The quality and competitiveness of the Costa Rican health system attracts many foreign patients every year. However, this success contributes to longer waiting times for nationals and residents, especially when they wish to access the public health sector. But while the private sector is often more available and responsive, its care is not covered by the country's health insurance system.
Health insurance for expats in Costa Rica
The health insurance system in Costa Rica
The Costa Rican health system is managed by the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS). It allows insured persons to receive free treatment in the country's public hospitals and facilities. These health facilities have a reputation for being well-equipped and staffed by competent health professionals, including many trained in the United States.
Legal foreign residents also have access to the Costa Rican health system, in exchange for the payment of a monthly contribution, usually deducted from their salary. They receive free medical care in the public sector on the same basis as Costa Rican citizens.
When care must be provided to patients in the private sector (e.g., in an establishment offering a medical speciality or specific technical facilities), the costs will also be covered by the CCSS if the patient has previously been referred to by a public hospital. Otherwise, access to the private health sector is not covered.
How to choose health insurance in Costa Rica: local or international?
To avoid the long waiting times in the public sector, nationals and residents sometimes turn to the private health system and take out complementary health insurance.
Local health insurance offers were previously under the monopoly of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros (INS), but they are now liberalised and several insurers share this market. They generally cover care provided by a list of member hospitals, doctors, pharmacies, and laboratories.
In order to be able to choose your health care structure freely, you may want to opt for an international health insurance plan, which covers your healthcare expenses regardless of where you receive your treatment or purchase your medication.