Health Insurance Options in Panama

medical care in panama

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.  However, Medicare does not cover 100% of your healthcare costs in the United States, and out-of-pocket expenses keep going up and up.

If you have the right Medicare Advantage Plan, it DOES cover you in Panama for urgent care and emergencies but currently, you must pre-pay at most hospitals then file a claim.

SO, WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?

Many Americans are moving to Panama to significantly reduce their living costs, including lower health care and health insurance costs.

In Panama, healthcare expenses are based on the local cost of living, much lower than in the United States or Canada. 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 for only $2 to see a doctor.

Panama has a two-tier healthcare system.  There are public hospitals and 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, no age restriction, and 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 on a Panama Relocation Tour had emergency surgery at a public hospital in Chitre. She stayed in the hospital for six days, and the total cost was $150.

Many ex-pats in Panama use the public health care system instead of buying health insurance.

santiago panama public hospital
Santiago Hospital

A neighbor was hospitalized at the public hospital in David after having a heart attack. After ten 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 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 in Panama or any other country.

Panama insurance companies require 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 it when you can. 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.  Buying health insurance directly from the insurance company is better because “some” insurance agents in Panama will add 40-50% to the costs. I encountered that problem when an insurance broker in Boquete wanted to charge my son $2000 more than buying directly from the insurance company. Luckily, five honest insurance brokers in the Online Complete Panama Relocation Guide don’t play those games.

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.

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 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 – $51.98 per month
40-49 – $71.18 per month
50-59 – $94.30 per month
60-69 – $117.30 per month
70-75 – $146.25 per month (currently, Panama insurance companies are not writing new policies for those over 74) But don’t worry, we have another solution for those over 75, and it’s excellent insurance)

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 usually does not cover the cost of medications. Some medications cost less in Panama, but some cost more. Some medications are not available in Panama. It would help if you determined the cost and availability of medications in Panama before deciding to move there.

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.

PANAMA CITY HEALTH INSURANCE

If you move to Panama City, you’ll have access to health insurance through several different hospitals. The Santa Fe Hospital senior health insurance plan has no age restriction!! Santa Fe Hospital is also more lenient about accepting new clients with pre-existing conditions. These are their prices for health insurance:

60-69 143.74
70-79 175.58
80-89 198.62
90 or more 231.60
*The premiums include the 15% retiree discount

LEARN MORE HERE (this webpage is only in Spanish, so you may need to open it in Chrome or another platform to translate it into English)

We have a team in Panama City who can accompany you to Santa Fe Hospital to help you get health insurance.

The insured will always be responsible for the copayment amounts corresponding to the service provided according to what is specified in the Table of Benefits. It indicates the respective procedures and copays; here are some sample co-payments:

SERVICES COPAYMENT
General medicine 5.00
Specialist 15.00
Consultation with a psychiatrist 20.00
Electrocardiogram 15.00
Laboratory and x-ray 25%
cat fifty%
Urgency 50.00
Ambulatory surgery 200.00
Ambulance (metropolitan area transport only) 50.00
Accident does not pay
Hospitalization 350.00 upon admission
(30% of all charges after the sixth day)
(50% of all charges from the twelfth day)
Laboratory tests and X-rays as an outpatient must always be ordered by an affiliated physician who has seen the insured in a medical consultation.

Santa Fe Hospital-insured will get a 25% discount on all medications.

INTERNATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE

When I moved to Panama, I got WorldWide Medical international health insurance through United Healthcare. At 64, I pay $2500 a year with a $500 deductible, and 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.

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 at about $1400 a year! 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.

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 that in the United States.

Even though I have no plans to return 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 must 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 six months maximum. So, you cannot buy insurance in Panama at a much lower price and 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.

SAVE MORE!

There are other savings when it comes to health care in Panama. It costs about $50 to get your teeth cleaned, and a dental implant costs $600. A friend had an upper and lower eye lift in Panama City for only $2000.

You can order lab work without a doctor’s prescription at any lab. I recently paid $42 for a complete lab workup, which reflected 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.

Unfortunately, people in the United States don’t have an affordable solution for health insurance. My healthy 40-year-old daughter would have to pay $525 monthly 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 high deductible, it is doubtful that she would ever 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 were board-certified. 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 and their proposed solution.

QUALITY HOSPITALS TOO

Panama has quality hospitals. Punta Pacifica Hospital, the Johns Hopkins International affiliate, is one of Latin America’s most technologically advanced medical centers.

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?

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 cover medical costs outside of Canada unless you’re from Ontario. Ontario has a unique medical plan covering 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 more affordable health care and health insurance plus the lower cost of living in Panama, COMO NO relocate to Panama?

It’s 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 like-minded people, consider a 6-day 7-night all-inclusive Panama Relocation Tour! 

Since 2010, we’ve helped thousands of people relocate to Panama seamlessly.

We’re the Panama Relocation Experts!

We have the experience you can trust!

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!

      • Isabel Fawcett says

        Hello, Ms, Lange. I am a Panamanian living in the US and am planning to retire to Panama depending on health, dental and vision insurance costs. All of the insurers are explicit in stating that the coverage is for American Expats. I am not an American. Can you point me in the right direction to a company that covers Panamanians living in the US who want to retire in Panama City?

        • Jackie Lange says

          Isabel. the health insurance options we mentioned are for anyone, not just American expats. You can contact any Panama insurance agent to see what your insurance options are.

  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.

    • Richard Williams says

      What if an 81 year old in good health wanted to move to panama(pensionado); could I get health insurance from anyone? How much would it cost?

      • Jackie Lange says

        Hello Richard. At 81, you can get health insurance through Santa Fe Hospital in Panama City. It will cost about $200 a month. But it would mean that you need to live near Panama City

        • JOSEPH SIMMS says

          Hi Jackie, What is the best option for health insurance if we are visiting
          Panama for a month or two ? Thanks Joe

          • Jackie Lange says

            Hi Joe. Get travelers insurance. Check out insuremytrip.com or worldtrips.com

  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.

      • Kelly Karl says

        Thank you for your reply…sorry I missed it.
        Is there a broker we can call?
        Also we have traditional medicare (A&B), not advantage and are not able to switch. Does traditional medicare not work for panama in the cases you cited?
        Regards,
        Kelly

        • Jackie Lange says

          traditional medicare will not work in Panama. You would need a special Medicare Advantage plan that can cover urgent care and emergencies in Panama. You can switch to Medicare Advantage.

          We have a list of recommended insurance brokers in the Complete Panama Relocation Guide https://panamarelocationtours.com/guide

  11. bud says

    hello i really need some help, I moved to panama now about a year ago and i just turned 21 this september , I’m from the USA and I would like to know what my options are on insurance in panama at my age , I don’t know what I’m doing , I don’t know much about health insurance

    • Jackie Lange says

      HI Bud

      You can contact any insurance broker in Panama to get a list of options and prices.

  12. Nick Arnsby says

    Hi Jackie, I’m a big fan of your work and really appreciate all your videos :D
    My wife and I are very motivated to move to Panama within 24 months.
    I’m a 49 UK expat currently living in Dubai. Six years ago I had a stroke (very unexpected!), now recovered but taking the usual 3 ‘maintenance’ medicines after such an event (cozaar, clopidogrel, statin).

    Do you think I would I be able to secure medical insurance? and any advice?

    very best
    Nick

    • Jackie Lange says

      HI Nick. I’m sorry to hear you had a stroke. You would probably not be able to get Panama-only health insurance, but there are two international health insurance options you could qualify for.

  13. Hans Snoek says

    I am Dutch…yeahhhhh….living in Spain…Panamenian wife…We are thinking of emigrating to Panama. Feeling uncomfortable with the administrative part. (health insurance, visa etc) We are around 68 years young. Any tips?
    Regards
    Hans

    • Dustin Lange says

      Hallo Hans! Absolutely, we have many tips. You can find them in our Complete Panama Relocation Guide. The guide is available online and includes all of the same information we share during our group tours about how to make a smooth move to Panama. It even contains all of our trusted contacts for immigration, real estate, insurance, and more. You can purchase it here: https://panamarelocationtours.com/guide.

  14. george melcher says

    Hello Jackie, does Mapfre also require a vaccination, did not get, do not want shot. What options do i have. will be getting guide soon. Want to thank you for all your hard work and others in your team. Watch all videos. stuck in Philly one more year.

    • Jackie Lange says

      HI George

      Mapfre and ALL Panama insurance companies require that you are fully vaccinated for Covid. International health insurance companies do not have that requirement. We have several international insurance companies recommended in the Online Guide https://panamarelocationtours.com/guide

      • george melcher says

        Thank you for getting back.

  15. Thomas Brines says

    I also am not vaccinated nor want to be for covid. What are my insurance choices as I am 78 years old with good health. Looking forward to our tour later this year.
    Thanks

    • Jackie Lange says

      Thomas

      There are no Panama “only ” health insurance options for non-vaccinated or for someone who is 78. You can use the public hospitals. If you’re a US citizen, Medicare Advantage covers emergency medical care in Panama.

  16. Komi says

    Hi Jackie, I’m thankful I found this article. It’s so awesome that you are still replying to comments years after you wrote this article. Thank you for passion to help others and being such an excellent resource for us. I’m currently here in Panama as a medical companion for my mom who was sent here by her insurance company from SXM the Dutch part. I live in Dallas and have been out of the county for quite some time so my insurance lapsed with Blue Cross Blue Shield now I’m uninsured and have to wait until open enrollment to reapply. I decided to get some labs while here and a scan of my thyroid and now I require further testing for my thyroid. I wish I found your article before I spent $586 at the Panama clinic for bloodwork and a thyroid ultrasound. I’m 40 and I’m looking for coverage for further testing do you reckon I go to one of the public hospitals you listed since I probably won’t get coverage? Or is there a way for me to get coverage and continue at the Panama Clinic?

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