In a previous article I talked about why retirees choose Costa Rica. One of the main reasons people relocate here is the country’s health care system. Many of the guests on my monthly relocation/retirement tours tell me they simply cannot afford health care premiums in the United States and are looking at Costa Rica as an alternative. While others do not want to deal with Obamacare and contend it is too expensive and constitutes excessive government interference. Whatever your situation may be, Costa Rica offers good medical options at affordable prices.
Costa Rica is a healthy country and Costa Ricans are proud of their nation’s achievements in the field of health care. Their affordable, state-run “cradle to grave” health care system, Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social or Caja as it is more commonly referred to, reaches all levels of society by offering the same medical treatment to the poor as to those with greater resources. More than 90 percent of the population is covered by the Social Security System. There is either a public clinic or hospital in almost every area of the country, making medical care accessible to everyone including foreigners. In fact, there are over 800 EBAIS clinics in Costa Rica. EBAIS is short for Equipos Básicos de Atención Integral en Salud. These clinics provide both primary and preventative health care to all of the individuals in a community.
Costa Ricans are a healthy people. The infant mortality rate of less than 11 in 100,000 live births is lower than that in the United States. This figure is on par with any industrialized country in the world. Life expectancy is 76.3 years for men and 79.8 years for women. Today, an 80-year-old man has a life expectancy of at least eight (actually, 8.4) years. This puts Costa Rica in first place in the world for life expectancy from this age up. Iceland and Japan follow with 7.7 years. Costa Rican women at age 80 are expected to live longer than men of the same age, 9.5 years, slightly behind the women of Japan and France.
Many international medical authorities rate Costa Rica as having one of the best low-cost medical care systems in the world, when preventive and curative medicines are considered. The United Nations consistently ranks Costa Rica’s public health system as one of the best in Latin America. The world Health Organization (WHO) ranks Costa Rica 36th out of 191 countries with respect to the quality of its health care systems. The United States for example ranks 37th.
The country’s private health clinics and hospitals have international fame and attract people from around the world for everything from dental care, joint replacement and ocular laser surgery to major cosmetic surgery and life extension treatments.
There are basically two health care options for retirees in Costa Rica.
(1) The Public System
Costa Rica’s public health care system is available to retirees and other foreign residents. It is now required that legal residents join the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (Costa Rican Social Security System) to enjoy the same inexpensive medical coverage as most Costa Ricans do. Some foreigners do not to use this system because of the long waits for medical appointments, some medications and other delays. However, despite being overburdened, the emergency care provided is very good and many retirees are very happy with the quality of the care they receive. The caja has clinics all over the country. At a low monthly cost, the Caja is a good deal for foreigners. If you join the ARCR you get a special group price.
(2) The Private System
Those with policies like BUPA or INS Regional have access to private health care. Said policies usually have some type of a deductible. Basically, you pay for all medical care up front and are reimbursed afterwards. Of course for emergency treatment your are covered immediatley. These policies are more expensive than the public system but the advantage is that retirees can pick their own doctor or hospital and avoid long waits for medical care, certain operations and lab tests which often happens with the caja.