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Costa Rica has become a popular international destination hosting both travelers and retirees. In fact, Costa Rica is listed as one of the top 10 popular international retirement destinations according to International Living. Whether it’s the country’s stability, friendly and welcoming Ticos (Spanish reference to Costa Rican locals), or breathtaking scenery, Costa Rica is a country unlike any other.

Before your arrival in Costa Rica, you will want to look into your expatriate health insurance options depending on your needs. A few considerations include:

1. Does your current insurance plan cover you in Costa Rica?
2. Will you be enrolling in the country’s insurance plan or in a private plan?
3. If you’ll be enrolling in an international plan, does it include emergency medical evacuation and repatriation?

Costa Rica has its own social health care system called Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS), commonly referred to as the “Caja”. This universal health care system will cover Costa Rican citizens, permanent residents, and visitors for a small monthly fee based on a percentage of your income. If you opt for the “Caja”, then you’d be able to obtain treatment in designated public facilities in Costa Rica. Another options is the government-backed INS (Instituto de Seguro Nacional), which is a health insurance plan that will cover you if you stay within the network of private doctors and hospitals in Costa Rica.

With these local options, an important question to ask yourself is- do you want the flexibility to choose your doctor or hospital? Also, is it important to be able to elect treatment outside of Costa Rica? This is especially important as both the CCSS and INS provide coverage only in Costa Rica. While Costa Rica has one of the best health care systems in Latin America, it is important to look at the benefits of each option and decide on the type of coverage most suitable for you.

Other options have recently opened up to international travelers/retirees following the ratification of CAFTA- Central American Free Trade Agreement- also known as the Tratamiento Libre de Comercio (TLC) in Costa Rica. With the adoption of this agreement, Costa Rica opened its borders to foreign insurance companies – whereas before the options were limited only to CCSS or INS. This agreement allowed international insurance companies to provide coverage to travelers, permanent residence, and Costa Rican citizens.

When looking at the plethora of international health insurance options, you will want to make sure that your plan includes coverage for emergency medical evacuation and repatriation. This will provide you with the piece of mind that in case of an emergency, you can receive treatment in a facility equipped to handle your condition – even if this entails being transported to another country or if medically necessary, returning to your country of citizenship.
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