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Chris Frochaux of Chris Frochaux - SERVMOR REALTY – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
The best strategy for health insurance for retiring in Panama hinges on a number of factors. First of all, be aware that Medicare won't travel with you... You'll still be required to pay your Medicare premiums, but won't get reimbursed for your medical expenses in Panama. Medicare Portability is an issue being discussed in Congress, so there's hope in the long run. Some retirees will unfortunately skip medical attention and then return to the US to be treated. That's not the best solution, especially considering that medical costs are lower in Panama, while the quality of care remains high (most doctors have done part of their studies in the States). Also, the cost of prescriptions is lower in Panama.
 
Being a retiree in Panama provides discounts for medicines and doctor visits among other things (50% on movie tickets for example). While living in Miami and New York, I was nicely covered by my health insurance, but it was difficult to secure appointments, especially with a specialist. In Panama, you can get an appointment with a specialist the same day, and pay about $50 to $70. There are many laboratories where you can monitor your cholesterol levels, etc... I am 64 and blessed with good health, so I opted for an emergency coverage with a $5,000 deductible. I'd rather pay my medical visits out of pocket and keep that coverage for emergency situations. You may want to visit a local insurance broker. One of them recommended an insurance company called BUPA. You may want to check their website. I pay a very reasonable (yearly) fee, so I'm very happy with them. However, since I never had to apply for coverage (meaning my medical expenses never reached $ 5,000 per year) it's hard to evaluate their services. (I am not in a rush!).
Neil Flemming – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Bupa logo – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingFor my health insurance, I use a company called Bupa, which is a British company. They specialize in Irish and British nationals. The plan I have is if I go see a doctor, I pay the bill. Then I get the receipt, send it to Bupa, and then they refund me the cost.
 
I had another health insurance plan before that. They were good as well. They increased their prices so I switched to Bupa because they were cheaper. They do a worldwide program. They were pretty good, but they just doubled their fees so I switched. 
 
Bupa costs roughly US $180 a month for just me personally.   When you go to the doctor, you pay it, and then send in the receipts, and then they’ll cover it. They cover everything. The main thing I remember from a list is that they’ll cover up to $1,000,000 per illness. That was the thing that I was concerned with. Whatever it is, they’ll cover it, hospitalization, etc.. 
 
Normally there’s a co-pay and deductible. It depends on the plan that you get. There are ones that are incidental as well and the deductible varies. You have to pick which one. You can decide the deductible and you can decide how expensive the plan is. The higher the deductible, the cheaper the monthly premium. But if you go for a low deductible, then you pay a higher premium. 
 
The coverage is worldwide. All I need to do is I need to let them know, for example, if I am going to go work in Costa Rica or wherever I am. The only stipulation that they had is that there’s a time limit on how long I can be in the US. They will only cover you for only 12 weeks in the US I’m assuming because the health care costs are so much more expensive there. Anywhere else, you’re covered indefinitely.  
 
(Bupa International Health Insurance logo, pictured.)
T Rob Brown of Panama Helpline – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
In Panama, heath insurance can be purchased directly from a hospital fairly inexpensively ($50 a month) but you are limited to going to that hospital.
 
All the major insurance companies here (BUPA, Blue Cross, etc.) are, by North American standards, expensive.  As a result, most expats use these policies for catastrophic insurance, which has very high deductibles.  They then just pay the fairly reasonable medical bills for day-to-day injuries and ailments.
 
Another alternative is to go with one of many groups, including ours, that offers group medical insurance.  This turns out to be a very good alternative and cost effective, with most plans costing between US $50 to $88 a month.
Bill Hamilton of Bill Hamilton – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
I thought my best strategy for health insurance as a retiree in Panama, was when I got the quote from my insurance provider, was to forgo medical insurance. There is no way I was going to pay that amount every month.
 
We have American friends from Texas and New Orleans, and they also do what we did. They go to a public hospital. They don’t speak brilliant Spanish, but they get by. They have learned enough.
 
They also believe the same thing, “ Hell, I’m not paying that amount for private medical insurance.” 
 
One of my friends was stung by a scorpion in Pedasi. She just went to a local clinic and they treated her for it straightaway. It was about US $10.
 
For me, it is better to not have insurance, but just to use the Social Security system. It s a personal thing, which may not suit everyone.
 
Gonzalo de la Guardia of Panasurance – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
The best strategy for your healthcare coverage when retiring or just living in Panama is to buy catastrophic coverage for serious things. The medicines and doctor’s fees in Panama are relatively inexpensive. For example, if I go to my cardiologist and he sends me for an ECG and a full check-up that costs me US $80 every time I go. That would probably be 5 times more in the US. After the procedures, I can just buy the medicines out of pocket.
 
The best strategy is to buy a catastrophic insurance with a high coverage limit like $2 million or $5 million from a well-known health insurance company that will take care of serious injuries or diseases. In Panama, like anywhere else, once you get into the hospital, the billing starts to rise really quickly into the thousands of dollars. So it is better to just take a catastrophic policy with a high deductible of $1,000 to $5,000 a year and you can just pay out of pocket other menial medical services you might have during the year.
 
We have health insurance companies here in Panama that are well-known around the globe as well. There is quite a buffet of options when it comes to health insurance. I have personally worked with two big companies: BUPA, whcih is one of the largest health insurance companies in the world; and VUMI Group, which is a health insurance company from Miami and Dallas. We also have Cigna. There are a lot of options.
 
The price of the policy depends on the age of the person to be covered. If you are age 40, it is probably $2,000 per year. For age 50, it is about $3,000 and for age 70, $5,000 per year. You can get international policies that you can use not only in Panama, but also worldwide.
Mack Jones – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Panama health services are very good and not expensive compared to the United States, in general.  As a Jubilado (retiree), my discounted local doctor visits are US $12.00.  When I moved here, my plan was not to buy any insurance coverage in Panama, mainly because I was 70 years old and it is generally not obtainable or reasonable at that age.  So routine coverage was to be cash, and if I needed something more, like a knee replacement, a plane trip to the US for Medicare and my Medigap policy would take care of it.  I did not figure on emergencies.  An accident here put me in intensive care in a hospital in Panama City for three days.  I was unconscious until the second day, and I found out the ambulance from Coronado to the City was cash up front, $450, and if there had not been a friend and an ATM nearby, I would have been in big trouble.  The $8,000 hospital bill was also required to be paid before I could be discharged, and thank God for my American Express card.  If you get into a major medical emergency situation in Panama where flying to another country for insurance coverage is impossible, you could be facing some major expenses you might not have thought about.
Penny Barrett of Fundacion Bid 4 Bouquete – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Medicare has always been a problem if you live in Panama because US Medicare does not work in Panama. To understand the best strategy for health insurance for an expat living in Panama, we should talk about Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B. Part A covers hospital expenses in the US. Everybody has Part A. Part B covers doctors’ fees. You have the option to take Part B or not. If you decide to take Part B, the deductions to pay for it will be taken from your Social Security check every month. Many expats in Panama waive Part B just so that they can avoid that deduction from their Social Security check every month.
 
You may decide to waive Part B and then later on decide to have it again. To my understanding, there is a re-enrollment period from January to March every year and then your coverage will start in April. Your premium goes up for every year that you are out of the program.
 
I have insurance in Panama through a local hospital that is good at a select number of hospitals in Panama City and in David, which is the provincial capital. I pay US $80 per month for that. My insurance plan pays 70% of the total bill and has a ceiling of $25,000 it will pay per year. I have no catastrophic policy on top of that, so I am self-insured. Therefore, if you take this insurance you also have to be partially self-insured in case you get something catastrophic, or you have to have a policy for catastrophic events/costs.
 
What health insurance is best is dependent on the individual circumstances of per person. If you have medical conditions, what many expats do is keep both Part A and Part B of their Medicare in the US, and they get a Medicare supplemental policy that they pay for yearly. The Medicare supplemental policy will pay for things that Medicare does not.  There are many Medicare supplemental policies, which are dependent on a person’s conditions, which people buy in addition to Part B. The reason they keep and pay for Medicare Part B and a supplemental policy even though they're living in Panama (where Medicare is not accepted) is in the event that something catastrophic happens to them and if they have time, they will go back to the US for care.
Neil Stein of Panama Paraiso – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account

Health care is sort of a controversy here in Panama. Most of the time, you can go to a hospital or a health care clinic and they will treat you with little or no charges. There are only specific situations where you really have to pay. Most people here do not even have a health insurance because it almost makes no sense for you to even pay for one since the hospitals or clinics will accommodate you anyway even without health insurance. There is even a hospital in Panama City that specializes in cancer treatment and they treat any patient just as they would treat someone who has health insurance. When the tests are done and you are ready to go home, they will give you a bill, and you can pay it in full, if you can afford it, but if not, then you can pay it in time.
 
Twice, I have been to the Ministry of Health, which is the public clinic here in El Valle de Anton, Panama, but the clinic charged me almost nothing. The first time I went there, I stayed in the clinic for four hours with a doctor and two nurses, and they charged me US $10. The second time, they did not charge me anything at all. My neighbor, who has cancer, was in the clinic for eight days. She has gone through a lot of tests and her bill only came up to about $200.
 
Getting health insurance coverage here in Panama is something that people have to analyze themselves based on their health conditions as it is not the same for everyone. You do not necessarily have to have health insurance here in Panama, and many people don’t. However, if you want to have health insurance, you can absolutely get one.
 
Because I am a very active person, I try to influence other expats here to exercise more and drink plenty of water just as they should regardless of where they live. I also believe in alternative health care, eating well, and staying fit, and because of that, I am not big on surgeries, radiation, or chemotherapy. Therefore, even if I have a health insurance policy that would cover these procedures, I will not opt for them. Personally, I am not that concerned that I would be spending a lot on health care here in Panama and if I will have to in the future, I do have insurance through Social Security anyway. 

Terry Bradford of Origen Real Estate Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
We have Medicare in the States, but like a lot of other people from the US who are eligible for Medicare and used to have it but who now live here in Panama, we are thinking of dropping it.  We can then use the money we paid for Medicare in the US and use it to pay for insurance here in Panama, so we will be covered in Panama.  (Medicare only covers you when you are in the US.)
 
Under Medicare in the US, our co-pay for a doctor is $5, an X-ray is about $50 or so but, after adding in what we pay for Medicare on an ongoing monthly basis in the US, you can, overall, have everything done here in Panama for a lot less. We currently pay over $100 each for our Medicare plans in the US, but we have to use those services in the US and we have go home every year and have our full physical exam. Instead of doing that, we can have a full physical exam here, as well as other services.
 
(For a more full discussion of how much healthcare services cost in here, please see my answer under “How much do healthcare and medical services cost in Panama?”)
Lourdes Townshend of Multimodal  & Logistic Transports Magazine – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account

Medical care in Panama´ is an issue for all residents, especially retirees, as well as for visitors.  To begin with, the government offers a courtesy emergency medical plan for all visitors for their first 30 days in the country.  The brochure is available upon arrival at the airport.
 
Second, Panama´ is lately considered a favorite destination for medical tourism.  Panama has highly rated medical medical staff, many of whom have international bilingual post-education studies, including in the areas of spa techniques and homeopathic, holistic, and other methods of alternative medicine. 
 
Third, many hospitals offer all-included medical plans, at competitive prices. 
 
There are also the regular insurance policies that a variety of private companies offer at coverage and prices of your choice.  Just ask for information and make a comparative chart of benefits, prices, exclusions and if benefits will be reduced or payments increased should you need any important long term treatment or hospitalization, which is what happened in our case.
 
Many expats and VFW are very satisfied with a plan at Clinica Nacional, which has a special international department for that.
 
Another good suggestion might be to contact your embassy for references, as individual experiences are based only on individual needs and every case is different, and before you sign any contract, be very careful that you fully understand the "small print".
 
But if God forbid you might have any emergency before you have your medical plan, you always have your first 30 days coverage, and after that, you have St. Thomas Hospital as well.  It is a state hospital, maybe not as fancy as a private one, and the waiting period might be longer, but it has excellent care with doctors the same as in private clinics, and it has one of the best trauma centers.

 

[Editor’s note: According to a press release August 1, 2014, the Panama Authority of Tourism stated that no charge tourist insurance coverage is no longer being offered.]

Carlos Garcia de Paredes, MD of Hospital Santa Fe – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
There are several different possibilities for North Americans relative to health insurance during their stay in Panama.
 
If you decide to go without a medical plan or medical insurance, medical care by trained physicians in Panama in general, or in our hospital specifically, would cost you a fraction of what you would have to pay back in your home country.   For example, if you had a hip fracture, the cost for treatment of this condition in our hospital would be several thousand dollars and no more, including a hip prosthesis that may be required.
 
In addition, one might wonder if being covered by the US or Canadian version of Medicare would be sufficient, thereby making it unnecessary to buy a medical plan in Panama.  While there is some truth to this, you must remember that neither Medicare nor its Canadian counterpart covers you outside your home country.  Therefore, while I agree that if you have a chronic illness, it might be convenient for you to return to your native country for coverage, for many acute illnesses or accidental injuries, you might not have enough time to return.  In this case, it would be a great advantage to already have coverage within Panama.
 
While I am not an expert on other plans, I can talk about the medical plan offered by Hospital Santa Fe called The Medical Plan for the Third Age.   The plan can change and I'm not writing a full, complete and legal description here, but I can at least give you a rough idea of how it works, as a basis for you to do further investigation and only afterwards, make your own, fully informed decision.
 
This plan is priced at a very low rate and is convenient for retirees coming to Panama.  At this time, many American and Canadian persons living in Panama are covered by our plan.  It is specifically designed for people over the age of 60 and covers almost every disease or condition that is not pre-existing.  With the exception of having to wait two years in order to receive surgery for certain medical conditions such as hernias and cataracts, once you join and become eligible, you can receive hospital and other medical services with only a few imitations.  The medical services are provided by over one hundred specialized doctors at our hospital and others.  Hospital services are provided at Hospital Santa Fe.  There are no coupons, forms, or deductibles and in order to receive services, all you have to do is to show your Santa Fe Medical Plan ID card.
 
I am told that the monthly cost and the co-pays, especially by American standards, are extremely reasonable.
MANUEL GRANADOS  of MEDICAL SERVICE PANAMA, S.A. (MS PANAMA, S.A.) – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
There are several options for health insurance in Panama. You can contact any of the private insurance companies and inquire as to what plans they have available. Previously they required that you sign up for their insurance prior to your 64th birthday. They would also lower your coverage to half when you reached an age in your 70's.
 
The best option is to obtain your health insurance from one of the local private hospitals in Panama. My recommendation is for Hospital San Fernando and Hospital Chiriqui in David. They offer the best health insurance for retirees and have been selling their plan for a number of years. Their rates are based upon age. The rates are lower than any other insurance company in Panama. They also cover pre-existing conditions.
 
Alonso Cornejo of ASA, Inc. – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
The best strategy is to find a reputable insurance agent whom will take the necessary time to listen to your unique situation, answer any questions you may have and recommend a plan that meets your specific needs. Not everyone’s situation is the same, so you need to find coverage that will work best for your own needs.
Magda Crespo of Magda Crespo Insurance – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Remember to bring your medical records with you.  If you plan to live most of the time in Panama, you might think about getting an international health plan that will cover you here in Panama, and also USA, or Canada, all over the world.  In that way you don't have to keep your supplemental plans back home.  Also remember that even though local health plans are very good and not expensive, in the majority of them you have to get in before you turn 65 years old; once you are 65 and older you cannot apply.
Craig Morrissey of Hospital Nacional – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Before you look for insurance in Panama, if you currently have insurance you should check to see if you have international benefits.  On the back of your insurance card there will be a number that you can call for information.  Once speaking with a representative I recommend asking the following questions:
  1. Do I have international benefits?
  2. If they say yes, you always have to follow up that question by asking how the process works.  The reason for this is that some plans/companies will offer international benefits, but they will not accept direct billing from the hospital or the hospital will not work with the insurance company because of past payment issues.  In this situation, the patient will be required to pay upfront for their services and then submit their bills to the insurance company for reimbursement.
If you do not have international benefits, I believe it is best to speak with an insurance broker.  Also, be aware that some companies will not take on new clients past a certain age, so the sooner you apply the better.
 

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