A Simmering Healthcare Crisis for Expats
In Panama healthcare is much more affordable, over- all, than in the USA. Of this, I am fairly certain. On the other hand, there is a serious need for health care reform in the insurance industry serving Panama. Not all expats are wealthy, not all can afford the high deductibles, and up to $2,000 plus monthly premiums many insurance companies require here. Medicare would be great if it were allowed, but alas, not available, even with the more affordable costs of care, surgeries, hospital stays and the close political ties between Panama and the USA. If you are over 75 it is really difficult to afford additional insurance.
MS Chiriquí Hospital Insurance is affordable, but only if you do not have to use it much. The insurance works more like a discount. You pay out of pocket and get reimbursed (some) up to three months later for your out of pocket expenses. Stents, any type of necessary medical devices, are not covered and must be paid for out of pocket. Care-flights out of the country are not covered. Actually, quite a lot of important medical services are not covered or barely covered. The maximum amount covered per person is 35,000 USD. Yet I have heard that is not close to the total cost of a heart attack, knee surgery, etcetera. Depending on the emergency needs of the individual care-flight costs are from $25,000 up, something to consider when choosing an insurance policy.
There are good doctors here. Many trained in the USA for certain procedures. Nurses are not typically English speaking, nor is the staff at most hospitals. They do offer a Social Security Hospital, same doctors available there, but it is wards, not private rooms and you pay based on your income. A new one is under construction in David. Chiriquí Hospital in David is also under renovations and additions. With all the money Obama has earmarked for Panama, one would think the government would also approve Medicare payments for the citizens of the USA here in the country as well. Why? Because people are healthier here than they are living in the USA. My husband's health has improved so much in the last three years this alone justifies being here!
My advice is to do your homework. Do not take what anyone, (even myself) says about costs and insurance as facts. It is upon the individual to check out any and all resources available. Things change rapidly all over the world and what is true today is not tomorrow. Ecuador has cheaper health care than Panama, and the highly rated hospitals and services in Colombia are also a lot cheaper than Panama right now. I urge to research before leaving the USA.
This is Arne, looking fit and happy!