Healthcare in Costa Rica

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Costa Rica provides universal health care to its citizens and permanent residents.[1] Costa Rica offers some of the best health care in Central America. Both the private and public health care systems are always being upgraded. New hospitals, new clinics, new machines, and improvement in staff and training. Statistics from the World Health Organization frequently place Costa Rica in the top country rankings in the world for long life expectancy. In addition, the UN (United Nations) has ranked Costa Rica’s public health system within the top 20 worldwide and the number 1 in Latin America.[2]


Costs tend to be much less than doctor, hospital, and prescription costs in the U.S.[3]


The Costa Rican Department of Social Security or Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (as it is known in Spanish) is in charge of most of the nation's public health sector. Its role in public health (as the administrator of health institutions) is key in Costa Rica, playing an important part in the state's national health policy making. Worker and employer contribution are mandated by law, under the principle of solidarity. Workers need to be cover by a "poliza de riesgo del trabajo" an insurance policy that complements the health care provided by the "Caja" for injuries related to labor risks.

Its services are available to all citizens and legal residents. Emergency care is provided to all residents, regardless of immigration status. This governmental entity's functions encompass both the administrative and functional aspects. It has the obligation (as a public institution) to formulate and execute health programs that are both preventive (such as: vaccination, informational, fumigation, etc.) and healing (such as: surgery, radiation therapy, pharmacy, clinical, etc.) in nature.[4]

The Costa Rican Department of Social Insurance is also charged with the administration of the public pension system.


Costa Rica is a popular destination for medical tourism because of the beautiful surroundings, low costs, abundance of bilingual medical personnel, and medical reputation.[5] Private insurance plans are available through the government-owned insurance company(INS). Private plans include dental work, optometry, well-visits and annual check-ups. 80% of the costs are covered for prescription drugs, certain medical exams, sick visits and hospitalization. Surgeon and aesthetician costs are covered at full cost. Currently, private medical insurance costs about $60–$250/month per person, depending on gender, age, other factors.[3] Costa Rica has three internationally accredited private hospitals.[6] The four largest private hospitals in Costa Rica are CIMA in the suburbs of San Jose, Clínica Biblica in the center of San Jose, Clínica Católica and Hospital Clinica UNIBE in the suburbs of San Jose.[2][7]


Many drugs (like birth control pills, high cholesterol medication, migraine medicine, etc.) are available in Costa Rica without a prescription. Many common problems can be accurately diagnosed and treated by pharmacists. Also, most major pharmacies have a doctor on staff. Most Costa Ricans head to the pharmacy first and consult with the pharmacist or doctor on staff; if he or she can not diagnose you or believe you need further treatment, you will be sent to the hospital.[3]


Abortion in Costa Rica is restricted to situations that preserve the life or physical health of the mother. Abortions are illegal in cases of rape or incest, for social or economic reasons or when the unborn child suffers from medical problems or birth defects.[8]


It is illegal to smoke in all public vehicles, public buildings and recreation areas such as parks, stadia etc.


  1. ^ Connolly, Greg (December 8, 2002). "Costa Rican Health Care: A Maturing Comprehensive System". 
  2. ^ a b "Health Care in Costa Rica". Century 21. Retrieved 4 May 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c "Costa Rica Health Care". Retrieved 1 May 2012. 
  4. ^ "CCSS | Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social: Funciones". Archived from the original on 25 December 2010. 
  5. ^ Walecia Kinrad (March 20, 2009). "Going Abroad to Find Affordable Health Care". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-28. 
  6. ^ Chrissie Long (March 11, 2010). "Why Rush Limbaugh would go to Costa Rica if Obama's healthcare plan passes". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2010-03-28. 
  7. ^ "Health Care in Costa Rica Hospital Clínica UNIBE (Universidad de Iberoamerica)". Plastic Surgery Forums Costa Rica. Retrieved 18 May 2012. 
  8. ^ "Summary of Abortion Laws Around the World".