Lower labor costs and fewer malpractice suits keep the prices down here. In Costa Rica’s private system, a teeth-cleaning might run $40 and a general check-up costs $50.
More extensive surgeries? A facelift averages $2,800 to $3,200 in Costa Rica, compared to $7,000 to $9,000 in the United States. A knee replacement may cost $11,000 in Costa Rica, but can be as much as $45,000 in the United States.
But there’s another arm of the country’s medical system – the public system – which is relied upon by a majority of the population. While celebrated by Costa Ricans for “universal access,” it’s often criticized for long wait times and delays in treatment.
“There’s a difference between the healthcare system that serves people living in Costa Rica verses that which is known to foreigners,” said Robert Book, a healthcare economist for the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation. “It’s the private option for foreigners that Mr. Limbaugh was referring to when he said he would go to Costa Rica.”
On Tuesday, Mr. Limbaugh clarified his comment about leaving the United States, after “the liberal media” celebrated his vow of self-imposed exile, viewing healthcare reform as a way to rid themselves of the conservative talk show host.
“If I have to get thrown into this massive government health care insurance business and end up going to the driver's license office every day when I need to go to the doctor, yeah, I'll go to Costa Rica for treatment, not move there,” he told listeners Tuesday, according to a transcript on his website.
Mr. Cortés said Limbaugh would not be alone in traveling abroad for medical care. He’s expecting medical tourism to increase by 5-7 percent over the next year, regardless of what happens with the US healthcare reform bills.