Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social – Healthcare in Costa Rica

Next July, the International Studies Program is hosting a trip to Costa Rica entitled “Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Costa Rica.”  As a part of our continuing Healthcare Series, and because it’s so germane, today we’re taking a look at Costa Rica’s healthcare systems.

Costa Rica offers universal healthcare coverage, with an individual mandate, under both public and private insurance options.  The cost for public insurance is split among the one’s worker, his employer, and the state, with the worker contributing approximately 10 – 11.5% of one’s income.  Private insurance is slightly more expensive, but it’s still significantly less expensive than healthcare in the United States.  In fact, private medical insurance costs, on average, $60 to $130 per month — about one-third to one-fifth the average cost of care in the U.S.  Still, private insurance is only carried by about 2% of residents of Costa Rica.

The quality of care is considered to be excellent.  Facilities are well cared for and receive regular upgrades.  Many doctors were trained in Europe, Canada, or the United States, speak English, and will even make house calls for a reasonable cost.

Medicine is handled slightly differently in Costa Rica.  Many drugs that require a prescription in the U.S., like birth control pills and migraine medication, are sold over-the-counter in Costa Rica.  Often, the first trip someone who isn’t feeling well will take is to the pharmacy to discuss it with his local pharmacist.  If the pharmacist can’t help or believes it’s a more serious problem, he or she will send the patient to the doctor.

The low cost, high quality care in Costa Rica has led to a rise in medical tourism in the beautiful country:  around forty thousand people traveled to Costa Rica in 2011 for the primary purpose of seeking medical or dental care.  Often, even when considering airfare, lodging, and other travel-associated expenses, they save money on their treatment — and get to see some beautiful scenery while they’re at it.




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