Some expats are facing much higher Caja charges

Some expats are facing a stiff hike in mandatory monthly payments to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

The Association of Residents of Costa Rica announced Wednesday that the Caja would charge individual members based on their residency status. Until now, members of the organization paid a flat fee each month under a contract the association negotiated with the Caja.

The fee was between $37 and $55 monthly for a family.

Now members of the residency association will be paying roughly what they would pay had they signed up as individuals at the nation’s health provider.

Membership in the Caja is obligatory for legal residents, although many have other forms of health insurance and seek medical care elsewhere.

The Caja action and its rising fees in general are expected to have some impact on the influx of future residents and perhaps the real estate market. The increases also might encourage those with legal residency to become what is known as perpetual tourists, that is persons living here amid uncertainty on 90-day tourism visas.

The monthly Caja amounts are expected to encourage more eligible individuals in various residency categories to seek permanent residency. According to the residents association, permanent residents over 55 years of age in its plan will pay $63 a month. The monthly amount is $114 for permanent residents under 55 years, the association said.

Those rates are cheaper than the announced rates for those with pensionado status. These monthly rates are $75 for those over 55 years and $139 for those younger than 55.

The rates appear to be keyed to the monthly financial requirements for obtaining residency. Would-be pensionados have to show a monthly income now of $1,000 while those in the rentista category have to show $2,500.

The higher requirements for rentistas is reflected in the announced Caja monthly charge of $252 for those over 55 and $442 for those under 55.

The association said that the most affected category was inversionista or investor, but it did not give any numbers.

The rate increases were reported by association members after the close of business Wednesday, so a full outline of the situation could not be obtained.

Some individuals who are not members of the association have been paying in excess of $400 a month to the Caja. Persons who are employed pay 9 percent of their salary to the Caja for health care, pensions and other programs. The employer pays each month about 26 percent of the total salaries for the Caja and a number of other charges.

The association of residents said that the new Caja charges were effective Jan. 1. Since the Caja is paid in arrears, it means expats involved in the association plan will feel the impact this month.

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