Medical Care

The United States' irrational health-care system, with its ex­clusion of about 37 million citizens from the ranks of medically insured, is yet another reason people think favorably about living in a country where health care is not only available, but affor­dable. In a United States hospital, patients with Medicare coverage usually pay far more just for their deductible share than the total operation and hospital bill would cost in Costa Rica!
In the United States, should you visit the emergency room, the first thing they ask for is your hospitalization plan or credit card. If you have neither, you could be told to get lost. In Costa Rica, when going to an emergency room in any government hospital, there is no charge for resident, visitor, or even someone in the country illegally! This affordable medical system is another of the benefits Costa Rica enjoys because there is no military to absorb resources. Statistics show that the general level of care is equal to or superior to the United States. In fact, the United Nations recently noted that Costa Rica is in first place in Latin America for development of preventive and curative medicine, ranking with the United States and Canada among the 20 best in the world. Infant mortality is lower in Costa Rica than in the United States. The average life expectancy is 74 years for men, about the same as in the United States, but far above other Latin American countries.
Why is quality health care inexpensive in Costa Rica? A prominent physician (in private practice in San Jose) explained it this way: "Here, our government considers medical care as a public service and obligation, just as it considers education and highways a public responsibility. The government builds hospitals and trains medical specialists to serve the people, not as a business. But in the United States, medical care is a profit-making industry, a big busi­ness where profits are maximized to the highest point people can pay. Here, a doctor working for a government clinic earns between $800 and $2,000 a month. In your country, where doctors work for profit, $20,000 a month is common. Some heart surgeons in the United States will schedule five heart-bypass operations the same day. At $50,000 from each patient, this assembly-line practice brings in $250,000 for one day's work!"

The doctor went on to .say, "Where there is no competition, medical specialists can charge what they like. But here in Costa Rica, we have competition between our free, public hospitals and private clinics and private doctors such as myself. We private doctors must keep our fees in line, or patients will go to free clinics."


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