Global Medical Insurance for Internationals Living in Costa Rica
For a small country, Costa Rica is mighty when it comes to healthcare. Costa Rica’s universal health insurance program routinely ranks among the upper 25% of the world’s top healthcare systems. As well, it’s considered to have the best public health program in all of Latin America. Add in the gorgeous countryside, beautiful weather, and easy connections to North and South America and it’s easy to see why foreigners living in Costa Rica love it! For additional peace of mind, make sure you have the health insurance in Costa Rica to take care of you should you need care.
Overview of Costa Rica’s National Health Insurance System
Universal health insurance and social security have been a part of Costa Rican society since the 1940s. The system is often referred to as “La Caja”. This is a short form of “Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social” or the “CCSS”. It is funded primarily through payroll taxes based on individual income. This usually amounts to 7% – 11%.
In addition to La Caja, there is also “INS”. This is short for “Instituto de Seguro Nacional”. It is a form of private health insurance run by the Costa Rican government. INS coverage includes dental work, optometry, and annual check-ups. It also takes care of coverage for visiting private hospitals and clinics. The government makes ongoing investments in both systems, paying for new hospitals, new equipment, and staff hires.
Pros and Cons of Using the Local Health Insurance System
Costa Rica’s public health insurance program, La Caja, is popular and well regarded for good reason. The costs are low and the system is well managed. There is a strong emphasis on preventative care and community wellness.
Expats and Costa Ricans alike often opt to use a mix of public and private insurance programs. Certain procedures and treatments can have long wait times in the public system. Thankfully, the private and public systems work well together. For instance, patients can have diagnostic imaging done at a private facility in order to avoid long wait times. The results can be sent to their public doctor for follow up. And as prescriptions are covered by the La Caja system, private doctors will write prescriptions for La Caja pharmacies so patients can save money.
How Foreigners Living In Costa Rica Can Qualify For Health Insurance
All legal citizens and those with residency papers are part of the Costa Rican public health insurance system. Note that there is a difference between simply residing in the country and having residency papers. You have to be a legal resident in a residency program such as pensionado or rentista. North American “snowbirds” who fly south for a few months each winter to escape the cold might think of themselves as living part-time in Costa Rica. However, that doesn’t mean they are eligible for residency. Like all visitors to Costa Rica, they are only eligible to receive limited emergency care at a public hospital should they lack the means to pay.
Even if you’re certain you’ll be using private insurance all the way, being part of the La Caja system isn’t optional. Since 2010, it’s been mandatory for all residency applicants to become members of the La Caja system. And that’s not a bad thing. Being part of the public system gives foreigners flexibility and options. For instance, there are no payments associated with public hospital emergency room visits. However, some private hospitals want large cash payments, up front, just to be admitted.
What You Need To Know About Processes
As all international citizens know, the first step in any overseas process is paperwork! In Costa Rica, that means registering with your nearest government regional office. They’ll want to see proof of your residency status. They’ll then direct you to your nearest local clinic, known as an EBAIS. You’ll have to register with them as well! But the steps are worth it, as they issue you your “carnet”, which works similarly to an insurance card.
Things To Know When Considering Insurance
Private health insurance is an important tool for all foreigners living in Costa Rica. Residency papers can take up to 18 months to be processed. You can’t be part of the healthcare system until you have your papers. It’s important to have your own independent coverage while you are waiting.
While researching health insurance plans for Costa Rica, you might hear expatriates also speak about health discount plans. Sometimes the two terms are used interchangeably, but health insurance plans and health discount plans are completely different things.
Many physicians in Costa Rica who work in the public health care system also run their own part-time private practices. As private practice visits are not covered by the public health insurance system, there is a cost associated with these visits. A health discount plan is a budget-friendly tool that allows patients without INS or other private insurance coverage to plan out their private healthcare costs.
In exchange for a monthly fee, you get a certain number of discounted appointments, blood tests, and x-rays each year. For patients who don’t hold private insurance policies but still take advantage of private facilities, a health discount plan can help them plan their health expenditures.
Best International Health Insurance Plans in Costa Rica
There are a number of health insurance plans available to internationals living in Costa Rica. A global medical offers several benefits. Most importantly, you will be able to access care anywhere in the world, including in your home country. You will also have additional access to a wider range of private medical facilities in Costa Rica with shorter waiting periods. In short, you have access to the best care and highest quality services to cover your costs should you get injured or sick.
For all nationalities, from any country, Cigna Global Medical is our most popular plan. The plan offers comprehensive coverage, excellent service, lifetime renewability, and modular plan design to allow you to get the coverage you need 9and not pay for coverage you don’t need.
- Access to Cigna Global’s network of trusted hospitals, clinics, and doctors
- The flexibility to tailor a plan to suit your individual needs
- The convenience and confidence of 24/7/365 customer service
For US citizens living in Costa Rica, the GeoBlue Xplorer Global Medical Plan is a great choice. This premier coverage offers comprehensive benefits, a premier network of doctors worldwide, and access to the Blue Cross Blue Shield network of doctors and hospitals in the USA.
- Customize your medical coverage to suit your needs
- Define your deductible and prescription benefits
- Choose providers either in or out of our elite network
How Routine Doctor Visits Work
For many Costa Ricans and long term residents, a routine doctors visit doesn’t start with a doctor at all. In non-emergency situations, they simply visit the neighborhood pharmacy. In Costa Rica, pharmacists are often referred to as “doctora” and are afforded a high level of respect. They are authorized to consult with patients and make recommendations. If they suspect an underlying emergency or recommend a non-medication form of treatment, they’ll tell you where to go.
For everyday medical needs, small community clinics, known as EBAIS, take care of most non-emergencies. Many EBAIS clinics have a system for booking online appointments. For those that don’t, appointments are made the old fashioned way. You have to get up early and stand in line!
Costa Rica is a rare country where housecalls are still a big part of the medical system. Teams from the EBAIS go to different houses in the community to tend to people who need medical attention. These are comprehensive visits that include everything from checking up on the patient’s vaccination records to assessing the health of their pets. Preventative care is everything in Costa Rica!
How To Find A Family Physician
In Costa Rica, the doctor finds you! Everyone is assigned to a local clinic based on geographic location. At your clinic, you’ll likely see the same practitioner for most visits but other doctors might sub in from time to time.