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Hospital Experiences in CR?

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SbKrista
1/5/2019 13:36 EST

Happy New Year, Ex Pats in CR!
Our New Year’s resolution is to figure out where we are escaping to in our retirement, & Costa Rica is top of the list. My biggest concern is healthcare as we age. Does anybody have good and bad stories about healthcare & hospital care in Costa Rica? I’m a nurse, and I know how the quality of care can vary from doctor to doctor and town to town. We’re wanting to live at the beach, not in San Jose, but within an hour of good medical care. Thanks for your help!

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SbKrista
1/5/2019 16:54 EST

I should specify: looking for GREAT immediate clinic care, and GREAT hospital care within 1 hour’s drive from an expat beach community. Does that exist in CR? Is it common? Rare? Hard or easy to find? And how about English-speaking doctors and staff (until I get my Spanish up to par)? Thanks again, y’all are such a helpful bunch online, can’t wait to get to know some of you in person!

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Kohl
1/5/2019 18:56 EST

'Living at the beach' covers a lot of territory.
Most of the larger private hospitals are in the San Jose area. and offer the best facilities and access to the best specialists, however these must be paid for so you require sufficient funds or good medical insurance.
Purchasing insurance here does not usually cover existing conditions.

The socialized healthcare here, CAJA/CCSS, is known for taking a long wait period to see a specialist, who also may work at the private hospitals.

Once you a legal resident CAJA is mandatory that you be affiliated with them. Most expats do purchase additional private insurance,
Care for cancer patients and dialysis usually requires travel to San Jose, in both private and public facilities.

Note that many expats travel 'home' for healthcare.

Before making any permanent decisions, visit more than once to make sure that your location fits your present and future needs

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shermanwc
1/6/2019 10:38 EST

Kohl's summary is spot-on. My wife and I have lived in Tamarindo for 5 years. There is a good clinic - Beach Side Clinic, in Huacas - about 20 minutes from Tamarindo. The closest good hospitals are in Liberia, about 1 1/2 hours away. You could live in Playas del Coco to be closer to Liberia.

I will relate a health experience my wife had: She had an atrial fibrillation two years ago while in Tamarindo. I took her to Beach Side Clinic when she complained about heart symptoms early in the morning -, they diagnosed her and then ordered an ambulance to take her to San Rafael Arcangel Hospital in Liberia.

We felt that she got very good medical care there. They had to apply an electrical shock her heart to "reset" the heartbeat, and she was in the hospital for 3 days/ 2 nights. We had private international medical insurance, which the hospital communicated with for our coverage.

Although the care was good, there were many issues with the medical bills. The clinic and hospital submitted bills to our insurance that seemed to be very inflated and our insurance company disputed the "format" of how some bills were submitted.

We received bills totaling close to $80,000. (This was more than double the average cost for A-fib emergency care in the USA per a web search.) After about 6 months of issues between the hospital and the insurance company, the claims were settled for a little over $30,000. Not what I would call "inexpensive medical care".

We do pay into the public healthcare system, and I use it for routine health care and prescriptions (but my wife does not like to use it) - but we always use private facilities for non-routine health concerns. I have heard bad stories about the public hospitals in the Guanacaste area, and would not use them for a major health issue.

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Kohl
1/6/2019 14:03 EST

I neglected to mention the required 1 hour travel time to get a 'top hospital', from a beach. Using the 3 main hospitals, in San Jose, apart from Playa del Coco it would take much more than an hour. especially during peak travel hours.
While we used San Rafael Arcangel Hospital in Liberia, I, personally, don't think it is at par with the 3 'main hospitals, CIMA, Biblica or Catolica, but in a emergency situation, better than the public hospital.
Note that when using private facilities funds, usually, must be deposited or insurance produced, before one will be admitted.
Leaving, for say, Hospital la Biblica from Coco could take 4 -5 hours by road.

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SbKrista
1/6/2019 14:21 EST

Shermanwc: Thank you for that personal example of how the system “works” in CR! While we don’t have any health issues now, one can never know what’s ahead, yes? I’m glad your wife had a good outcome despite the hassles, and your story informs our decisions in a way cold data never can. Cheers!

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SbKrista
1/6/2019 14:55 EST

Kohl: Thank you for your thorough assessment of the hospitals, costs, socialized and insurance aspects of healthcare in CR. It’s given us a lot to ponder. I didn’t know pre-existing conditions wouldn’t be covered! I’m in awe of your generous help to us novices that are only just thinking about taking the plunge and getting out of the rat (and political-divisive, bmuy-more, sleep-less, keeping-up-with-the-Jones’s) race.

I’m assuming that despite your warnings, you still think living in CR is worth it!

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shermanwc
1/6/2019 16:51 EST

I should note that we only had to pay the deductible on our health insurance policy - the insurance company covered the remainder of the $30,000 settlement of charges. I do recommend having an international health insurance policy if you want the best health services. And we do have some health issues that are not covered due to pre-existing conditions.

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Kohl
1/6/2019 18:03 EST

Actually, I recently returned to Canada after living there for 18 years, My better half passed away from cancer, earlier last year and I have had a hard time coming to grips with it, after being married for 50 years. I isolated myself and am trying to rectify that, with help from my family.

Unfortunately, we had lots of experiences with the CAJA, but mostly it was positive and the staff at our local clinic really went 'above and beyond' to help us both.

We loved living there, but it isn't paradise. You have to 'watch your back,' We were robbed multiple times and were taken advantage of more times than I would like to admit. Know that just because a person speaks English, it doesn't mean they are trustworthy.

I don't regret our time spent there.

Now, I just have to get used to living in Canada again.

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SbKrista
1/6/2019 18:35 EST

Kohl: I’m so sorry for your grief. 50 years is a long freindship and an abiding love... that loss will take a time to mend! I am glad you have family that love you nearby during this difficult time. Keep moving through the sadness and may your best memories sustain you and keep you from getting “stuck”. You sound like a plucky sort, best of luck in this next adventure. <3

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carolvaughn
1/6/2019 19:08 EST

Good luck with that transition, Kohl. I
know it isn't easy. You are missed here.
Glad you continue to write on EE.

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MungoDave
1/15/2019 13:18 EST

In April 2017,my granddaughter was thrown from a horse and dragged several yards at the Black Stallion Ranch in Tamarindo.Her back was pretty torn up.I took her to the Beach Side clinic.They took great care of her there.Gave her a shot for the pain and gently cleaned her back.They did X-rays right there.After consulting with Dr's in San Jose,they transferred her to the hospital in Liberia.There,they did catscans to make sure there were no concussions.I did have to pay $900 for that.Everything turned out okay.My overall experience was 100% positive.Everyone we dealt with was fantastic and very professional.I hope this helps.

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MungoDave
1/15/2019 13:18 EST

In April 2017,my granddaughter was thrown from a horse and dragged several yards at the Black Stallion Ranch in Tamarindo.Her back was pretty torn up.I took her to the Beach Side clinic.They took great care of her there.Gave her a shot for the pain and gently cleaned her back.They did X-rays right there.After consulting with Dr's in San Jose,they transferred her to the hospital in Liberia.There,they did catscans to make sure there were no concussions.I did have to pay $900 for that.Everything turned out okay.My overall experience was 100% positive.Everyone we dealt with was fantastic and very professional.I hope this helps.

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lindyluvsCR
1/15/2019 15:20 EST

SBKrista -
We do not live on beach, but in Grecia. I am not a 'run to the doctor' kind of person, but we have had some care here.

Went to emergency one time, which is not normal for me, but really dehydrated and weak and hadn't eaten hardly at all for 10 days. Got blood tests, a shot in each side of my hind end, and improved immediately and good to go in a couple of days, We have the Caja - and it cost zero for all.

Also had squamous cancer place on my face. Had begun in Florida, and had never gone to doc as did not have insurance. After about 6 months of being here, it began to change rapidly in a few days. Went to dermatologist in Grecia (who is head of dept in San Jose hospital), and had it diagnosed, removed on the spot, and meds all for $140. It would have been thousands in the U.S. He had to dig a hole in my cheek to remove and was ugly for awhile. There is not a trace of it now. Fully healed.

My husband just yesterday had an operation on toe for ingrown toenail. Cost 50 mil, about $84.

We are both going to get blood tests at caja for a checkup. Will cost Zero, and doc charged nothing for prescription to have done.

I cracked a tooth on Saturday, and by yesterday, the tooth was about 4/5 gone. I went to my dentist this morning, and he put pin in it like for a crown, and then reconstructed the tooth. He said it could last like that for a year or two. If needed later, it is prepped for a crown. Meanwhile, today it cost 60 mil or $100.

We talked to an expat here that in the U.S. had 2 heart stents put in for $55,000. After being in Costa Rica, had same problem, and CIMA hospital put in 2 heart stents for a total of $1800.

It is a pura vida. Have had nothing but negative experiences in U.S. I will take anything that comes my way being treated in Costa Rica.

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beano102
1/15/2019 15:31 EST

Be very careful where you go... my wife and I have had superb treatment at both Cima and Biblica but one of my former employees went to the Grecia hospital... they sent him home after saying that his stomach pains were just an "upset stomach"... he died the next day of a burst appendix. My daughter took her son there, when he had a bad cold and was wheezing... ten hours later, they sent him home and said it was a virus... luckily he was OK. I would never go anywhere else except to the two I named above. For minor problem, should be ok, but if it is something worse, BE SAFE.

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SbKrista
1/15/2019 15:43 EST

Thanks for sharing your experiences! It always helps inform our decisions. I’m a “plan for the worst, enjoy the best” traveler, so knowing ahead what to expect makes our planning so much better. ¡Pura Vida, si!

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lindarose
1/15/2019 16:16 EST

For being a 'not run to the doctor' person, you sure have plenty of experiences!

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SbKrista
1/15/2019 16:33 EST

MungoDave, I’m so glad your granddaughter is okay!

Liberia beaches are looking to be the place for us, mainly from the stories of the hospital and the clinics there. Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences.

¡buena suerte!

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lindyluvsCR
1/15/2019 19:41 EST

lindarose - In 4 yrs, I went to emergency once, will be having blood tests this week for the first time in about 11 yrs., had a cancer spot removed, and have gone to dentist several times because had not been to one in several years in U.S.

In the U.S. I went to doctor maybe 2-3 times in 10 years.

Many people I know go several times a year and take all kinds of meds. I take none, except like today when he gave me novacaine at the dentist because he was putting a pin/post in my gums.

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Kohl
1/17/2019 18:04 EST

A 'Tico' friend advised me today that he will have use private doctors/facilities to get a pacemaker, as CAJA will not cover this expense.

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