Sunday, July 18, 2010

Reason # 3 to Retire to Costa Rica - Health Care

Focusing on Health Care in Costa Rica

Costa Rica offers high-quality health care.
When radio personality Rush
Limbaugh told his listeners
that if U.S. President Barack
Obama’s health care bill passed
the House and Senate, he would
move to Costa Rica, not only did
it further the debate between
Democrats and Republicans,
but it drew attention to Costa
Rica’s universal health care
system and both sides of the
political aisle agreed it was the
best health care system in all of
the Americas.

But what can one expect when living in Costa Rica?
As with any nationalized program, expect red tape
and long waits, but the quality of Costa Rica’s health
care is excellent. Private high quality health care
is also available and very affordable. Many doctors
speak English and have received training in Europe,
Canada, or the U.S. 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. For residents of
Hacienda Matapalo, the 85,000 square foot stateof-
the-art Hospital de Osa, located in the town of
Cortez, will be the facility of choice.

Statistics from the World Health Organization
frequently rank Costa Rica in the top tier of countries
for long life expectancy, ahead of the U.S., Canada
and Great Britain (even though the per-capita
income of Costa Ricans are about one-tenth that of
the U.S.). Arguably, one reason for this is the slower
pace of life in Costa Rica. Of course, the healthy,
fresh, non-preservative-laden foods found there and
the welcoming tropical climate doesn’t hurt either.
Costa Rica is just a healthy place to live.
What to know about Costa Rica’s governmentrun
health care system

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 the primary responsibility for providing
low-cost health care to the Costa Rican population
and although sometimes overburdened, the system
has worked well for the past 60 years. What makes
Costa Rica’s health care system so unique is the
CCSS provides affordable medical service not only
to Costa Rican residents, but 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 more than 200 affiliated doctors, hospitals,
labs, and pharmacies in the private sector. Of course
only legal residents can join CCSS.

What to know about Costa Rica’s private health care system

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 health care
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 U.S. For example, a private office visit
to almost any medical specialist costs around $40
USD. Continued treatments for diagnosed problems
will vary, but will almost always be considerably less
than comparable treatment in the U.S. Dental work,
too, is provided at a much lower cost than in the U.S.
– prompting a phenomenon in Costa Rica 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, ultramodern
services. Affiliated with U.S. hospitals, these
two private providers have costs somewhat higher
than the public providers but still considerably below
anything found in the U.S.

Why dental care in Costa Rica is more than lip service

From simple fillings to complicated multiple implants
and periodontal work, Costa Rican dentists are as
qualified and skilled as any dentist anywhere in the
world – and prices are far less than most places too.
This is another growing area of health tourism –
foreign patients seeking dental work arrive in Costa
Rica in greater numbers every year. Laboratory work,
too, is much cheaper in Costa Rica, and materials
used are all FDA-approved and imported from the

Understanding Costa Rica’s cosmetic surgery boom

A full range of cosmetic and reconstructive procedures
are available in several modern clinics throughout
Costa Rica. With the addition of contemporary laser
technology, the ability of Costa Rica’s plastic and
cosmetic surgeons to provide world-class services
has been enhanced tenfold in recent years. Prices for
these services are sometimes 50-60% lower than in
the U.S., but it’s important to note that each case is
HealthCare in Costa Rica different and prices are quoted on an individual basis after consultation.

Living in the Blue Zone

If you’re a fan of The Oprah Winfrey Show, then
you’re probably familiar with the term “Blue Zone.”
If not, a “Blue Zone” is a region of the world where
people commonly live active lives past the age of
100. Scientists and demographers have classified
these longevity hot-spots by having common healthy
traits and life practices that result in higher than normal
longevity. Costa Rica is considered one of the
planet’s best “Blue Zones.”

The insurance conundrum

With Costa Rica being mentioned at the forefront
of health care discussions, there is a movement
afoot within the health insurance industry to begin
allowing surgeries in Costa Rica to be covered by U.S.
carriers; something that would save both patients
and insurance companies millions of dollars annually.
Although not confirmed or substantiated, Blue Cross
and Blue Shield of North Carolina is supposedly close
to approving such treatment.

For more information contact Ed Hughes,

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