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Costa Rica Healthcare
 
 
 

Costa Rica has universal healthcare, one of the best health systems in Latin America. As always with nationalised health care, expect red tape and long waits, but the quality of Costa Rica's healthcare is excellent. Private healthcare is also available, very affordable and high quality. Many doctors speak English and have received training in Europe, Canada, or the USA. There are three large, private hospitals that most expatriates use: CIMA hospital in Escazú, Clinica Biblica in San José and Clinica Católica in San José-Guadalupe.

Statistics from the World Health Organisation frequently place Costa Rica in the top country rankings in the world for long life expectancy, often even ahead of Great Britain and the USA; even though the per capita income of Costa Ricans is about one tenth that of the USA and the UK. 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.

Public Healthcare

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 healthcare services to the Costa Rican populace. Although sometimes overburdened, this system has worked well for Costa Ricans for the past 60 or so years. Open not just to Costa Rican residents, the CCSS provides affordable medical service to any foreign resident or visitor. Foreigners living in Costa Rica can join the CCSS by paying a small monthly fee - based on income - or they can buy health insurance from the State monopoly Instituto de Seguro Nacional (INS), valid with over 200 affiliated doctors, hospitals, labs and pharmacies in the private sector.

Nevertheless demand for private healthcare rose very sharply in 2000 as deficiencies in the CCSS service encouraged healthcare sector and to take out insurance to cover the costs.

Private Healthcare

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 healthcare 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 USA. For example, a private office visit to almost any medical specialist costs around US$40. Continued treatments for diagnosed problems will vary but will almost always be considerably less than comparable treatment in the USA. Dental work, too, is provided at a much lower cost than in the USA - prompting a phenomenon known as "health tourism."

Two well-known private hospitals, Clinica Biblica and Clinica Catolica, where many CCSS doctors practice in the afternoons and evenings, offer first-class, ultra-modern services. Affiliated with American hospitals, these two private providers have costs somewhat higher than the public providers but still considerably below anything found in the USA.

The state-owned insurance monopoly Instituto Nacional de Seguros - INS is the only private healthcare insurer in Costa Rica. INS' standard healthcare policy for Costa Rica provides cover for the cost of consultations with doctors outside hospitals, medicines and laboratory tests (pregnancies are excluded), and hospitalisation charges, surgery, ambulances, pregnancy, home help and the like.

INS works with doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and laboratories with which agreements have been reached regarding tariffs of charges.

INS' standard healthcare policy for Costa Rica provides cover for the cost of consultations with doctors outside hospitals, medicines and laboratory tests (pregnancies are excluded), and hospitalisation charges, surgery, ambulances, pregnancy, home help and the like.

Social Security

Costa Rica's social security system has evolved into what is now one of the best services of any developing country in the world. In spite of recent criticism of the system's public healthcare sector and the government's acknowledgement of the need for some reform, the fact remains that the average Costa Rican still enjoys a good service by the general standards of Latin America.

The Social Security Fund, the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social - CCSS, administers the service.


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