FAQ: Panama & Health Care

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Health Care Clinic Boquete

One of the first things prospective retirees ask about Panama or any other expat haven concerns healthcare. Today’s blog will be the first in a series to cover this topic in detail. At the outset, I’ll present a disclaimer, and a caution: This is a critical issue, because the age factor dictates a solid, carefree, consistent (even if not cheap) healthcare plan, and anyone considering retirement anywhere needs to dig for all the info they can get. Also, as with many other things about Panama, we’ve found that different folks have far different experiences, so before taking my word as gospel, ask around and do some research. We do not live in Panama (yet) so what’s presented here is what I’ve uncovered.

In no particular order, here’s what people want to know about Panamanian Healthcare:

1—Is it good?

2— Is it cheap?

3— Is it available?

I’ll cover item #1 today.

1— Is healthcare good in Panama? Again, what we’ve heard from numerous sources is that healthcare in Panama is quite good. In fact, some say it’s excellent, even better than that found in the U.S. or Canada.

This is from International Living‘s website: ‘Panama offers high quality health care and modern hospitals in the metropolitan areas. For example, the Johns Hopkins-affiliated Punta Pacifica Hospital is the most technologically advanced medical center in Latin America.’ Note the mention of ‘metropolitan areas.’ Just as any other developing country, Panama offers better healthcare and other services in its large cities, not so much in outlying areas. The city of David in Chiriqui Province, for example, has a modern facility. There are also hospitals & clinics in Coronado and Boquete.

From Cindy and David @ Chapter 3: Loving Retirement in Panama blog, a personal experience: ‘People ask about health care in Panama.  I tell them I have never had better care.  Better than that, it’s affordable.  I have my doctor’s cell phone number and she answers my texts almost immediately. I can see a doctor, even a specialist, usually within 24 hours if I need it.  I am very comfortable with all of (my doctors).  I feel that I am getting more competent care here than in Florida.’

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Caveat Emptor? From Don Williams @ Chiriqui Chatter: ‘No talk about the cost of living (in Panama) should exclude the topic of healthcare and planning for it. I have no problem with publications saying that healthcare is cheaper in Panama than (in) the US, however, comparisons in quality are seldom mentioned.’

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Hoops to jump through? From Kris & Joel @ The Panama Adventure:

  • Can I get my medicine in Panama? I believe almost all medicines (or acceptable substitutes) are available here. You need to have a consultation with a doctor here though who can answer questions about your particular medicines and health care needs. 
  • Is the health care good? In my opinion, yes, it is very good. From my experience and those of friends, the time and personal attention is a lot better than we had in the US, and the quality of care is excellent. Panama City has doctors and hospitals that are respected world wide. 
  • Is health care expensive. No, I think it is far cheaper than in the US. People with good insurance or Canadians who aren’t used to paying out of pocket may find it expensive though compared to what they were used to. 
  • Will my health insurance work? Medicare is not accepted here. You(r) health insurance probably isn’t accepted here either. You need to read the fine print on your policy. There are international health insurance plans that can cover you, and health plans you can buy within Panama. We have chosen to pay as we go rather than get insurance so I don’t have much information on this subject.’

More on my next blog about healthcare. I’ll cover more personal experiences, Medicare coverage, VA/Tricare, what our Canadian and European friends need to consider, veterinary care and more. Thanks for reading.

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