Golden Surgeries – Medical Tourism in Costa Rica Part 2

  • by crv.staff
  • 17.04.09
  • 2:36 PM UTC

Here’s Part 2 of a detailed report on medical tourism in Costa Rica. Part 1 is here, in case you missed it.

Why do they leave their country?

There is no doubt that the increase of the medical tourism within the last years has grown for several reasons but in particular for U.S. citizens where costs associated with medical attention are usually two to three times higher than the identified service provider countries; also, there are a high number of U.S. citizens that have small or no insurance at all, hence, this is, specially nowadays, of high demand.

This last reason is one of the most outstanding conclusions of Josef Woodman, recognized health tourism author in in its guide on the subject, Patients Beyond Borders.
A study made by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation indicated that one out of five people do not have health insurance (45 million), a significant increase with respect to the 90s, when the proportion was of one of seven. Of that great total, 9 million are children.
The problem with insurance is the cost. The total premiums rose between six and eight times faster than the wages.

Everything depends on if the cover is individual or extends to the family, added the study, published this week in the United States. The Foundation provides financing for investigations in health related attention.

Kathleen Jacobson of Texas came to Costa Rica to have a procedure to remove wrinkles from her face. Photo by Carlos Gonzalez/Grupo NacionAdditionally, to the 45 million U.S. citizens without insurance (figure 10 times larger than Costa Rican total population), there is a large percentage of U.S. citizens that have one or more insurance.This is the case of U.S. citizens consulted for this article: Lorena Heydenburk (from Dallas, Texas) who has two types of insurance; nevertheless, neither of them covered dental treatments or plastic surgeries, or gynecological and dermatological controls, as she recalled with resignation.
“I pay a lot of money each year for insurance that does not provide me with the coverages that I require. That is why I come to Costa Rica, to receive excellent treatment, at far less cost and with a unique human treatment. I feel at home”.
“It is almost certain that normal insurance in the US will not pay for plastic surgeries, ocular or dental treatments, unless these procedures are emergencies due to an accident or a chronic disease. The policies won’t cover routine checkups. It also depends on the type of insurance; there are some that cover more than others”.
Heydenburk visited Costa Rica for the first time four years ago for a plastic surgery. Four months later she returned with two friends, to whom she told about the advantages to have surgery here.

Since then, this woman – who calls herself a “Tica” by heart dedicates her time bringing tourists to the country, and is in charge of logistics: she shops for doctors, hospitals, recovery centers and, in addition, she accompanies patients for days or even weeks after they have the procedure. For her, medical tourism has become a business.

“The country sells by itself. There is a special affection when people mention the name of Costa Rica”, was the answer of dental surgeon Eddy Mora, member of Safe Medical, one of medical conglomerates members of Promed. The other is Costa Medical Rican Holding. Both – recently informed–groups specialists that take care of medical tourists, in an attempt to assure quality service, hand in hand with specialist suitability.

But Mora added: “Although the country sells by itself, we cannot shy away from countries that also want to eat a piece of this enormous pie”.
That is why, he emphasized, in the importance that doctors stick to the highest quality standards and that all the sectors involved must work in a coordinated manner, creating more infrastructure to take care of this numerous and increasing sector.
That is the same opinion of Emmanuel Hess, general manager of Procomer, a private organization that designs and coordinates programs relative to exports and investments. Hess is insistent that hospitals and doctors be certified and updates their knowledge on specific subject matters.

Minutes before. Susan Galloway receives the last “adjustments” from plastic surgeon Christian Rivera before her surgery, the second surgery she has had in the country. Photo by EDDY ROJAS

Minutes before. Susan Galloway receives the last “adjustments” from plastic surgeon Christian Rivera before her surgery, the second surgery she has had in the country. Photo by EDDY ROJAS

Medical centers like Clinca La Biblica, Cima and La Catolica practice the above. La Biblica, already certified by the JCI, has amongst its near term objectives the construction of a hospital in Guanacaste, as it was confirmed by its representatives. The objective is to take care of a foreign population that lives in the area, but also that visits the Guanacaste. Cima is certified by the JCI as well.

As for La Catolica, this hospital is on the verge of obtaining the certification of the JCI. Their proprietors have invested more than $23 million (¢13.110 million) in remodeling their facilities, in the also opening of the hotel Posada El Convento to meet this new opportunity. This specialty hotel opened its doors barely three weeks ago has 33 rooms specially equipped for patients who seek cosmetic and non cosmetic treatments. The cost is $150 (¢85.500) per night and guests have access to special services in case of emergency, as well for their routine checkups.

In Escazú, the construction company Occidental will begin the construction of la Torre Trio, next June, a 15 floors building that will destined two floors for medical specialties clinic, and from the sixth floor up it will be a hotel that will look forward to attract medical tourists who come for noninvasive surgeries, explained René Escalante, engineer in charge of the project.
The reputation in foreign countries for dental treatments and the cosmetic surgeries (noninvasive procedures) is consolidating since the 80s; assured the specialist Dr. Ernesto Martén, pioneer of plastic surgeries in Costa Rica.

This doctor has reservations about classifying foreigner patients as “medical tourists” (he prefers to call them “international patients”), even though he recognizes the boom he himself has experienced the last years with this worldwide trend.

Myra Noel from Florida, United States, does not worry at all how she is or not classified. At 68 years, she just wants to show off her new set of teeth “made in Costa Rica”. And, from now on, she is planning to return for “something else,” she admitted with an enormous smile.

Check back with us tomorrow for the last of our three-part series on medical tourism in Costa Rica and please feel free to comment; we’d love to hear from you!

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