Costa Rica is one of the most popular destinations for expats across the world and millions of foreigners start a new life in the country. Still, moving to a new country can be stressful enough without including the stress of health insurance. So if you decide to move to Costa Rica, It’s vital for you as an expat to understand how the healthcare system works there— especially whether you qualify for public or private insurance and how to get the best insurance plan.
Costa Rica Health Insurance for Expats
Expats working and living in Costa Rica must register with the country’s national healthcare system known as the ‘Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS),’ or simply ‘Caja.’
Registering with Caja is obligatory for every expat who lives and works in Costa Rica long-term. However, many expats in Costa Rica prefer to have private health insurance as well because it offers access to private clinics and hospitals, shorter waiting times, and English-speaking doctors. With Insubuy or International Citizens Insurance, you can compare and choose the best plan.
Private Health Insurance for Expats in Costa Rica
Expats in Costa Rica have two options when it comes to choosing private health insurance:
- Government-supported insurance provider ‘Instituto de Seguro Nacional (INS)’— is a private insurance scheme supported by the Costa Rica government that offers supplemental healthcare services.
- International insurance provider— you can choose your insurance coverage as long as they offer international policies in Costa Rica.
Best Health Insurance Companies for Expats in Costa Rica
Suppose you do not want to use the INS, but you still wish to obtain private health insurance. In that case, you also have the option to purchase private coverage from the following international insurance companies:
How Much Is Private Healthcare in Costa Rica?
Private INS insurance in Costa Rica for expats costs around $60 to $250 per month, depending on your age, medical conditions, and coverage needs. However, if you opt to pay for a private international health insurance plan, the costs can go up to $1,000 per month for a more comprehensive insurance policy. With Insubuy or International Citizens Insurance, you can select the policy that suits you the best in terms of coverage and price.
How Does Caja Work in Cost Rica?
The Caja is funded by the public, where each employed resident pays a monthly amount towards the healthcare scheme. The amount changes depending on income, but it usually ranges from 9% or 11%. Once expats enter the country and register with the Caja, they receive public health insurance covering almost 90% of their medical needs, including pre-existing conditions. If an expat is working as a freelancer or is self-employed, then the amount they pay to the Caja depends on how much they earn that year.
The Caja covers several services, including the three medical facilities which any expat can visit and require services while staying in Costa Rica:
- Hospitals— work 24/7 and offer emergency services, general healthcare, and specialist healthcare.
- Clinics— are open from 7:00 to 22:00 and offer similar services as the hospitals.
- Ebais— is open from 7:00 to 16:00, treats minor injuries, i.e., sprains or colds, and provides general check-ups.
How Do I Register for Public Health Insurance in Costa Rica?
Registering with Caja is obligatory for every long-term resident who possesses a valid residence card for Costa Rica. The registration process for the Caja is as follows:
- Get your documents ready. As soon as you enter Costa Rica, you have to sign-up for the Caja, and you need to submit several documents that include the following:
- Your residence card or a document from the Immigration authority proving you are eligible for residency in Costa Rica (plus copies).
- Your passport.
- A notarized photocopy of your passport ID page containing your entry to Costa Rica.
- Evidence of your address and residence (utility bills).
- Registration Request form (provided by your employer).
- Visit your local Caja office. Once you get your documents ready, you have to visit your nearest Caja office, submit your application, and pay for the registration. Bring your receipt with you since you will need it to retrieve your card.
- Retrieve your card. Once your application is processed, you have to take your receipt, go to the Caja office, and retrieve an appointment card proving your right to healthcare services. This card will be stamped with the same validity date as your residency card, which means you have to re-apply for this process if you receive a new residence permit.
Because it takes a while to process your registration with the Caja, you need to have valid health insurance during that time. For this reason, you can choose an international private insurance provider that will cover your stay in Costa Rica— head on to Insubuy to see the best and the most affordable insurance policies.
What Does the Caja Cover in Costa Rica?
The Caja health insurance covers almost all medical issues for all Costa Rica citizens and expats, including the following:
- General medicine.
- Specialized and surgical care.
- Advanced surgical procedures.
- Cash subsidies.
How Much Does Health Insurance Cost in Costa Rica?
If you are an expat in Costa Rica, prepare to pay around $100 per month for your health insurance. Caja is paid monthly by a percentage of your income (usually 9% or 11%), which is dependent on several factors such as your yearly income, your age, your marital status, your gender, your medical conditions, etc. As a result, your monthly contributions for health insurance in Costa Rica can be higher than $100.
Do Expats Get Free Healthcare in Costa Rica?
Expats are eligible for free public healthcare services in Costa Rica. However, they pay monthly social contributions to the public health system, which in turn, cover the costs of seeking medical attention.
The only persons eligible for entirely free health care in Costa Rica (i.e., they do not even pay social contributions for the Caja) are citizens in financial difficulty.
Can I Use My US Health Insurance in Costa Rica?
You cannot use your US health insurance in Costa Rica unless your policy is valid for international travel. However, even in that case, the insurance plans usually cover only basic medical needs. So, you are highly advised to purchase valid insurance from a private provider specializing in international insurance and offering comprehensive policies, like Insubuy or International Citizens Insurance.
Healthcare for Retirees in Costa Rica
All expats who apply for the retirement program in Costa Rica must register with the public health system— Caja. In the case of retirees, the payment for the Caja is calculated based on the savings they declared when they applied for their retirement visa. If a retired expat decides to open a business while in Costa Rica, the amount for the Caja is calculated based on their income during the fiscal year.
Retired expats can also choose to pay the INS for private health insurance, but INS covers persons only up to a specific age (see below). As a result, most retired expats pay for international private insurance in addition to registering for the Caja.
National Insurance Institute in Costa Rica (INS)
The National Insurance Institute- INS (Instituto de Seguro Nacional) is a private insurance program that the government of Costa Rica backs up. In contrast to the Caja, the INS is not obligatory for citizens or expats. Still, it does offer additional coverage in addition to the Caja, and most people prefer to pay the INS as well.
To register with the INS, you have to fill out an application form and a health declaration form and sign a permission slip to allow the INS to view your medical history. The registration process can either be done online or via the phone. Please note that if you are over the age of 55, you may be required to add additional documents.
NOTE: The INS is not available for expats over 70 years of age.