There are so many things I love about Costa Rica that it can be quite a challenge to list them all. But the one thing at the top of my list often catches others off guard. My number one? As a 40-something woman living in Costa Rica? Costa Rica’s affordable healthcare.
That’s right, I’m in love with Costa Rica’s healthcare system. And I fell in love with it even more when I received my bill.
I happen to be in a unique position to compare Costa Rica’s healthcare system with that of the United States since I birthed two babies, necessitating two C-sections, in two different countries, within 16 months of each other. (Yes, I was busy! When you wait until later in life to have children, you have to get on with the program!)
In the summer of 2012, we welcomed our first child. He was born in the United States at Northwestern’s prestigious Prentice Hospital in Chicago, one of the top hospitals in the country. He was a breech baby, and so he had to be welcomed into this world via a scheduled C-section. Fifteen months later, my family and I were moving to Costa Rica, and I was expecting our second child. As it turns out, our second child (our daughter) was also breech, necessitating a second scheduled C-section.
I must admit, I was initially nervous about having our child in Costa Rica. Before the move, I tried to calm my fears by conducting relentless research. I probably went a little overboard in the process. I researched the quality of health care in Costa Rica, spent countless hours determining whether my U.S. insurance would cover the procedure, personally visited all private hospitals in the Central Valley, and even flew down to Costa Rica to interview doctors.
Here is what I found.
Costa Rica’s second largest industry is medical tourism. People come from all over the world for Costa Rica’s affordable quality healthcare. For any procedures not otherwise covered by insurance (including pre-existing conditions), dental care, and elective surgery, Costa Rica is the place to be.
Costa Rica’s Central Valley has several excellent private hospitals from which to choose. We ended up choosing the world-renowned CIMA Hospital, located in the upscale San José suburb of Escazú. Still, we had no shortage of other quality options, including Hospital Clínica Bíblica and Hospital Clínica La Católica. All of these hospitals are top-notch and are accredited by Joint Commission International (JCI).
Costa Rica has a wonderful selection of qualified doctors from all over the world. After my round of interviews, we ended up choosing Dr. Daniel Nisman, who was by all accounts wonderful. His knowledge of obstetrics was outshined only by his excellent demeanor. He was always available, answered all our questions thoughtfully, and graciously and safely brought our daughter into this world. Thank you, Dr. Nisman!
Many procedures in Costa Rica’s private hospitals are covered by insurance. I’m happy to report that my hospital, CIMA Hospital, was considered an “in-network” hospital for purposes of my insurance. And so I was covered—for 90% of the costs—by my United States insurer.
Costa Rica puts the “affordable” in affordable quality health care. Even though I was covered by my insurance, I received the total bills, pre-insurance payments, for the births of each of my children. My total bill for a C-section in the United States at Northwestern’s Prentice Hospital, including doctor and hospital care, was $26,000. My total bill for the exact same procedure in Costa Rica at CIMA Hospital, including doctor and hospital care, was $6,000. And I'm pleased to report that I received the same quality treatment from my doctors and nurses at CIMA Hospital as I did from those at Northwestern.
Of course, I was covered by insurance for both procedures for the majority of the costs. Still, my insurance covered only 90% of each of my procedures. So while I paid $2,600 in out-of-pocket expenses for the birth of my son in the United States, I paid only $600 in out-of-pocket expenses for the birth of my daughter in Costa Rica.
How do I love thee, Costa Rica? Let me count the ways!