Ailing expat’s travails is lesson for others living here

In addition to death and taxes, there is one other fact that is certain: A foreigner who owes child support can’t get out of the country without posting 13 months of payments.

The Sala IV constitutional court confirmed that fact Tuesday when it denied a 76-year-old U.S. citizen in failing health the right to leave the country for medical treatment at a Veterans Administration hospital in Texas.

The man is Aaron Joe Frazer, a long-time resident here, who suffers from a long list of ailments. The Sala IV also said that Frazer was liable for charges run up at the Hospital San Rafael de Alajuela. The unanimous decision by seven magistrates reaffirmed the rule that foreigners are entitled to medical care in emergency situations but that the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social can collect in advance payments for such services that are not an emergency.

Frazer’s lawyer, Arcelio Hernandez Mussio, said the man has two children he has not seen since 2002. But a family court judge in Cóbano issued a ruling when he broke up with his companion, Geraldi Vega Bolaños. that he should pay 95.133,83 colons a month in child support. Such payments are called pensiones alimentarias in Costa Rica.

The law, which the Sala IV upheld, says that anyone with an obligation to pay child support must post an amount equal to 12 months plus alguinaldos before leaving Costa Rica. For Frazer, that would be about $2,500, said the lawyer, who noted his client is broke.

Frazer, now living in Alajuela, sought relief from the judge in Cóbano and also from his former companion, but both declined to give him permission to leave, said the decision.

He was hospitalized in early May with a litany of illnesses. His appeal also claimed that he was denied medical attention from the Caja hospital.

The court decision noted that the constitutional right to leave the country is not unlimited and that judiciary and other factors can keep a citizen or a foreigner here.

As for the hospital bill, the court cited an earlier decision to make a distinction between emergency care, which is free for even those who are not enrolled in the Caja and care which is not an emergency for which hospital workers can collect payment in advance.

So Frazer has to pay some of the bills he ran up during two days of hospitalization and another day of examination, but the court said he could enter into a payment plan with the Caja. He owes about $1,345, said the lawyer. The court also cautioned the Caja that Frazer was eligible for emergency treatment in the future if he needs it.

Hernández said that his client served in the U.S. military in 1954 and that he was eligible for hospital care in the United States because he is a veteran.

The lawyer said that Frazer’s problems may be illustrative for other North Americans in similar situations living in Costa Rica.

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