Health Insurance Options in Panama

medical care in panama

Health care and health insurance costs continue to go up 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 2019, annual premiums for health coverage for a family of four cost $20,576, but employers picked up 71% of that cost.  The rise in health costs may be one reason wages haven’t risen much over the past two decades.  The highest benchmark plan premium for a 27-year-old in 2020 is Wyoming’s, at $723; the lowest is New Mexico’s, at $282.4.  Deductibles can vary according to the size of the firm you work for or by the type of plan you buy on the exchanges.

If you’re a United States citizen and 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 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 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 health care system.  There are public hospitals and there are private (for profit) hospitals.

NO MONTHLY FEE – PAY AS YOU GO – PUBLIC HOSPITALS

chitre panama pubic hospital
Chitre Public Hospital

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.

Many ex-pats living 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 $1000 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 insurance which only covers you in Panama. Or, you can get international health insurance which will cover you in Panama or any other country.

As of January 2022, 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.

PANAMA ONLY INSURANCE

Panama health care and health 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 that will cover 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 insurance those who are 70 or less AND they cover up to three preexisting conditions!.    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 is not writing new policies for over 75)

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.

INTERNATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE

When I first moved to Panama, I got international health insurance with 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+.

Other international health insurance plans like Cigna, Bupa, or WorldWide Medical are even more expensive.

WorldWide Medical

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 Plans cover you for emergencies and urgent care even in Panama. You normally have to pay the cost of service upfront then file a claim to be reimbursed but in 2022 Panama Relocation Tour clients will have access to a private service (at no cost) so there will be NO upfront expense for you in the case of an emergency or urgent care.

When you turn 65, there is a huge jump in the cost of international health insurance.  My costs will go from $2500 a year to $4500 a year for worldwide coverage.

Because I have Medicare,  I switched to a Panama-only health insurance company.

I got Family Medical (see above) insurance for $102 per month and plan to drop international health insurance.  So, Family Medical will cover me in Panama, and Medicare will cover emergencies overseas and cover me in the US.  Because of the pandemic, I’ll be doing less traveling so there is really no need to have international health insurance.  I can always get travelers insurance if I decide to travel or use Medicare for emergencies worldwide.

Most Panama health insurance companies will not issue insurance until you are living 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 back 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 full time.

WARNING: In 2022, I’ve heard from several people that their international health insurance company would not pay their claim. The insurance company seems to always come up with an excuse to not pay.

Shop around for health insurance. But BEWARE that many insurance “brokers” or agents charge 30-50% more for health insurance. You’ll save money by buying your insurance directly from the company instead of using an insurance agent.

There are other savings when it comes to health care in Panama. It cost 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 own lab work without a doctor’s prescription. I recently paid $42 for a complete lab workup. This price did reflect a 25% Pensionado discount.

Eye Exam in Panama

This special Pensionado discount is valid for doctor visits, hospital stays, and prescription drugs. The Pensionado discount is for Panamanians, those with a Pensionado Visa or ex-pat women who are over 55 or men who are over 60 who 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

punta pacifica hospital panama

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, which is 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?

Veteran Benefits

Certain Medicare plans will cover emergencies and urgent care in Panama. Our ex-pat Medicare insurance specialist can help you get the right Medicare plan.

The Canadian Health System does not provide for medical costs outside of Canada.

Retired US military veterans and 100% disabled veterans are eligible for free medical and prescriptions in Panama through either 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 for 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.

Panama Relocation Guide

Our Online Panama Relocation Guide has the same information that you’d get 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 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 April 2022, we’ve completed 170 relocation tours and have 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 making a life-changing decision to relocate to Panama.

Jackie Lange

Jackie Lange is the founder of Panama Relocation Tours and lives in the highlands of Boquete Panama. She has helped thousands of people relocate to Panama.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Todd Schrauf says

    Started to respond and hit enter by delete. So here I go again. Thanks so much for an excellent article with great info. Health insurance is outrageously expensive here in the U.S. We currently pay about $15,000 per year without having any really serious issues. Next year it will be over $6,000 more per year because my Cobra coverage for my wife (who is too young for medicare) expires and the deductible goes from $800 per year to $7,000 per year for her (I am on Medicare). I have also noticed that the care I receive is lower now that I am on Medicare than with my previous employer’s insurance, probably because the doctor gets paid less for seeing me than before. We had hoped to move to Panama this year but are still hoping to next year.

    By the way when we lived in Peru I found that medical care was similar to what you describe in Panama, much more personal and way less expensive. A week long hospital stay in a private clinic with testing, surgery, and a private room cost only $4,000 before insurance ($400 after insurance). One surgeon visited me every day in the morning and the other every day in the afternoon during my stay. Doctors also did house calls.

    • Jackie Lange says

      Panama doctors put the CARE back in to healthcare!

  2. Frederica Murray-Crews says

    Are pre-existing conditions like cancer covered? My cancer is currently in remission. I’m 62 years old and looking to move to Panama in 2021.

    Thank you

    • Jackie Lange says

      You would need to contact the insurance companies to determine if they would cover you. I’m sure it depends on all kinds of variables, like what kind of cancer, how long ago, what treatments were done, etc

      • Melody says

        Hi Jackie, just wondering if this doctor would still be your first choice as we’ll be looking for an eye doctor during our stay? Or is there one closer to David? Thanks

        • Jackie Lange says

          Dr. Arosemena is my first choice. I do not have any personal recommendations for eye doctors in David.

  3. Frederica Murray-Crews says

    Yes, I’ll do that. Thank you!

  4. peggyfarren says

    Thank you so much for this really informative article! The cost of healthcare in the US was the main reason I started looking to live in another country. I looked at several countries but Panama seems to have my name on it! I’m in the process of trying to sell everything and get there!

    • Jackie Lange says

      Health insurance and health care are affordable in Panama!

  5. Gerri says

    Are you able to share where you got lens replacement surgery? We’re not ready to move to Panama yet but I’ve tried investigating medical tourism and it’s been difficult to find reliable information. Cost for lens replacement surgery here in FL is $11,000 (!) which is far more than what I see they charge in other countries. Thanks for all the great info you share!

    • Jackie Lange says

      Dr. Arosemena at www. EyeDoctorPanama.com He speaks very good English and is an excellent doctor!! If I remember right, it was $1800 for the lens replacement a few years ago.

  6. Kate A Waters says

    Jackie,
    Excellent article; really well explained. I have a question though, what is the “MS” insurance you are referring to? And I had also heard about “catastrophic insurance”? My thing is I
    although I will be 67 when I plan on arriving, I am basically healthy, never been hospitalized (except maternity), on no medications and the only insurance I use here is the VA (vet but not retired), and dental through work. So, I would prefer to pay out of pocket but have something for an emergency.

    Thank you

    • Jackie Lange says

      MS-Panama changed its name to Family Medical.

  7. Jean Holness says

    Hi Jackie, my question is unrelated to health insurance coverage. I meant to ask before but forget. I do not think that I have heard any discussion about the cost of property taxes, like when someone purchase a home. Property taxes is high in New York, I would like to get an Idea. Thank You.

    • Jackie Lange says

      most properties have no property taxes for the first 20 years, then it is a very low taxing system.

  8. Milka Velazquez says

    I am planning to relocate in Panama in 2024 when I will be 70 years old. I see I may have a problem with private Health insurance. The first one only accepts to 65 and the second one says 70 and later75?
    Once you are accepted will they cover for the rest of your life or not? Also I may expend some time in Uruguay as retiree and can afford (it seems) international plan. Please advice and thank you!!!

  9. Mark P Koontz says

    I watched a video of “private vs public” medical care in Mexico. In the video the public care looked like the DMV in California (crowded & full of sad looking people).
    Can you describe what “public care” looks like when need an appendectomy or have a broken hand? <– Something that needs more than a pill.

    • Jackie Lange says

      every hospital is different. Many are modern new hospitals and not crowded. But some, especially in Panama City, are older and crowded.

  10. Kelly Karl says

    Hi Jackie, Thanks for the great information. I am 68 and pretty healthy. My husband at 78 has macular degeneration for which he gets a shot in his eye, has had triple bypass surgery and a stent and had stage one larynx cancer many years ago. We were really wanting to move out of the US to Panama however I am guessing there is no way with his health issues he could get coverage from one of the private companies. Would you agree? I also read that some companies say they will cover you then do not. Is Panama just not feasible for a retirees like us?

    • Jackie Lange says

      Panama is still very feasible but your husband would not be able to get health insurance. If you’re a US citizen, get a Medicare Advantage plan because it will cover urgent care or medical emergencies in Panama. You can use the public healthcare system to keep costs low. But even the costs for private healthcare could be much lower than the costs in the US.

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