Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Now, I ask you. What would you do?

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.


  1. Hi, JD. Thanks so much for another view of ARCR. I have been reading their forum for quite a while, and it's good to see another perspective.

    And BTW, I appreciate the time and effort you spent with the previous posting - the rant about getting stuff off...

  2. John.

    It sounds like you made a mistake in your interview when you signed up for the caja. You hould have been very clear that you HAVE NO income, and are simply retired.

    That figure, c37,500 suggests that you told them you had some type of income, which unless you are selling tacos out of your home simply does not apply. Anything income you are collecting from the states shouldn't apply and should not have been mentioned in your interview.

    My wife and I are unemployed (not retired) and we pay about c10,000 for caja. That's the standard rate for Ticos that are between jobs and still want medical coverage.

    The bottom line is you do qualify as retired person and you can pay the retired caja rate even if you do not join ARCR.

  3. Hi John, I tried replying to your email, and the address you gave me bouced. Can you try again with another address.

  4. yeah, I've been having troubles with it: