Finding good healthcare, and taking care of you and your family’s health and well-being are critical to relocating to a foreign country, and Panama’s no different. Finding the right doctor, insurance, medication, and emergency services can seem like a daunting task in a country you don’t know much about. Luckily, Panama has some of the best quality healthcare in the Americas, and at a cost that is more often than not, reasonable and fair. For a country of its size, Panama’s high quality hospitals, doctors, and physical rehabilitation centers are well known in the region. So much so, that many people come to Panama as tourists, just for medical procedures. Here’s why:
The best hospitals in Panama, as you may expect, are in the capital. Panama City has some great facilities, staffed by many of the world’s top doctors and medical students. The best, by far, is Hospital Punta Pacifica, which serves as a partner institution to Johns Hopkins Medical Center in the US. Because of this, most doctors have international experience and training, and the facilities are similar to those in a top private hospital in the US.
Just down the road are Centro Medico Paitilla and Hospital Nacional, which also boast an internationally experienced staff, and top of the line facilities. Both are often sought out for major surgeries and procedures by both locals and tourists alike, and are nearly unmatched elsewhere in Central America.
These hospitals are private, and because of that, are much more expensive than the publicly funded hospitals and healthcare facilities. However, when compared to similar institutions in the US, are often 5-10 times cheaper, while maintaining a similar level of service and care. Sadly, despite having dedicated staff, most public hospitals do not offer high-quality facilities. The upside is that the cost to most people is nothing, if not pennies on the dollar of what a private hospital would cost.
With healthcare costs rising drastically in the US, it’s not surprising that many expats are attracted to the cost of healthcare in Panama. Major operations, such as a hip replacement, can be performed at nearly a tenth of the cost, and basic procedures will cost from 3-4 less than it would in the US. And the same goes for medication. While the rules for obtaining prescription medicine are rather strict, the costs are adjusted for the local market, which makes them much more affordable, even without insurance. Even a simple routine checkup in Panama, without insurance, will not be that much more expensive than your copay would be in the States.
Health insurance in Panama is also really affordable. There are plans that range from basic coverage to full, advanced medical care, to cover a variety of needs and budgets. For basic coverage, you can get a plan as low as $30-$40 a month, and it goes up from there, depending on what procedures it covers. Many insurance companies offer 80%-100% coverage for their more advanced plans.
Unlike the US, the risk of not having health insurance is much lower, as uninsured procedural costs are very low when you compare it to a typical expat’s budget or fixed income.
Another great benefit provided by the Panamanian government is that all tourists that enter the country are automatically granted 30-days of basic coverage, in case something comes up during their stay. When you enter the country, all of this information is provided to you at customs, and is applicable throughout the country at its hospitals and medical centers.
Remember to always check with your current healthcare provider to find out if you can transfer your plan before moving, or if it even applies here in Panama. Knowing your health will be taken care will give you piece of mind, and help ease the transition of moving to a foreign country. With all that Panama has to offer, it’s just one less thing to worry about as you plan on your next life adventure.