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How To Register With The Health System In Costa Rica

When it comes to healthcare in Latin America, Costa Rica has excellent standards. Frequently placed in the World Health Organisation’s top country rankings for long life expectancy, Costa Rica’s tropical climate and non-preservative-laden foods play a huge part in keeping its residents happy and healthy.The Nicoya Peninsula region, situated on the Northern Pacific coast, is one of the healthiest locations in the country: people here tend to live longer and healthier lives.

How Much Does Healthcare in Costa Rica Cost?

Healthcare is often relevant to a country’s own economy, but to serve as a point of comparison, health cover in Costa Rica vosts about a third to a fifth of what you’d pay for the same treatment in the United States: a fair cost when you take into consideration all of the medical advancements the country continues to make.

Every town in Costa Rica will have its EBAIS, which is a local medical office where both expats and locals can receive healthcare, regardless of whether this is primary or preventative care. There are also no conditional exclusions when it comes to pre-existing health conditions.

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Pre-existing conditions are covered in Costa Rica

The high healthcare standards in Costa Rica are due to the government’s dedication to constant improvements and upgrades. This includes new equipment, new hospitals and new training for staff.

The healthcare system is split into two sections: the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, which is the government-run universal healthcare system commonly known as Caja, and the privatised healthcare system. As an expat, you will have access to both of these.

Private Healthcare In Costa Rica

There are three main private hospitals in Costa Rica which expats use: Clínica Bíblica in San José, Hospital La Católica in San José-Guadalupe and CIMA hospital in Escazú. Care in these hospitals is affordable and high quality. All three are based around the capital of the country, San José.

When you use private healthcare in Costa Rica you have the option for your insurance to take care of everything, or to pay for it yourself in cash. The level of coverage that your insurance policy has will depend upon the agreement you have with your insurance provider, but Costa Rica accepts policies from the US, Europe and International companies, so you have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to registering for private healthcare.

The standard of healthcare is high in both the public and private systems

There is also the option of obtaining health insurance from the Instituto de Seguro Nacional (INS), the Costa Rican Government monopoly. This is an insurance scheme which is available to legal residents and is affiliated with laboratories, pharmacies, doctors and hospitals in the private sector.

When paying for healthcare treatment in cash, the costs you face will be relatively low. For example, a visit to the doctor will rarely cost more than $60 (£47 GBP) regardless of whether the appointment takes place at a surgery, or as a visit to your home. Specialist appointments run between $80-$100 (£60 – £78 GBP) and scans and tests such as ultrasounds will cost around $75 (£58 GBP).

Public Healthcare In Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s government runs its own healthcare system, known as the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS). Through a network of hospitals and clinics, this healthcare system is able to provide low-cost services for Costa Rican residents and beyond.

The system’s primary priority is to provide healthcare to those who need it, and in 2010, the government made it mandatory that residency applicants become members of Caja. This is done automatically when you start contributing to Costa Rica’s economy through monthly contributions, but only if you are a legal resident, or are on a residency programme such as a Pensionado or Rentista. This level of healthcare service is not applicable to tourists or visitors in Costa Rica. However, they are able to use the healthcare system if they require emergency treatment.

Visitors and tourists will receive emergency treatment only

Contributions for Caja are based upon your annual income and will cost between 7-11% of your monthly income. Once this deductible is paid, you’ll have access to Costa Rica’s healthcare services in full—including not only consultations and checkups, but everything from prescription drugs to major surgeries too.

Which Healthcare Option Is Right For You?

Costa Rica’s healthcare system offers comprehensive coverage regardless of whether you’re receiving publicly or privately funded healthcare, so the option you go for is completely up to you.

Due to the number of people using public healthcare services, you may find that there are longer waiting times for certain services than there would be for private care. However, it has often been noted that public healthcare offers a more thorough service.

Private options usually have shorter waiting times

The standard of medical professionalism is mostly the same. Many of the country’s physicians and even some dentists spend the mornings working for Costa Rica’s public healthcare system, before heading to their own offices and clinics in the afternoons or evenings—creating a well-balanced offering in terms of medical skills across both sectors.

As a result, many expats tend to use a combination of the two health systems, with their primary healthcare needs being taken care of by the public healthcare service, and any specialist requirements being taken care of privately.
A common example of this is when patients need specialist scans to continue with their treatment or a diagnosis, but there are long waiting times. Instead of waiting, patients often go to a private clinic to get the tests done, and then will bring the results back to their public doctor. This means that there is no delay to a patient’s treatment, but also helps to relieve some of the burden on national health services.

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