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Living Abroad in Costa Rica
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The country’s protected zones extend underwater

Excerpted from Living Abroad in Costa Rica

How’s the medical care in Costa Rica?

A healthy place

Many people move to Costa Rica at least in part for health reasons. Some are suffering from stress- and work-related conditions that often clear up after a few months of this country’s saner pace and salubrious environment.

Others have no specific complaint but are drawn to the high quality medical care, which is extremely cheap if, as a resident, you become part of the country’s socialized medicine system, and is still quite a bargain if you opt to go the private route.

Costa Rica spends a lot of money to keep its people healthy, and statistics reflect this commitment. Life expectancy is high at just under 77, infant mortality low at 10.6 per 1,000—figures that put most other Latin American countries to shame, and compare favorably with first world nations like Canada and the United States.

According to the United Nations, an impressive 98 percent of Ticos have access to health care; as recently as the 1960s, the figure was 15 percent. Ninety-two percent of people here have access to clean water; in Guatemala the figure is 62%, and in El Salvador only 47% of the population has such access.

Costa Rica’s socialized medical system

While tens of millions of people in the US have inadequate medical insurance coverage, Costa Rica has made a commitment to provide health care to all of its residents, and even visitors can take advantage of the high quality, low cost care available here. For a small monthly fee foreign residents can be a part of the public system, where everything from drugs to dentistry is included, and care is in public clinic and hospitals. In fact, the law now requires permanent foreign residents to pay into the system, whether they want to get their care from it or not.

Private care

For a little more each month anyone (not just residents) can sign on with the INS, the state insurance provider—this route lets you choose your own doctor. International policies like Blue Cross/Blue Shield are accepted at the excellent private hospitals and clinics here. If you have no insurance and don't want to join up with the public system here, you can pay out-of-pocket and spend about half of what you would in the U.S.

And if you're cringing, thinking of third-world hospitals with poor hygiene and badly trained staff, think again. The University of Costa Rica has one of the most respected medical schools in all of Central America and the Caribbean, and many doctors do further study in Europe, Canada, or the United States.

The private hospitals in particular have up-to-date equipment, like Hospital CIMA's open MRI, the only one in Central America. Confidence in the system is expressed by the number of people who come to Costa Rica just to have surgery, whether it's a triple bypass or a face-lift.

CIMA Hospital, Exazú
Major Private Clinics in the San José Area

Hospital CIMA
In Ezcazú, a suburb to the west of San José
Tel 506/208-1000

Clínica Católica
In San Antonio de Guadalupe, a suburb of San José
Tel. 506/246-3000

Clínica Biblica
In downtown San José, Calle Central, between Avenidas 14 and 16
Tel. 506/522-1000





For more information, see Living Abroad in Costa Rica.

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