Same-sex couples in Costa Rica will now have access to the same rights as heterosexual couples in public healthcare matters.

The Central American nation's Social Security System officials unanimously approved reforms that would grant same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples in public health care matters, including visitation rights, insurance coverage and the ability to make medical decisions.

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The Social Security System is called Caja in Coast Rica. Caja board member José Luis Loría introduced the reforms change Article 10 of Caja's health regulations, changing a patient's partner as a person who lives in a "free, stable union...under the same roof with another person of the opposite sex" to "under the same roof with another person of the opposite sex or the same sex."

[Same-sex couples] are included in the salary pool of the economically active population, and as such, they pay into the [Caja] the same as everyone else. So from the point of view of payments and premiums, they are paying for these pensions and for health insurance. There is no excuse to discriminate against them.

President of Movimiento Diversidad, an LGBT+ organisation in Costa Rica, Marco Castillo pointed out that a big issue with the current Caja regulations are that family members get priority over partners, and may not act in accordance with the patient's preferences, or even attempt to use their related status to acquire a couple's property in the name of the patient. Sometimes those same family members are the ones who put LGBT+ patients in the hospital in the first place through domestic violence.

We have seen cases where people's own family members have beat them up and kicked them out of their homes. And after that, the [Caja] issues hospital visitation access to the same family members and not to the patients' partners. We've seen cases where patients have died in the hospital 15 days after becoming ill and they were unable to be accompanied by their partners.

Castillo also said that according to a Caja study commissioned by lawmakers studying a same-sex rights bill 108,000 people are among Costa Rica's LGBT+ community and of those, 54,000 are living with partners. It is expected 27,000 people would acquire rights under that same-sex cohabitation bill. The bill is currently being studied in the Legislative Assembly.

Image via Coast Rica Government/AP Images.