Costa Rica Offers Good-Quality Health Care
Costa Rica has universal health care, one of the best health systems in Latin America. As always with nationalized health care, expect red tape and long waits, but the quality of Costa Rica's health care is excellent. Private health care is also available, very affordable, and high quality. 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.
Statistics from the World Health Organization frequently place Costa Rica in the top country rankings in the world for long life expectancy, often even ahead of Great Britain and the United States, even though the per-capita income of Costa Ricans is about one-tenth that of the U.S. and the U.K. 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.
Costa Rica's Government-Run 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 primary responsibility for providing low-cost health care 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.
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. Continued treatments for diagnosed problems will vary, but will almost always be considerably less than comparable treatment in the United States. Dental work, too, is provided at a much lower cost than in the U.S.--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 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.