Can You Save Money on Healthcare by Having Your Checkup Done in Costa Rica?

Ever wondered if you really can save money on healthcare by being in Costa Rica?  Here’s my experience so you can decide. 

This week, I signed up for my yearly mammogram and ultrasound and decided that at 45 years old (hush, don’t tell anyone), I should have a full checkup done while I was at it.  I have private insurance but the deductible is $1000 as I only plan on using it in true emergencies and I had wanted to keep costs down.  So, a general routine check up was not included in the overall coverage.  However, I felt it was important and I thought I would share those costs with you which I compared online with “Cost Helper Health” for average U.S. costs.  Your costs might vary and your insurance coverages would vary as well, of course.

First I went to a private doctor at Linea Vital where she did a thorough general exam including an EKG reading.  She requested that in addition to a complete blood work-up and urine test, that I have an ultrasound of my neck to check my thyroid and a complete abdomen ultrasound which would check from my heart all the way down to “you know where”.  The doctor’s appointment total was $65.  On the Cost Helper Health site, it says that an average non-insured person would pay $199 for a routine exam in the U.S.

Then, I went and had my mammogram done.  At the CIMA hospital, they combine the mammogram with a breast ultrasound for $140 which includes the result analysis.  Then, they did the throat and abdomen ultrasounds which were $120 each.  An “ouch” for my budget in total, but when I compared them on the Cost Helper Health site, I would have paid around $102 for mammogram and over $360 for each of the ultrasounds, for a whopping $1200 total in comparison to my $380.  Okay, not so bad.

Finally, I went and had my blood drawn at the local private clinic and peed in a cup.  Everything from thyroid levels, blood cell count, cholesterol, and more were measured for $150.  Based on the website again, the average for a full blood workup in the U.S. costs around $1500!!

So, my total out-of-pocket expense for everything came out to $595, a bit of a punch, but not enough to trigger my insurance and my family felt it was needed.  Looking at $2900 for the costs in the States, makes me glad I did it here.  Of course if you have insurance and most of those costs are covered, count yourself lucky, but even with a 20% co-pay, you would be paying $580, so we’re close to even.

Now, one more note, had I decided to go through the  Costa Rican public system, which I pay into, the blood tests could have been run for free (after hours of standing in line), but most of the ultrasounds would still have had to be done in a private clinic unless they had determined that something was truly wrong and it was a medical necessity.

I also discovered in my research into U.S. medical costs that these costs which are billed to uninsured patients are often less than what would be billed into the insurance companies, so it makes sense for insurance companies to be more willing to cover us with the costs here in Costa Rica rather than there, wouldn’t it?  By the way, if anyone wants to know which private insurance I carry here, I use IMG for their ex-pat coverage.  And no, they didn’t pay me to say that (maybe I should have asked).  Now I think I’ll just go and get me a $30 massage with my savings…

Feel free to add your own comparisons.  Tina is the owner of Tristan & Newton Real Estate along with Cecilia Tristan and they are both available to answer your questions and make you feel more at home in Costa Rica.  Email at tina@tnrealestatecr.com and check out the website at http://www.tnrealestatecr.com.

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