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Aug 23 2015

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Healthcare Expenses – A Budget Breakdown

 (Updated August 23, 2015)
Our normal monthly healthcare expenses in Costa Rica are about $170.60. Our monthly average for the year 2014 was $148.69 and the previous year, 2013, it was $157.49. Naturally, a large part of this amount is our monthly CCSS (Caja) health insurance. Here’s how our healthcare expenses break down:

  • Caja: $57.73 for both of us (see note below)NormalHealthcareExp2015
  • Supplements: $29.40 (vitamins & minerals, Chanca Piedra (for Paul’s kidney stones), and CoQ10 (to prevent Gloria’s migraines). By the way, a “macrobiotica” is what we would refer to as a health food store.
  • Monthly prescriptions not available in the Caja: $83.47

While our monthly Caja payment is low, new expats joining the Caja can expect their monthly payments to be based on 6-12% of their declared income for residency purposes. Because we moved here before the new immigration law of March 2010 was passed, we entered the country when only $600 per month per couple was required through Social Security, a pension, or other source of guaranteed income. At the time, my Social Security was $922 and it’s still under $1,000 today. We encourage people who have more than one pension or social security check to declare the lowest one that’s at least $1,000. This will keep your monthly Caja payment as low as possible.

What also would be included in this category would be dental expenses, and other medications and tests not covered under the Caja. You can read some of the related articles below for specific prices we’ve paid for various medical procedures and tests over the last couple of years.

Like many Costa Ricans, we use a combination of both the private and public medical systems, although the Caja is always our first option for healthcare. We see a doctor at our local EBAIS (community medical clinic), Gloria had surgery in the Caja; she has had physical therapy in the Caja (for sciatica); and we’ve used the emergency room a total of five times over the years. Additionally, we have had ultrasounds, mammograms, gastroscopies, CT scans, and other X-Rays, and lab work, all through the Caja and at no charge.

However we would not hesitate to use the private system if it would speed the process up or we want a second opinion. Sometimes a $74 out-of-pocket ultrasound can save you months of waiting, since private testing can often secure results in one day and give you the documentation you may need to see a specialist within the Caja.

In the past months, we’ve also broken down the following:

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