system. The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS), commonly known as CAJA, is the government agency that is affiliated with nearly three dozen public hospitals in the country and many small clinics in almost every community. Foreigners can have regular access for a small monthly fee.
Keep in mind that the Caja’s low cost and high quality attract many to its hospitals and clinics, and wait times are long for anything from a routine check-up to an important surgical procedure.
You can also buy private insurance—most plans cover dental work, optometry, and cosmetic surgery in the case of an accident. Prescription drugs, certain medical exams, sick visits and hospitalization are covered at 70% cost, and surgeon and aesthetician costs are covered at full cost. Private medical insurance in Costa Rica currently costs about $100 per month per person, depending on age, gender, and other factors.
The Instituto Nacional de Seguros (INS) (the government-owned insurance monopoly) provides low-cost health insurance that entitles citizens and foreigners access to doctors, private hospitals, laboratories, and other medical facilities. For more information, see www.ins-cr.com/index.html.
And don’t worry about language issues—many doctors speak English and have received training in Europe, Canada, or the U.S.