San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Legislators pass law on doctor salaries

In a 42-1 vote lawmakers on Tuesday afternoon approved in a first round of debate a draft bill that clarifies that wage incentives for doctors must be calculated on base salaries only and not on gross salaries.

The debate was scheduled to start at 6 p.m., but an agreement was reached to vote at the beginning of Tuesday’s session. “We did it in less than two minutes. It was a good example of political will,” Legislative Assembly President Víctor Emilio Granados, from the ruling National Liberation Party (PLN), said.

“The agreement stems from the broad consensus this bill has, and the need to save an iconic institution that all Costa Ricans care about. We agreed to vote on it without even discussing the bill,” Granados told the daily La Nación.

Lawmaker Elibeth Venegas (PLN) voted against the bill, while Luis Antonio Aiza – also from the PLN and a doctor – left the room to avoid voting.

The current interpretation of the law states that doctor bonuses and incentives for overtime, availability and night shifts are calculated in the final salary, instead of using the base salary.

The Social Security System, or Caja, currently must resolve some 2,000 lawsuits filed by doctors for payment of these incentives. The Caja already has lost more than 300 of the lawsuits, costing the state-run health care system ₡3.5 billion ($7 million).

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