Let me tell you about ARCR (Association of Residents of Costa Rica). This group has existed for some time, with main offices in Miami, actually. They offer services to folks (as in, non-Ticos) who are thinking about moving to Costa Rica, and then continue to provide more services to those ex-pats who already do live here. When I began my research into the possibility of our moving here, one of the things I looked at was whether or not I thought this group might be of help to us. I decided that it did not make sense for us to pay them an annual membership fee, plus many hundreds more to assist with our obtaining legal residence. (Their membership costs for those who have not yet obtained legal residence are significantly higher, than for those who already have their cedulas).
If you’ve read this far, you should already be aware of some of the costs we did encounter during the long process. The point is, we did forge ahead on our own, and I think we did OK. We not only got our cedulas, but we also managed to sign up for the CAJA (a program similar to Medicare, but actually for all Costa Ricans, not just the elderly) on our own. Skip ahead a few months, and look at what I have now learned (and this is mostly because of all the talk over the last few months about changes in the immigration laws): we have been paying way more for our CAJA than we need to be paying!
When I thought about it, this all makes sense, and that is most unusual when speaking of anything Tico. You see, when we went to the local Social Security office to sign up for the CAJA, we went voluntarily, so that is how we were treated. As people who voluntarily paid for their own health insurance coverage, we had to pay a different rate than would workers, for instance, under their employer’s coverage.
I had actually become familiar with how insurance works here when our house was under construction. We had to pay a pretty hefty fee before construction began, to provide insurance coverage for the construction workers. Each month, I had to enter (actually did this online) into a planilla the names and information about all the construction workers. This went through the government’s insurance monopoly (INS).
Well, with all the recent discussion, in the local newspapers, online forums, and so on, I learned that members of ARCR are covered by a plan that allows them to pay much less than volunteers pay. So, here’s the math:
Our previous CAJA cost: ¢37,500 (Colones) per month
Annual Cost: ¢450,000 (Colones)
Annual Cost in Dollars: $868.72 (at today’s rate of exchange)
ARCR’s Annual membership fee: $60.00 ($50.00 me, $10.00 Blanca)
Monthly CAJA premium: $40.00
Total annual cost for the two of us: $540.00
Granted, that’s only about $320.00 a year. But, you have to look at it from my perspective. It currently costs me about $27.00 for a case of twenty-four bottles of my favorite brew. This means I can buy a case of beer each and every month for a year, out of that money! Talk about a health benefit! Now, that’s a switch worth making. And, I did.