Proposed tax will hurt growing medical tourism

Our letter is in response to the proposed 15 percent value added tax that could have a very harmful effect on the medical tourism industry in Costa Rica — the one tourism area that has been growing in recent years.

Costa Rica has an excellent medical tourism program, and the government, ProMed and the providers have done an excellent job in ensuring the quality of care available. The prices in Costa Rica are higher than in other medical tourism destinations such as India and Singapore, and the competition is growing every day as more countries enter the arena. Until now, affordable travel costs and Costa Rica’s proximity to the U.S. have allowed Costa Rica to remain competitive. If this tax is imposed, however, it will be very difficult to convince patients to come to Costa Rica rather than go elsewhere because the price will just be too high in comparison.

The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo estimates that 30,000 people sought medical and dental care in Costa Rica last year, and the real interest of U.S. patients is only just beginning. While the average vacation tourist spends approximately $100 per day, the medical tourist puts an average of $1,000 per day or more into the Costa Rican economy.

Are you really prepared to lose millions dollars in economic revenue and the jobs associated with medical tourism because of this tax? This would surely cut the number of medical tourist. Are you willing to lose the patients who will return for “vacation” tourism?

Taming a national budget is, indeed, a very difficult task. But to impose a tax on the one area that has been growing may well hurt the growth of the medical tourism industry in Costa Rica, and will certainly make the recovery of the tourism industry as a whole much more difficult. It may be easy to collect such a tax, but we strongly urge the government to look elsewhere for solutions rather than take a shortsighted approach.

We have a saying that seems appropriate here— “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you”.

Timothy Morales
Costa Rican Medical Care
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

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