Costa Rica affordable healthcare attracts expat retirees

Published:  5 Apr at 6 PM
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One of the most important considerations for would-be expats planning retirement overseas is the standard and availability of healthcare.

Along with the standard retirement requirements of a low cost of living, warm, sunny weather and glorious scenery including beaches, healthcare is perhaps the most important consideration. It’s also the least discussed and researched, wherever the desired destination. Nowadays, Costa Rica is a favourite, especially with American retirees, and its healthcare is gaining a reputation for competence and affordability.

Given that the USA’s healthcare plans, or rather the lack of them at present, have seen medical costs soar well beyond affordable for the majority of retirees, Costa Rica’s status as an accessible alternative healthcare provider is on the up. The majority of doctors working in its hospitals have USA, European or Canadian qualifications and are well aware of the latest techniques and diagnostic innovations. Hospital equipment mirrors that available in Britain and the USA.

The country operates two healthcare systems which work together, with the Caja system entitling all legal residents as well as citizens to government-managed healthcare, with private healthcare insurance the second option. Expat pensioners relocating to the island need to verify a monthly income of $1,000, either from Social Security, another pension or disability benefits. This allows them to register as a retiree and simply pay a small monthly amount for their healthcare needs.

One drawback to the system might remind UK expats of Britain’s National Health Service, in that waiting times for diagnostic tests and non-emergency surgery can run into months. Another is the language barrier as, although most medical professionals speak English, admin staff are another matter entirely, causing frustration when getting test results.

However, the plus point is the low cost of procedures including, for example, an ultrasound at around $70, a fraction of the cost in the USA or Europe. As a result, Costa Rica is now a hub for medical tourism including cosmetic surgery. Together with the island’s many other attractions, it’s no wonder so many retirees choose to take up residence.

Source: Costa Rica
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