INS (Instituto Nacional de Seguros)

INS offers medical insurance.  There is a limit of about $17,500 per year, and it does not cover pre-existing conditions or check ups. Dental work, eyeglasses and cosmetic surgery are only paid if they are needed as the result of an accident. Claims are based on a table rating types of treatment administered. Costs vary with age and sex. This plan pays 70% of prescription drugs, examinations, doctor visits, hospitalization and treatment and 100% of surgeons’ and anesthetists’ fees. The patient is free to choose the doctor. Approximate annual premiums for men up to age 59 are $550, between ages 60 and 75 $1020. Dependants under 19 are about $245 per year. Women aged 19 to 59 would pay about $885 and between 60 and 75 $1,305.

NOTE: Currently, the annual benefit is only about $17,000. This seems very low, but $17,000 here spends a lot more than in the USA.  Currently however, intensive care in a private hospital runs about $3,000 per day.  At that rate, you can chew through your benefit pretty quickly.  There are several companies worldwide that sell health insurance policies that cover you anywhere in the world and are perfectly legal in Costa Rica.  Most have a $2 million limit and are not much more expensive than INS.


Dental Cost

If you haven’t heard already, Costa Rica is the place to come for dental work. The prices here are so reasonable you can pay your airfare and hotel and still come out cheaper than you would in the US.

Today I took one of my children to the dentist for 2 fillings and to have a tooth pulled. Total bill was less than $80.00. Yes that is $80.00 US and it even included the local anethesia. I think the last time I paid to have a tooth filled in NY it was well over $200.00 for one tooth and that was several years ago.

One of our friends is having braces put in and was complaining that it costs so much. Nosey me I asked how much is it costing you? The response almost had me falling out of my chair. He’s paying $50.00 per month for a grand total of $1,200.00 US. I quickly told him of another friend in the US that was considering having braces done here because it is going to cost $8,000.00 at her dentist in the US. He thought maybe he was getting off cheap after that conversation and probably won’t complain as much about how expensive it is here.

I recently had to have a root canal and porcelin crown on a molar. The grand total for my bill was only $500.00.

If you considering having major work done, there are several very well qualified, often educated in the US dentists here that will do the same work for a fraction of the cost in the US.

Should we ever leave Costa Rica, we will come back to have all of our dental work done. One of my children is going to need braces and you can’t do it any cheaper than you can here. It’s worth the trip and you get to see a little of paradise while your here.


Lost Radio Part 4

Well we are almost over the hump.  This week I got the new locks installed along with a new radio that I now take out every time I leave the car unattended.  Next week we are going for the paint job for the damage that was done by the bone head trying to jimmy my lock.  We are also going in for more security for the car.  We found out that unless there is an earthquake our alarm doesn’t go off, so what good does that do me.  This new alarm system will activate if someone tries to break my lock or my window.  Honestly I thought that I already had that but apparantly not.

Now I have this stack of receipts and legal documents (the sworn statement that I didn’t call INS when the car was broken into actually had to be signed by my lawyer, already gave one statement to the INS saying the same thing???) and another document that shows that I actually own the car…..all of this falls into the WHY catagory which I explained why I don’t go there.

So now my WONDERFUL Insurance Agent, Eric Morales is going to take all the documents and receipts to the INS for me so that I don’t have to go down and experience the frustration.  You gotta love him for that.  I have to write ANOTHER letter stating that it is ok for him to represent me and pick up the check for me but that we worry about next week after we get the final bills on the work done.

Apparantly lawyers here are used to all the paperwork because when I called Sergio (my lawyer) he knew exactly what I needed, this made my life much easier.  All I had to do was give him a few specifics then he ran with it and produced this legal size paper that looks official with all it’s stamps or timbres.

You must have good lawyers and good insurance agents that look out for your best interest or you can really get into trouble here but that is a subject for a different day.

I’m basking in the glory of this whole process almost being complete.  And I never asked WHY once.



I have hesitated to write about this because it sounds so silly but it is so true and a large part of my existance in Costa Rica.
It always happens that something occurs here in Costa Rica and you want to know WHY they do what they do.  I am and have always been a why person, even when it came to learning Spanish, I wanted to know WHY everything had to be male or female, why the word so had 8 letters in spanish and other such sillies as that.  Things arise everyday where I find myself wanting to ask WHY is something done this way or WHY did they do that.  This was such a part of my person living in the US where everything seemed to make sense or by asking WHY you could get logical reasoning for why something  was done the way it was.  Since living in Costa Rica I have learned that asking WHY can send me to an early grave.

My latest blog entry about my car radio would be a classic example of how many WHY’s come to mind when dealing with INS or the car repair folks. Why do I need to go a dozen different places to get my radio and locks replaced?  Why do I have to wait 1 1/2 hours in the 3rd place I have been for someone to look at my car and see that the radio really isn’t there?  Why do I have to go pick up the parts myself?  Why can’t someone else do this for me?  And so on…
I tell people when they move here to try to take the word WHY out of their vocabulary.  Even when someone explains WHY they do something or the way that they do it, it won’t make any sense to us Gringo’s as it would always be much easier if they would do it the way we did it in the states but they never do.

This was my first taste of Costa Rican culture shock.  I had to get over asking why all the time.  Now when I find myself thinking WHY I switch channels in my brain and say, that’s just the way it is, I don’t need an explanation because it won’t make sense to me anyway.

This may sound idiotic but it works.  I live a much more stressfree life by not asking WHY all the time.  I have resigned myself to it’s just the way they do things and move onto something else.

I could give you a dozen or so examples of how this comes up in our daily lives but if you live here for awhile you will see for yourself it’s much easier to live here if you don’t question WHY all the time.  If you start to question WHY something is the way it is….bite your lip and move onto another topic.  Trust me it is the only way to live happily in Paradise.


International Insurance

There are several international insurance carriers that offer far more robust health insurance policies than INS.  Some have lifetime limits of $5 million and they will pay no matter what country you are in when the expenses are incurred.  Some even have reduced premiums if you specify that expenses will ONLY be incurred in one country or in Central America.

Note:  While you cannot buy health insurance in Costa Rica from any other company than INS or CCSS, these other policies are perfectly legal to purchase and many have payment arrangements already in place with several private hospitals in Costa Rica. This is one way to get around one of the great monopolies of Costa Rica-INS.

You can do some research on this by Internet or contact Guardian Angels at for some of your options with International coverage.


CCSS-Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social

An alternative to the INS plan is the CCSS plan. (Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social) This is the government medical plan that most Costa Ricans have. The plan covers pre-existing conditions, doctor visits, prescription drugs, examinations, hospitalization, dental and eyes. There is no limit on annual amounts paid out by the plan. A doctor and clinic is assigned to the patient. Lines and the processes can be long, but you will get decent care!

The cost is very reasonable – about $37.00 per month for a family where the principal insured person is over 55 years of age, and $58.00 per month where the principal insured is under the age of 55. For those under 55 there is a compulsory pension fund payment in the premium. Family includes spouse and dependants under the age of 18 years. The prices quoted are from 2004 and have likely gone up slightly.

Insurance through CCSS Requires Costa Rican Residency.

You CAN have both INS and CCSS!  Many people have both.

Also, many doctors in the private hospitals are CCSS physicians and can often arrange billing through CCSS.