Costa Rica Medical Tourism Industry
Medical Tourism Costa Rica: Savings are what make Costa Rica one of the best countries for medical tourism in the world — Costa Rica medical tourism primary procedures are dentistry and cosmetic surgery, but also orthopedic, bariatric and eye surgery and a growing number of other procedures. Research and clinical initiatives are also enhancing Costa Rica’s capacity to treat patients with heart-related conditions, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s diseases, multiple sclerosis, pain management, and diabetes. Besides the savings, the warm weather and Costa Rica beauty is also a major contributor for medical tourism in Costa Rica.
Medical Tourism Costa Rica statistics from the Costa Rican Health Chamber, PROMED:
- In 2016 Costa Rica welcomed some 70,000 medical tourists — up from 25,000 in 2008, 30,000 in 2009, 36,000 in 2010 and 48,000 in 2011.
- Spending by medical tourists in 2016 amounted to $485 million.
- A medical tourist spends up to seven times more than an ordinary tourist, about $7,000.
- The medical tourism sector supports some 20,000 jobs.
- 42% of procedures are dental, 10% cosmetic, 22% other surgeries, 16% preventive medicine and other medical spending 10%.
Bill Nichol came from Canada for medical tourism in Costa Rica, he wanted new teeth and went home with a new wife and new teeth.
Now 64, Nichol first came here nine years ago for 10 implants and 24 crowns, taking advantage of Costa Rica’s excellence as a destination for medical tourism. He met a Costa Rica woman whom he eventually married, and they live in New Brunswick now.
“Originally when I had my first work done, I think it was $65,000 in Canada for the restoration work, and in Costa Rica at that time it was $11,300,” he said.
“First of all, Costa Rica is already a well-known tourist destination, and then you have the proximity to the U.S., there’s lots of direct flights, and there’s warm weather all year long,” said Brad Cook, director of Medical Tours Costa Rica, which works with large North American companies like Ashley Furniture to save money on medical costs by sending patients here.
“And if people begin to research, they find Costa Rica medical tourism has a high standard in medical care,” he said. “In fact, the World Health Organization has Costa Rica ranked ahead of the U.S. in life expectancy. Here you get high quality at a more affordable price. It’s half to two-thirds less for dental treatments.”
Curry Willix, founder of the Dallas-based Medical Travel Option, said medical tourism in Costa Rica is also more personalized and not so rushed.
Costa Rica Medical Tourism Industry
delivers high quality at a more affordable price.
“Speaking as a U.S. resident, our healthcare system is a good one, but the way we care for patients here is decidedly hurried, it’s not ‘pura vida’ at all,” she said. “In the course of my lifetime, the experience of going to see the family doctor has changed so much, you are pretty much a number and you’ve got about 20 minutes or less to get in and out of the doctor’s office, if he’s running on time. So that’s a real distinction.”
Costa Rica’s popularity as a place for foreigners to seek treatment has also spawned a cottage industry that provides lodging, meals and transportation for these patients.
Che Tica Ranch is a full-service rehab center near Braulio Carrillo National Park run by a man from Argentina, Ruben Martin, and his Tica wife Lorena.
“We’ve been here 18 years, we’re the pioneers here in Costa Rica,” Lorena said. “We pick patients up at the airport, take them to the hotel, then we install them here and take them to the appointment, usually the next day. With surgeries, depending on the surgery the patient spends a night in the hospital or if not comes here.
“We offer transportation to the airport, doctors, appointments. We have a nurse, we help with medications, we help with bathing, and we serve all three meals — breakfast, lunch, dinner and a coffee break.”
The facility has wheelchairs, walkers and hospital beds that go up and down with the touch of a button. Lorena said one man came from South Africa to get $20,000 worth of dental implants that would have cost him $60,000 in his home country.
Massimo Manzi, executive director of the Costa Rican Health Chamber, PROMED, said such savings are not unusual, noting that costs for medical procedures in Costa Rica can be 50 to 70 percent lower than in North America. He said a hip replacement can cost $17,000 here but $35,000 to $60,000 in the U.S.
“Costa Rica is one of the leading destinations for this,” he said. “There’s the proximity, the economic and political stability, the quality of life in Costa Rica, and you can recover from surgery in a pleasant place full of nature. Other destinations like India, if you’re in a big city like Mumbai, the quality of life is not the same.”
Manzi also cited the quality of the doctors and internationally certified hospitals and clinics, as well as the specialized recovery centers and even tour operators accustomed to hosting people who are recovering from surgery.
Nichol, the Canadian man with the new teeth and the Tica wife, said the savings are an obvious reason for seeking health care in Costa Rica, but there’s more to it than that.
“It’s the compassion and care that the Ticos provide service with,” he said. “It’s good quality work, the physicians down here are amazing, and they serve the product with love, from the heart. It’s a big difference from North America — in the U.S. or Canada they do their job and they do it well, but it’s not the same.”
For dental patients, who require relatively little recovery time, follow-up care or restricted mobility, Costa Rica is the perfect place to enjoy a vacation with their bonus savings from the cheaper dentist fees. Think of it as a reward for enduring something most people dread — the dentist’s chair — with thousands in “spare” cash to spend on a dream holiday. Even if a new spouse isn’t part of the deal, you can’t go wrong: come here with an ugly smile and leave with pearly whites and memories for life!
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