Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Health Care in Costa Rica

In this section we will discuss the health care options in Costa Rica and our personal experience with the system. Unfortunately we only have a few experiences since we have only been in Costa Rica for a short time and we are young and healthy. But with the birth of our 3rd child, we share with you our experience on our blog and you can learn the rest with us as we go. Through our research before deciding to move to Costa Rica we found that the health care is among the best if not the best in Central America. The private hospitals are new and state of the art, though we only have personal experience with one of them. CIMAcompares to a state of the art hospital you might see in North America. The public hospitals look as one would expect - like they are about to fall down, but looks may be deceiving. The stories we hear from people we have met is that the care in the public hospitals and public health care system is quite good and many complicated surgeries are performed there, cardiac and the like, with success. There is almost no English spoken in the public system and it is socialized medicine so I’m sure you can expect long lines and waiting some time for an appointment. The only experience we have had with private hospital vs. public hospital is childbirth at CIMA. Our experience with our OBGYN, Dr. Geraldo Rojas, has been a joy. He came highly recommended from everyone we have met in Atenas and he delivers at CIMA (the private hospital where epidurals are administered) saving us a trip to San Jose once a month. Dr. Rojas speaks very little English but he brings in his two beautiful daughters to fill in the gaps as needed. They are always overjoyed to see us, yes all of us. The kids are enjoying seeing the baby grow on the monitor of the ultrasound machine. Unlike our OBGYN in Texas his office is tiny. One room has a desk and the other has a 4D ultrasound machine with examining table. He does everything from the ultrasound exam to setting the next appointment and we even have his cell phone number. When my wife asked about a rash on her hand, he was quick to write a prescription for a lotion (cost $2 US) and relieve her worries by telling her it was very common for pregnant women. In Texas, when she asked about the same rash with the first 2 pregnancies, her OBGYN gave her the card for a dermatologist, which she never called because we did not have very good insurance and we knew it would be expensive. Dr. Rojas even filled out a workup for me without hesitation to have lab work done, since it had been about 1 year since my last physical – at no charge. This would be unheard of in the states. We were also pleased to hear that you can get your own lab work at any private lab just by walking in and requesting it, the cost for my complete blood and urine workup at the private lab was $160 US. Doc Rojas translated it and gave advice at no charge. No appointment needed, and might add, no lines if you get there early!
Surgery. Nikole had gallstones and we wrote a separate blog about her endoscopic surgery, another great experience with perfect results at a fraction of the cost. Since we were still waiting on CAJA and did not carry insurance, we paid cash.
Insurance. There are two health plans available to purchase in Costa Rica - INS (Instituto National de Seguros) and CCSS (Caja Costrrcense de Seguro Social). INS is the national insurance company that you can purchase all types of insurance (I have my vehicle insurance with them). The annual premiums for someone my age (46) is around $600 US but the limits are low and they don’t cover preexisting conditions. Caja is the socialized medicine government plan and for someone my age is around $60 US per month which covers the entire family with no limits and covers preexisting conditions. You can purchase both of these plan through the ARCR and save some money. There is also a pension included in the $60 US for my age group. This is required for residence and if you have employees you must pay for theirs as well. Again it works, but long lines, months for appointments and years for some procedures are the norm. There are many companies globally from whom you can buy insurance that are accepted in Costa Rica with better benefits that cost about the same as INS. We are currently investigating that and we will let you know what we find.
Need a medical holiday?
Have you ever taken holiday leave from work to have a costly procedure performed? Why not consider a package that includes airfare, hotel and a recovery nurse with meals from a mountain view or beach villa? When we first moved to Costa Rica, we met an older couple from New York who had all their teeth removed, replaced and their vacation included an all inclusive rehabilitation for under $6,000 US. We were astonished, especially after we spent about $13,000 US the previous year on basic filling replacements, 2 implants and wisdom teeth removal in Texas. Had we known this was not only available, but cheaper and state of the art, we would have packed our bags immediately. Now we are telling our family and friends about the news. There have been many articles regarding the excellent MEDICAL HOLIDAYS people are having in Costa Rica. 

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