Health care and health insurance costs continue to rise in the United States. For retirees living on a fixed income, it has become harder to afford health care and health insurance. Many factors contribute to the price of health insurance premiums, such as state and federal laws regulating costs, where you live, whether you get insurance through your employer, and which type of plan you choose.
According to Investopedia, in 2020, annual premiums for health coverage for a family of four cost $21,342. Your employer could pick up part of that cost. The rise in health insurance costs may be one reason wages haven’t risen much over the past two decades.
If you’re a United States citizen over 65, you probably have Medicare. But Medicare does not cover 100% of the costs of your health care in the United States, and out-of-pocket expenses keep going up and up.
By the way, if you have the right Medicare Advantage Plan, it DOES cover you in Panama for urgent care and emergencies.
SO, WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?
Many Americans are choosing to move to Panama to significantly reduce their costs of living, including lower health care and health insurance costs.
In Panama, healthcare expenses are based on the local cost of living which is much less than in the United States or Canada. In addition, frivolous lawsuits are non-existence in Panama, so malpractice insurance is very low for doctors. For these reasons, Panama’s healthcare and health insurance cost a small fraction of what they would cost in North America. Despite the lower costs, the quality of care is high. A routine doctor visit at their private office is only $15, with no appointment necessary. Or you can go to the public hospital where it is only $2 to see a doctor.
Panama has a two-tier healthcare system. There are public hospitals, and there are private (for profit) hospitals.
NO MONTHLY FEE – PAY AS YOU GO – PUBLIC HOSPITALS
When you relocate to Panama, you can use the public health care system. There is no monthly fee and no age restriction. There are no restrictions for pre-existing conditions. You’ll pay about $2 to see a doctor or $5 for specialists.
A few months ago, a lady who came on a Panama Relocation Tour had emergency surgery at a public hospital in Chitre. She was in the hospital 6 days. Her total cost was $150.
This year, a couple’s son fell and broke his jaw in three places. The emergency surgery, ten days in the hospital and all x-rays and lab work was about $350. WATCH THE VIDEO for more details.
Many ex-pats in Panama use the public health care system instead of buying health insurance.
A neighbor was hospitalized at the public hospital in David after having a heart attack. After 10 days in the public hospital, his cost was less than $900 including MRIs, Cat Scans, medications, and the best cardiologists in Chiriqui Province.
With these prices, you can see why many ex-pats just use the public health care system.
HEALTH INSURANCE OPTIONS
You can get health insurance that only covers you in Panama. Or, you can get international health insurance covering you in Panama or any other country.
As of January 2023, Panama insurance companies require you to have a vaccine card or a vaccine exemption letter from your doctor to get approved for health insurance in Panama.
Because health insurance is so affordable in Panama, I think it is wise to get health insurance when you can afford to. With a higher deductible, you can reduce your monthly or annual premium. Health insurance prices will depend on your age.
You have several choices for health insurance. It’s better to buy health insurance directly from the insurance company because “some” insurance agents in Panama will add 40-50% to the costs. I ran into that problem when an insurance broker in Boquete wanted to charge my son $2000 more than buying directly from the insurance company. Luckily, we have 5 honest insurance brokers listed in the Complete Panama Relocation Guide who don’t play those games.
PANAMA ONLY INSURANCE
Some insurance companies in Panama, like Blue Cross Blue Shield, will not accept you as a new client if you are over 65. The two most popular insurance companies in Panama are Mapfre and Family Medical.
MAPFRE offers Panama only insurance or international health insurance. Mapfre has the best network of doctors and hospitals in the country. You’ll be covered for preventive medicine, 100% emergencies, hospitalization, and consultations with accessible copays, maternity, laboratories, and X-rays. You can select a higher deductible to keep your monthly premium low. Their website is only in Spanish, but if you send them an email or call, they will have an English-speaking representative contact you. A 59-year-old friend has Mapfre. She went with a $5000 deductible so her monthly premium is only $69 per month.
FAMILY MEDICAL is one of few insurance companies covering pre-existing conditions after you’ve had insurance with them for two years. They cover 70% of most non-emergency medical costs and 100% of emergency costs. If you are over 50, they will require you to get an EKG and lab work to get insurance. FAMILY MEDICAL will currently insure those who are 70 or less AND they cover up to three preexisting conditions (with some exclusions)!. See their BROCHURE in English here. Family Medical offers family discounts. Their costs are very reasonable as you can see below:
30-39 – $46 per month
40-49 – $63 per month
50-59 – $82 per month
60-69 – $102 per month
70-79 – $125 per month (currently, Panama insurance companies are not writing new policies for over 74) But don’t worry, we have another solution for those over 75 and it’s excellent insurance)
You’ll also notice in the fine print that some insurance companies will only insure those who have proof of Covid vaccines OR an exemption letter from a doctor. (Don’t worry, we have a solution)
IMPORTANT! Most Panama and international health insurance companies will not insure you if you have pre-existing conditions. If you are older than 60, they will require a physical. EKG, and lab work before agreeing to insure you. They may exclude the existing condition for two years, then have you do a physical to see if your health has improved so they can insure you.
Insurance does not cover the cost of medications. Some medications are a lot less in Panama, but some cost more. And, some medications are not available in Panama. You must determine the cost and availability of medications in Panama before deciding to move to Panama.
You can even buy cancer insurance for as little as $63 a year! This insurance is only available for those who have never had cancer.
INTERNATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE
When I first moved to Panama, I got WorldWide Medical international health insurance through United Healthcare. At 64, I pay $2500 a year with a $500 deductible, then I’m covered 100% up to $4,000,000 per year. International health insurance means I’m covered at any hospital or doctor in Panama or any other country. When you are 65+ the prices go up substantially for international health insurance with a premium of $4500+. See the Worldwide Medical brochure in English here.
Other international health insurance plans like Cigna, or Bupa are even more expensive.
THERE IS A SOLUTION!
I found a solution for international health insurance that is a fraction of the costs. It will insure people up to 80 and even pre-existing conditions. It’s not available through any insurance broker in Panama. You can see details and insurance brokers offering this plan in the Complete Panama Relocation Guide.
Before moving to Panama, I tripped on a blanket and fell down the stairs at my house in Dallas. I damaged my eyes and had to have two eye surgeries in Texas. I thought my eyes would be excluded from my insurance in Panama, but it was not. Since moving to Panama, I have had several more eye surgeries, including a lens replacement. My international health insurance covered 100% of the cost of both surgeries in Panama.
I can honestly say that the quality of the care I got in Panama was far superior to the care I got in the United States.
Even though I have no plans to move back to the United States, when I turned 65, I decided to get Medicare. If I did not get it when I turned 65, there would be a substantial penalty to get it later.
Certain Medicare Advantage Plans cover you for emergencies and urgent care, even in Panama.
NOTE! You normally must pay the service cost upfront and then file a reimbursement claim. If you have Worldwide Medical, the hospital will only require a small deposit and will bill the international health insurance company.
Most Panama health insurance companies will not issue insurance until you live in Panama. You’ll need to prove that you are renting in Panama or have bought a house.
All international health insurance companies have a restriction that you must be living overseas. They will have rules about how long you can return to your home country – usually 6 months maximum. So, you cannot buy insurance in Panama at a much lower price, then move back to the United States to live full-time.
WARNING: Shop around for health insurance. But BEWARE that many insurance “brokers” or agents in Panama charge 30-50% more for health insurance. In the Complete Panama Relocation Guide, we have recommendations for honest insurance brokers who do not play those games.
There are other savings when it comes to health care in Panama. It costs about $50 to get your teeth cleaned. It is $1000 for a dental implant. A friend had an upper and lower eye lift in Panama City for only $2000.
You can go into any lab to order your lab work without a doctor’s prescription. I recently paid $42 for a complete lab workup. This price did reflect a 25% Pensionado discount.
This special Pensionado discount is valid for doctor visits, hospital stays, and prescription drugs. The Pensionado discount is for Panamanians, foreigners with a Pensionado Visa, or ex-pat women over 55 or men who are over 60 and have a residency Visa.
Many Americans are moving to Panama for more affordable healthcare and health insurance.
It’s unfortunate that people in the United States don’t have an affordable solution for health insurance. My healthy 38-year-old daughter would have to pay $525 per month for insurance with a $5,000 deductible at healthcare.gov. She previously had to pay a $2000 a year penalty because she refused to pay those ridiculous prices for health insurance in Texas. With a deductible that high, it is doubtful that she would ever actually get to use her insurance.
Many people in the U.S. are learning that there are very affordable health care and health insurance alternatives when they relocate to Panama.
Some doctors in Panama were educated in the United States, and some are even Board Certified in the United States. You can find any specialist in Panama that you’d find in the US too. Many Panamanian doctors speak English.
Panama doctors put the CARE back into healthcare! They will spend as much time with you as necessary to understand your health problem and carefully explain the situation along with their proposed solution.
QUALITY HOSPITALS TOO
Panama has quality hospitals too. Punta Pacifica Hospital, the Johns Hopkins International affiliate, is known as one of the most technologically advanced medical centers in Latin America.
Hospital Paitilla is affiliated with the prestigious Cleveland Clinic. San Fernando Hospital is affiliated with the well-known Tulane University Health Services Center and Hospital Clinic, Baptist Health International of Miami, and the Miami Children’s Hospital. Hospital National is run by the American Hospital Management Company, affiliated with the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the Kendall Medical Center in Florida.
Hospitals, medical centers, pharmacies, dental clinics, and labs are readily available in cities throughout Panama.
Prices for prescription drugs in Panama can be very low as well. They are priced for the local market. Unless you are buying an antibiotic or a narcotic, you will not need a prescription so you can save money on unnecessary doctor visits. CLICK HERE to get a free report of the top 50 prescriptions in the US and what they cost in Panama.
WHAT ABOUT MEDICARE OR TRICARE?
Certain Medicare Advantage plans will cover emergencies and urgent care in Panama. Our ex-pat Medicare Advantage insurance specialist can help you get the right Medicare Advantage plan.
The Canadian Health System does not provide for medical costs outside of Canada unless you’re from Ontario. Ontario has a special medical plan that will cover you for up to 7 months outside of Canada.
Retired US military veterans and 100% disabled veterans are eligible for free medical and prescriptions in Panama through the VA or Tricare. Learn more about Veteran Benefits Here
Como No? This is a popular phrase in Panama. It means WHY NOT.
With a more affordable cost of health care and health insurance plus the lower cost of living in Panama, COMO NO relocate to Panama?
It’s certainly worth checking out Panama to see how you can reduce your health care and health insurance costs. Plus, you’ll discover how you can LIVE BETTER for LESS.
Our Online Complete Panama Relocation Guide has the same information as on a 7-night Panama Relocation Tour. You’ll receive detailed information about various health insurance companies, including their direct contact information. You’ll learn about Visa options, finding a rental, where to get affordable health insurance, how to bring your pets to Panama, and much more! The Online Complete Panama Relocation Guide has information to help you do a self-guided tour of Panama, plus contacts if you’re interested in a private tour guide.
Or, if you’d prefer to check out Panama with a group of like-minded people, consider a 6-day 7-night all-inclusive Panama Relocation Tour!
As of February 2023, we’ve completed 200 relocation tours and helped many thousands of people relocate to Panama seamlessly.
We’re the Retire in Panama Experts! We have the experience you can trust and need when deciding to relocate to Panama.