Medicine, Health and Hospitals in Costa Rica

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Historically Costa Rica has dedicated most of its resources to two major areas: education and health. That’s why Costa Rica has an extensive infrastructure dedicated exclusively to preventive and curative medicine. In parallel, there are 2 health systems in the country, which are public and private. Since the abolition of its army, six decades ago, it was decided that Costa Rica was better to have a welfare system, which gives its citizens a decent standard in health care, because that was a better measure of investment than an army. These converging public and private efforts, a responsibility that largely falls on the “Caja” that together with the Ministry of Health, serves absolutely everyone in the country.

La “Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social”, known as “La Caja” is the government health system founded in 1943, which has a high rating for the services that it provides, and is the envy of many of the developing countries in the world. But the decline in its resources, long waits and bureaucratic system, are a common problem of socialized medicine around the world. Sometimes people must wait a bit, especially if you are caring for a non-threatening condition. But will always be treated in clinics and hospitals that are in most communities around the country. For this reason, many foreigners prefer the private health system, which also possess a large number of qualified doctors trained in North America and Europe. The services cost more, but you pay for the efficiency and personalized service that sometimes lacks in the institutions of “La Caja”.

It should be noted that Costa Rica counted with modern doctors, as with medical and paramedical professionals and technicians with high level and long experience, which makes the country occupies an enviable health status. In addition, the standard of living and health that exist within the country are relatively high, with a long life expectancy, low infant mortality rates, and almost total access to potable water, are characteristic of a country with devotion to the welfare of its citizens.

Costa Rica has its own medical schools, recognized internationally for quality, which ensures the preparation and availability of adequate human resources to meet the growing needs of the nation.

About medical tourism, the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) estimates that approximately 1% of visitors come here for health reasons, according to the survey database that has been done. This number increases in healthcare costs, especially in the United States. This incentive comes mainly from the medical dental and cosmetic surgery, which seeking lower-cost alternatives, and where the majority of Costa Rican professionals in these fields have been studied in North America or Europe and are very capable in particular.

Professionals prefer the term “aesthetic” or “cosmetic” as used for “cosmetic surgery” to describe non-essential procedures to improve appearance. Elective process as rhinoplasty, liposuction or breast implants in Costa Rica, proceedings from costs of Europe or North America. Internet and the ability to transmit photos online has been a great help for cosmetic surgeons, enabling them to make online consultations with patient’s pre-and post-operative.

Many patients who come to Costa Rica for some type of medical necessity, especially in surgery, used its travel as a small vacation. They mixes the opportunity to recuperate in a tropical land, away from friends  and the anonymity, with enjoying activities during the post-operative period, such as rafting, mountaineering and variety of tours.

Their health insurance options in Costa Rica are simple and complex simultaneously. You have several options: the state has a monopoly on insurance. That is the easy part. The complexity stems from the same factors: only a few insurance plans will cover foreigners in Costa Rica. An eventual ratification of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with the United States could open the market to private insurers here.

Any citizen person employed, both Costa Rican and foreign residents, have access to medical treatment in the public health system through their contributions in payroll taxes and deductions for “La Caja” Social Security. The Association of Residents of Costa Rica (ARCR, 2233-8068, can help to register the services.

The National Insurance Institute (INS), the state insurance since 1924, offers health insurance packages that can be used to supplement the coverage “La Caja” or as a substitute for those who do not have all the benefits of the “La Caja”. Premiums for all policies of the INS vary by age, sex and health state. Clinics and hospitals can pre-certify care to avoid the obligation to pay in advance and wait for reimbursement. Otherwise, the patient must pay the fees and outpatient clinics will be reimbursed for three to six weeks later.

Medical Assistance (2220-3687, [email protected]) offers all over the country just medical care in conjunction with the Cima Hospital. For a fee, patients can use any doctor in the network, including private clinics, pharmacies and laboratories around the country.

Foreigners who do not have insurance of the “La Caja” must pay about $50 for basic emergency care in public hospitals, including medication, treatment and lab work, with an average of $400 more, in surgery terms and more complex laboratory tests. The patients are usually required to pay all fees in advance.

Furthermore, consultations in private hospitals start at $60 and are handled with a deposit of roughly double that amount. The basic rate starts at $90 per night for a room and $290 for a suite. The tests and medicines increase these rates. Some international insurance are accepted, but it is always better to check with the hospital. Many doctors in private hospitals have studied in North America or Europe and speak English.

In Costa Rica, many private hospitals mainly congregate in San Jose and the Central Valley, while public hospitals are located in most communities in the country.

Private Hospitals

Biblical Clinic, Central and 1st St., 14 and 16th Av., San José. Tel 2522-1000,
Santa Rita Clinic, 15th and 17th St., 8 Av., San José. Tel 2255-1618
Saint Mary Clinic, 14th St., 8 Av., San José. Tel 2523-6000
Catholic Hospital, San Antonio de Guadalupe. Tel 2246-3000
CIMA Hospital, Guachipelín of Escazú. Tel 2208-1000,

Public Hospitals:

San José and Central Valley
National Children’s Hospital, San José. Tel 2222-0122
San Juan de Dios Hospital, San José. Tel 2257-6282
Calderón Guardia Hospital, San José. Tel 2257-7922
México Hospital, La Uruca, San José. Tel.2242-6700
Dr. Blanco Cervantes Hospital, San José. Tel 2257-8122
Maternal Infant Carit Hospital, San José. Tel 2257-9111
Jerusalem Christian Hospital, Guadalupe. Tel 2216-9191
Bello Horizonte Hospital, Escazú. Tel 2289-5480
San José S.A Hospital, Sabana. Tel 2231-0433
San Vicente de Paul Hospital, Heredia. Tel 2261-0091
Max Peralta Hospital, Cartago.Tel. 2550-1999
Dr. Roberto Chacón Paut Hospital, Tres Ríos. Tel 2229-5688
San Rafael de Alajuela Hospital, Alajuela. Tel 2436-1000
San Francisco de Asís Hospital, Grecia. Tel 2444-5045
Carlos Luis Valverde Vega Hospital, San Ramón. Tel 2445-5388

North Zone
San Carlos Hospital, Ciudad Quesada. Tel 2460-1176
Upala Hospital, Upala. Tel 2470-0058
Los Chiles Hospital, Los Chiles. Tel 2471-2000

Enrique Baltodano Hospital, Liberia. Tel 2666-0011
Annexation Hospital, Nicoya. Tel 2685-8400

Dr. Tony Facio Hospital, Limón. Tel 2758-2222
Guápiles Hospital, Guápiles. Tel 2710-6801
William Allen Hospital, Turrialba. Tel 2556-4343

Central Pacific
Monsignor Sanabria Hospital, Puntarenas. Tel 2663-0033
Dr. Max Terán Valls Hospital, Quepos. Tel 2777-0922

South Zone
Golfito Hospital, Puntarenas. Tel 2775-0011
Dr. Pradilla Fernando Escalante Hospital, San Isidro de El General. Tel .2785-0700
San Vito de Coto Brus Hospital, San Vito. Tel 2773-3103
Tomas Casas Casajús Hospital, Ciudad Cortés. Tel 2788-8197
Ciudad Neily Hospital, Ciudad Neily. Tel 2783-4111

Source: Exploring Costa Rica 2008/09

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