Healthcare and Medical Insurance in Panama
Expats will tell you that you can get quality healthcare at a cost which is 50 to 75% lower than comparable health care in the United States. For many retirees and expatriates, excellent affordable health care is a decisive factor in moving to Panama.
Medical insurance in Panama will cost anywhere between $45 and $120 per month for comprehensive coverage from an international provider, which can contribute to huge savings compared to some U.S. health plans. If you decide for no insurance coverage, there is free medical care for Panamanian residents, but, at best you may have to wait a few extra weeks for an appointment and may not get the same specialized attention you receive at a private facility.
Independent awards for the quality of healthcare
Awards from the Joint Commission International (JCI*) reflect the quality of the Panamanian healthcare. Both the Clinica Hospital San Fernando in Panama Ciudad and the Pacifica Salud Hospital Punta Pacifica in Panama Ciudad have been JCI accredited since 2011. The San Fernando group also operates a well-equipped facility in Coronado, 53 miles west of the capital.
*The Joint Commission (JCI) is a United States-based nonprofit organization that accredits more than 21,000 US health care organizations and programs. The international branch accredits medical services from around the world. To obtain accreditation of the JCI means that the hospital or clinic complies with the highest standards for safety and quality of care and is committed to continually improving patient care. It is the best accreditation a hospital can receive worldwide.
Furthermore, Panama’s healthcare system also receives high marks on the “International Livings Global Retirement Index” in the “healthcare” category and Panama does appear on the World Health Organisations Healthcare rankings. A recent article in “International Living” from January 29, 2018, ranked Panama among 5 countries with excellent healthcare systems.
Availability of health care in Panama.
Panama City Panama has many excellent facilities, including four private clinics which are considered to be among the best in the country. The list includes the Punta Pacifica Hospital, which is affiliated with the world-renowned John Hopkins hospital in the USA and is generally considered one of the technologically most advanced hospitals in Latin America. Other excellent facilities include the Centro Medico Paitilla, the Hospital Nacional and the Clinica Hospital San Fernando (JCI accredited).
The doctors and medical staff at these hospitals are similar to what you would expect to find in, for instance, Canada and the USA. One difference, which might be cultural, is that the time taken per patient is much longer compared to countries outside Panama.
Cost of healthcare in Panama is low
Private health care insurance for expats and foreigners with cédula (resident status) is generally much less expensive compared to the USA. In the USA a good healthcare plan will easily cost 1000 $ per month, while similar coverage in Panama can be obtained for as little as 200 $ a month with a deductible of 250$. It is possible to obtain good healthcare even if you have pre-existing conditions, we advise you to consult a local health insurance specialist to tailor your health insurance to your needs. A doctors visit sometimes costs as little as 6 $.
Why is health care in general much less expensive in Panama? The main reason is that the average salaries of locals are much lower compared to the USA or Canada. Minimum wages are as low as 525 $ per month and well-educated university graduates with experience generally do not earn much above 2000 $ per month. The second reason is that the USA healthcare system is incredibly inefficient and in terms of affordability one of the worst in the world
Costs for ER or dentists
ER visits can range in price depending duration and the services offered, but it will cost a minimum of $100 to see a doctor in the ER, not including any tests. Dentists are also cheaper than in the U.S. with a typical tooth cleaning running between $30-$50. If you plan to pay out of pocket at any of the high-end private hospitals in the city, expect a doctor’s consultation to cost between $40-$100.