Although the economic recession is slowing down the number of people buying cosmetic surgery, the reduction is much less than in the US where a 50 percent or more drop in business has been reported.
The cost of cosmetic surgery and dental work in the country is about a third of what it would be in the United States and the quality is as good.
“Costa Rica has a positive image, strong healthcare infrastructure and proximity – so potential patients and companies are taking an interest in Costa Rica,” said Bill Cook, international patient coordinator at Hospital Clínica Bíblica in San José. Clínica Bíblica has been attracting medical tourists since the mid-1990s, but the number of foreign patients has tripled in the last year to about 30 per month.
According to the Costa Rican Tourism Board, 95 percent of the estimated medical tourists who come to Costa Rica each year are from the US. The majority are uninsured or underinsured. Medical treatment is not only less expensive than in the US, but it is often less expensive than the deductible insured patients would pay for the same treatment at home.
“Labour costs are so different here. Healthcare prices are 30 to 40 percent lower than in the US,” noted Carole Veloso, director of the Hospital CIMA in San Jose.
Meanwhile, Hospital Católica, which is also located in San José, is putting the finishing touches on a new wing called Hospital Hotel La Católica to accommodate the growth in medical tourism.
To develop and promote medical tourism, Costa Rican hospitals, doctors and government agencies have formed the Council of International Promotion of Costa Rica Medicine (PROMED), which is about to be launched. Its president, Dr Jorge Cortes, said PROMED will also organise and establish quality standards for the industry.
In another development, 20 doctors have formed Costa Rican Medical Holding, the country's first medical tourism consortium. The group will promote its services primarily in the US, where it also hopes to cultivate working relationships with insurance companies. This group of health professionals has been working together for over two years. By formalising links, these doctors seek to actively participate in health fairs, commercial missions and promotions initiated by Costa Rica’s Foreign Trade Corporation. All the doctors work in Costa Rica’s three major private hospitals; Hospital Hotel La Catolica, Cima San Jose and Hospital Clinica Biblica. The group seek to coordinate its promotion with local transportation and tour operator companies as well as with several specialised recovering homes. They will also contact specialised travel agents in the US to promote their services.
Meanwhile, clients of South Carolina-based dental travel company Companion Global Dental now have a third option in San Jose, Costa Rica, for obtaining dental care at a fraction of the US cost. Companion has added Adult Dentistry of Costa Rica to its network of dental clinics. Led by Dr Mario Garita, the clinic specialises in implant dentistry joins CGD-affiliated Prisma Dental Clinic and Meza Dental Care, both based in San Jose.