Your guide to health insurance in Costa Rica
Costa Rica, located in between other Central American nations Nicaragua and Panama, was originally explored by Spaniards during the 16th century and became fully independent in 1838. In recent years, a number of expatriates have started to relocate to Costa Rica due to the large influx of foreign investment by big enterprises such as Intel, which brings in new jobs, business opportunities, and wealth. Its stable political environment, friendly local Ticos, exhilarating scenery, and relaxed pace of living help make it become a popular destination for tourists, retirees, and expatriates.
If you are moving or traveling to Costa Rica, you will surely have many questions concerning their healthcare system, healthcare for expats, and local health risks. This short overview below provides a practical summary of healthcare and insurance in Costa Rica, as well as options from health insurance companies for expats living and working there. Read on to learn more, or click the button below to obtain a no-obligation, free quote.
Public and private healthcare systems in Costa Rica
Costa Rica boasts a universal healthcare system called Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS), commonly referred to as the “Caja.” This system offers 100% coverage for all medical procedures and prescription drugs, through the public hospital and clinic system, to citizens, permanent residents, and visitors for a small monthly fee based on a percentage of their income. As with other nationalized, public healthcare systems, one would have to expect red tape and long waits for non-emergency situations, but the overall quality of Costa Rica′s healthcare is excellent. And if you are considering applying for residency, you will have to pay into the CAJA as part of the immigration application process.
In private healthcare facilities, many doctors speak English and have received training in Europe, Canada, or the U.S. You can opt for the National Insurance Institute (I.N.S.), which is backed by the Costa Rican government, or other foreign private health insurance, including international health insurance that covers travelers, permanent residents, and Costa Rican citizens no matter where they are in the world.
There are approximately 30 CAJA hospitals and 250 clinics in Costa Rica. In general, although the buildings may be old and many are in need of repair, the quality of the professionals working in these facilities is above average. The three large, private hospitals that most expatriates use are CIMA hospital in Escazu, Clinica Biblica in San Jose, and Clinica Catolica in San Jose-Guadalupe.
Payment and cost
In Costa Rica, when receiving healthcare, hospitals and private doctors expect payment upfront, even if you already have health insurance. This is why many expensive and lengthy medical procedures are done either in Panama or Mexico. This being said, most surgical procedures cost only a fraction of what they do in the United States. For example, a heart bypass operation costs about one-third to one-fifth of what it does in the United States.
Statistics from the World Health Organization frequently place Costa Rica in the top country rankings in the world for long life expectancy, often ahead of Great Britain and the United States, despite the fact that the per-capita income of Costa Ricans is about one-tenth that of the U.S. and the U.K., which once again reflects that Costa Rica has a well-rounded healthcare service.
Health threats in Costa Rica
Some of the most serious infectious diseases in Costa Rica include Chaga′s Disease, Dengue Fever, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Leishmaniasis, Leptospirosis, Malaria, Rabies, and Typhoid.
Chaga′s Disease, Dengue Fever, Leishmaniasis, and Malaria are all insect-borne diseases. To prevent these sorts of diseases it is advised that insect repellent is worn, and mosquito nets are put over your bed at night. These infections are more common in urban areas where stagnant water, such as those found in discarded tires, provide the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and other infectious insects.
The other infectious diseases such as Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Leptospirosis, and Typhoid are all water and foodborne diseases that are quite deadly and easily caught if food and water quality are not checked. It is therefore advised to frequent non-street food vendors to avoid the possible development of these diseases.
Terrorism and crime
The threat of terrorism is quite low. However, it should be noted that there is a global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks that target public areas frequented by foreigners. Violent crimes against foreigners are also on the increase due to the rising unemployment rate brought on by the financial crisis. Opportunistic theft of personal belongings, passports, and travel documents is the main problem. There has also been a hike in incidents involving violent crime against tourists. Gang muggings and armed robberies can occur even in daylight on busy streets.
To protect yourself from being mugged, you should avoid carrying large amounts of cash on you at any given time, avoid street currency exchange vendors, and lock valuables in a safe you have control of at all times. When traveling on public buses, keep an eye on your luggage at all times. Luggage theft is an increasing problem in Costa Rica that is carried out efficiently. Thieves have simple but effective ways of distracting targets. When going out, avoid leaving drinks unattended. Tourist drink spiking has increased in recent years and has led to a number of subsequent rape and theft incidents.
Road conditions are generally good on main routes, although potholes caused by heavy rains in the wet season are common. Landslides in the wet season, which block the road between San Jose and Guapiles on the way to Limon are frequent, and can cause delays. However, they are cleared away quickly and there are longer alternative routes.
How to find the best private health insurance in Costa Rica
As is true with any country in the world, there are some inherent problems associated with the healthcare system in Costa Rica. And the only way to avoid such problems is by obtaining a quality international health insurance plan. These expat health insurance plans give you the flexibility to go to the doctor or hospital of your choice, meaning that no matter where in the world you may be located, from Australia to Zimbabwe, you will always be able to receive the highest standard of care available, and even be transported back to your home country for further treatment if it is medically necessary.
No matter what your budget is or what your requirements are, our professional consultants can match you with a policy that best fits you or your group. Our policies can cover a wide range of services with optional benefit packages including outpatient, inpatient, maternity, dental, specialist consultations, and many more. Please contact us today for a free consultation.