Last month I went through a bunch of physical therapy for a messed up shoulder. The PT here is terrific, but WHEW! I am so ready to feel healthy and normal again!
Anyway, I thought this would be a great opportunity to share a little about healthcare here in CR, which is markedly different from that in the US.
The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) is CR’s nationalized healthcare system. Known as the Caja, the system provides inexpensive health services to the Costa Ricans. While the Caja offers low-cost alternatives, wait times are often long for routine exams to vital surgeries. I’ve heard the red tape can be a nightmare as well, but in the end the healthcare is said to be cheap but high-quality.
We don’t participate in the Caja (though we could if we chose to) but instead have international insurance through CIGNA. We visit doctors at CIMA, the beautiful, nine-year-old private hospital about 15 minutes down the highway in Escazú. Here we can still get high-quality medical care for much less than we would in the United States. Many of the doctors here trained in the US, Canada or Europe, and most speak some English. (Yesterday I took Erin to CIMA for a sore throat and was speaking solely in Spanish with the doctor. She asked me if it hurt Erin to swallow and I couldn’t remember the word for swallow in English, but the doctor knew and blurted it out. Ha!)
We use the hospital’s ER as an urgent care center, but we also have our own personal physicians. Going to the doctor here is much more pleasant than at home. There are waiting rooms for many doctor offices, but once you are in the door to the office, you’re really in. For example, my doctor has his desk right as I walk in the door. The room has half a wall and on the other side is the scale, the examining table, a bathroom, etc. and there is plenty of space. No nurse is there to take vitals—my doctor does it himself. I love this because it gives me time to talk with him, and I have not felt rushed during an appointment for myself or for the girls (who have their own pediatrician). The patient gets undivided attention because the doctor doesn’t have to hop from room to room and the patient is not stuck waiting and bored. I’m really going to miss this when we move back to the US.
Medical tourism is very popular in Costa Rica—people from North America and Europe flock here for everything from dental work to cosmetic surgeries and cancer treatments because of the low cost of care, personal attention, and beautiful surroundings.
Prescriptions in CR are called recetas—the same word for recipe in Spanish, which I always find amusing. Recetas are not needed to purchase many medications in Costa Rica (for example those for blood pressure, cholesterol, birth control, to name a few), though several months ago pharmacies did begin requiring prescriptions for antibiotics. One of my favorite things about the pharmacies here is that they deliver right to my door for no extra cost. One of my least favorite things is that you have to ask the pharmacist for just about any medication—even those that you could buy over-the-counter in the US.
I’ve been a frequent customer at the pharmacy lately with all these crazy colds and infections. While I’m really grateful to have CIMA nearby, here’s hoping everyone in our house is well soon and we can quit wearing our path to CIMA’s doors.