The Bella Blog
This Was the Week That Wasn't
Updated: Dec 13, 2019
(That Was the Week That Was, or informally TWTWTW or TW3, a satirical television comedy program with David Frost from BBC Television ran two seasons in the US 1964-1965)
Our Life in Costa Rica Year 4
What a week this has been!! Thought I would give you a glimpse of a day in our life here. Although as beautiful as it is, at times it can be very frustrating. Not complaining. No place is perfect. I feel it necessary to report the good and the not so good.
(We substituted this week's Spanish lesson in exchange for having our teacher come with us to help us through the process)
We spent the morning sitting in a line (only 2 people were ahead of us) to register for the clinic in our neighborhood for medical treatment. Since we have our temporary residency we are entitled to free medical. Free meaning, no charge or deductibles at the time of service. (which is wonderful) ALL treatment is FREE - with our residency status we are required to make payments each month into the system (caja) - the health insurance rate varies with your income but our cost is less than $100 a month total for this full coverage)
Caja payments are not automatically deducted for us. We are on our own to pay the charge ea month. It can be paid online through your Costa Rica bank - not your US bank (we have a local bank account now but had to go back into the bank and get set up to pay online - that was another long day. After a long tutorial in Spanish (we took our Spanish teacher with us again - thank goodness) we were all set, except there are about 3 steps to it (with different passwords etc) and it's all in Spanish and now we can't remember what we are suppose to do - so we have been going into a payment office to pay it in person.
At a time when health care is a huge issue in the states, I think this health care would be similar to Medicare for All.
Anyway, you can also self insure (you must still pay into the national system tho -- EVERYONE pays into the system, so everyone is covered) We also chose to have a private doctor in town that we can use if we want to pay for treatment ourselves and make an appointment to be seen quickly with no lines. Our doctor speaks English and charges less than $50 per office visit. Meds vary - last time I went, I got antibiotics for about $8 (it would have been even less but I wanted a liquid instead of pills). Coming from a US system that had huge deductibles, expensive prescription drug prices and a hefty monthly deduction from my paycheck, this is quite a deal, if you ask me!
You can also self insure at a hospital (or dentist) of your choice and not use the "free" services. Many expats choose this option depending on "what" their medical/dental issue is. Costs are way, way less than the states. So, I think having both options for us is the best of both worlds. (if, however you have no residency - to self insure is your ONLY choice) unless you go back to the states. (BTW -- you cannot use Medicare outside of the states (and a few US territories)
But I digress...
Back to my story
We were going to leave our house at 6:30 am so we would be there when they opened to get in line at 7:00am. Most health care here involves lines and a lot of waiting and registering. Two Ubers cancelled on us so we ended up having to call a taxi (mo money) and so got there about 7:30. We were so happy that upon our arrival, the line was short, except it took forever to get through those 2 people and when it was our turn the worker closed the office to go to coffee. It was about 8:30am. When she returned, we went right in.
To register you need a copy of the electric bill (ICE) which shows your address (altho there really are no real addresses here, they are more legal descriptions) but guess what? They don't print the address on your online bill or receipt each month so our landlord is the only person with access to the "bill" that has the address. He was suppose to send us a copy but didn't, so... we had to go through the whole explaining why thing. She finally accepted the info we gave her but then the (caja) insurance number that Lavanson had was not correct. So it was another delay to find him in the system. Their computer systems here are no where near as up to date as in the states. Finally after about another hour+ of her researching and writing everything down on paper, we were registered!!
After registering for our clinc, we walked to the INS office where you can buy additional coverage - i.e if you don't want to wait in line and it cuts down long appointment times. Often, you have to wait a long time for appointments and tests/test results here. I think families use this extra coverage for their children especially. Dirt cheap at about $20 yr. However, for us, it would also cover us out of the country as well. No charge for any medical procedures worldwide. The cost however was $5,000 a year. YIKES!! So after another hour at that office, we declined that coverage. Remember, each of us is still paying monthly for Medicare back in the US (2020 rates $144/mo each).
Oh, we also walked to the main office to sign up for a Golden Citizens card (Ciudadano de Oro) for pensioners over 65 -
"The Golden Citizens program arises and seeks to create a culture of dignification and respect towards people over 65. The population covered by the Golden Citizen Program enjoys some benefits and services such as: preferential care in public and private institutions, commercial discounts, recreation programs and use of free time and community projection through different courses and workshops.
It takes 2 months to get the card. So we will check back in Feb for ours. There is a book with all the discounts, but alas, they are out of them LOL
BTW - None of the people who helped us spoke English and our Spanish is not good enough to have gotten us through these processes. We could have never completed this without our Spanish teacher Shirley - So a BIG Shout out to her!!
Next up - Wednesday's commentary - Using a VPN to obtain US TV channels. Oh Boy!!! Want to watch your favorite shows in Costa Rica? Be sure to come back.