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15 Expats Talk about Health Insurance and Healthcare in Costa Rica

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Mar 03, 2024

Summary: The quality of medical care in Costa Rica is generally considered to be on par with the United States. Costa Rica has a well-developed healthcare system with modern facilities and highly trained medical professionals. Emergency services are available and can be accessed by calling 911. Ambulance services are also available and can be requested by calling 128.

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How are healthcare services Costa Rica?

When we asked expats and global nomads about the quality of medical care in Costa Rica, they replied:

"Costa Rica has a comprehensive healthcare system that provides a wide range of services to its citizens and foreign residents. The public healthcare system is funded by the government and is available to all citizens and legal residents. The quality of public healthcare is generally good, with modern facilities and well-trained staff. Foreign residents have access to the public healthcare system, although they may need to pay a fee for some services. Expats in Costa Rica can use the public healthcare system, but they may need to pay a fee for some services. Expats can also opt for private healthcare, which is more expensive but offers more comprehensive coverage," mentioned one expat in Costa Rica.

"My recommendation is to enroll in the public health system, but it is also VERY IMPORTANT to have private health insurance, since that would avoid worries about the immediate availability of the services that are required," commented one expat who moved to Santa Ana, Costa Rica.

"In Costa Rica, you must be a resident of the country to qualify for CAJA also know as the national socialized medicine. Additionally, this is not an option but a requirement of your residency here. The monthly fee is calculated based on your income. The local clinic also known as EBAIS is centrally located. If you are in the area, familiarize yourself with it's location. If you are not a resident, there are several private care physicians in the area and they are well educated and professional. If you do not speak Spanish, there are many that are bilingual. I know of at least one that has a 24 hour facility for emergencies. Additionally, specialists from the Central Valley visit these private care facilities on a monthly basis so if you need specialized care, it is available. At present, a general office visit in a private care facility is $40-$45," remarked one expat living in Playa Jaco.

"If you're a resident you pretty much have to enroll in the Caja, the public health system, and if you aren't, you can't. So there's that. Whether or not you enroll in the Caja, if you have the funds, private insurance is nice. INS, the state insurance company, sells a pretty good policy for not too much money, and (ahem) it's darn near customary not to mention pre-existing conditions on the application. After a year or so INS doesn't care, and it does pay. Blue Cross and others have now entered the market, but I doubt they're as lax as INS. Of course, you can always pay out-of-pocket for private at prices about a third of US prices, but even a third adds up. Me, I'm only in the Caja now, since I let my INS policy lapse, but that's because I'm poor. People of some affluence usually do both--private for ease and comfort, public as a backup. Oh, in the Caja plan on speaking Spanish. Most Caja docs will know a little English and a few will be fluent, but the system operates in Spanish and you can't count on anyone speaking English. In the private system almost everybody speaks English," commented one person.

"Residency to obtain public health care (CAJA) seems to be taking about 18 months, so you will have to use private care until you obtain residency (if that is what you plan on doing). Even with CAJA, many people continue to use the outstanding private facilities available in and around San Jose (possibly in other areas, but I am only familiar with San Jose). There are many expat health insurance plans available and I highly recommend obtaining one if you are under 70. There may be some available over 70; I don't know. I presently do not have any insurance and have been paying out of pocket for some serious medical issues. I suggest you have a fund of $6-10,000 tucked away if you don't have private insurance or have a high deductible," said one expat living in Grecia.

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What are medical services in Costa Rica like?

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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