In 2015, the country welcomed some 48,000 medical and health travelers, mostly from the US, Canada, and the EU. Neighboring countries such as Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras also seek out Costa Rica for access to higher-quality medical services. Some five percent of Costa Rica’s international tourists visit this small, lush country to take advantage of its medical services, mostly cosmetic surgery and dental care.
For those planning minimally invasive procedures, Costa Rica’s proximity to the US and reputation as a tourist destination offer the best of both worlds. In fact, Costa Rica is one of the top five countries most visited by Americans seeking medical treatment.
AA relatively new, and popular feature to Costa Rica
One of Costa Rica’s unique health travel specialties is the “recovery retreat,” a hotel or ranch-style accommodation that serves recovering patients exclusively. Situated close to clinics, these retreats have all the amenities of a typical hotel, but they are staffed with nurses and interns who attend to the special needs of recovering patients.
Transportation to and from the airport is usually included with the cost, as is transport to clinics for consultation and treatment. Guests in these retreats can discuss their latest treatment. And the clientele at any point in time includes notable evidence of recovery’s progress—from the fading bruises of yesterday’s facelift procedure to the confident smile and gait of the patient heading home.
International patients will be pleased to learn that Costa Rica’s hospital and clinic websites are translated increasingly in English. Costa Rica's hospitals are generally small compared to top international hospitals in India and far eastern countries. However, health travelers to Costa Rica can find excellent services in some of the smaller, private facilities located in San Jose and its Americanized suburb, Escazú.
Quality Healthcare in Costa Rica is also attracting Global Investors. A leading Costa Rica real estate company, CVL, believes that the government's initiative for innovative and systematic health care is a key factor for this rapidly emerging economy.
"Costa Rica's commitment to healthcare advancements makes it a favorite for medical companies, as well as Costa Rica property investors."
David Lovendahl, Costa Vista Marketing
JCI (Joint Accredited International) Hospitals
The three largest JCI accredited private hospitals are 1: Hospital CIMA, 2: Hospital La Catolica and 3: Hospital Clinica Biblica.
All three hospitals have recently undergone extensive expansion and modernization to attract a broader mix of international patients. Clinica Biblica was the first in the country to achieve JCI accreditation. American-owned Hospital CIMA in San Jose achieved JCI status in 2008. Both are full-service hospitals offering patients a wide array of specialties and procedures previously unavailable to the medical traveler. The third, Hospital La Catolica, was previously accredited but had that withdrawn in 2012 for undisclosed reasonsreason s.
For a complete guide to the physcians, facilities and treatments available, please click below:
There are two medical systems in Costa Rica, with expats allowed to access both.
First is the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, known as Caja for short. This is universal healthcare, provided and managed by the government. It's available to citizens and legal residents, including foreigners with the pensionado visa, for example.
As part of Caja, you pay a monthly fee based on the income you reported on your residence application, 6% to 12%. This covers the applicant and a dependent spouse, with the average fee running from $75 to $150 per couple.
After you pay your monthly fee, all your care is covered. Doctor's visits (including specialists), diagnostic testing, prescriptions, surgeries…everything. And there are no exclusions for age or pre-existing conditions. Most expats say the Caja provides good care, although there can be issues with wait times for doctor's visits and non-emergency procedures. The system has an emphasis on preventative care.
There is also an extensive private medical system in Costa Rica, with doctors, clinics, and hospitals throughout the country. You can pay cash to see private providers, but it's still cheap. A doctor's visit is $50; you'll pay $80 to $100 to see a specialist. An ultrasound will run you about $75. And even major surgeries are cheap, about half to a quarter of the cost in the U.S.
You can also use insurance, either international policies or those provided by Costa Rican companies. Most private hospitals have international patient departments to help you arrange financial matters.
Often expats mix and match private and public medical care. They might see a private doctor and pay cash and then have their prescription filled in the Caja pharmacy for free. Or if a procedure is taking too long to schedule at a public clinic, they might go private.
Something to keep in mind: although there are well-regarded facilities throughout the country, the best hospitals and most specialists in both the public and private system are in San José, Costa Rica's capital. So if you have a serious medical issue, you will likely have to travel there to seek treatment. – Jason Holland