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Why Rush Limbaugh would go to Costa Rica if Obama's healthcare plan passes

Rush Limbaugh said he'd go to Costa Rica for medical treatment if the healthcare reform touted by President Barack Obama is passed. If that happens, he'll join legions of American medical tourists who travel to this bastion of socialized medicine every year.

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“There’s a difference between the healthcare system that serves people living in Costa Rica verses that which is known to foreigners,” said Robert Book, a healthcare economist for the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation. “It’s the private option for foreigners that Mr. Limbaugh was referring to when he said he would go to Costa Rica.”

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On Tuesday, Mr. Limbaugh clarified his comment about leaving the United States, after “the liberal media” celebrated his vow of self-imposed exile, viewing healthcare reform as a way to rid themselves of the conservative talk show host.

“If I have to get thrown into this massive government health care insurance business and end up going to the driver's license office every day when I need to go to the doctor, yeah, I'll go to Costa Rica for treatment, not move there,” he told listeners Tuesday, according to a transcript on his website.

Mr. Cortés said Limbaugh would not be alone in traveling abroad for medical care. He’s expecting medical tourism to increase by 5-7 percent over the next year, regardless of what happens with the US healthcare reform bills.

Booming business

And that increase is building upon a growth Costa Rica has already seen. Since the recession forced many Americans out of jobs, Costa Rica has seen a surge in the number of their northern neighbors coming here for health services. In fact, there’s an entire industry catering to the medical tourist, including post-surgery spa services, sightseeing packages, hotels, and transportation.

But, if Limbaugh did move to Costa Rica and chose to initiate the process of residency, he’d be required to pay into the government-run social security system – which runs the health care system too. Under law, all people employed in Costa Rica must contribute 5.5 percent of their salary to the state-run social security system and employers are required to match their payment with 9.25 percent. Even those here for retirement are obligated to contribute under new immigration laws, regardless of whether they hold private insurance.

“The strengths of our health system (is) that it is universal, that it’s based on the idea of solidarity and that it’s fair,” says Dr. Ana Morice, vice health minister in Costa Rica. “What we need to improve is access to health services. Many times someone requests an appointment and doesn’t receive it until a year later. In that area, we have much to improve.”

Of course, if Limbaugh decided to move to or buy real estate in Costa Rica, he wouldn’t be the first celebrity. His neighbors might include actor Mel Gibson, model Gisele Bundchen, AOL executive Steve Case, or Vice President Joe Biden’s brother, Frank.

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