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 over 65, you probably have Medicare. But Medicare does not cover 100% of the costs of your health care and out-of-pocket expenses keep going up and up.
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 $12, 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
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.
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
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 MS-Panama.
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 have no age restrictions. They cover 80% of your non-emergency medical costs and 100% of emergency costs. If you are over 65, they will require you to get an EKG and lab work. FAMILY MEDICAL may exclude some preexisting conditions the first year or two then cover them at 50% after that. 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
80+ – $180 per month
Some of the hospitals in Panama have their own health insurance plans like Santa Fe Insurance which is $130 per month
INTERNATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE
Since moving to Panama, I’ve had international health insurance with United Healthcare through IMGLOBAL Medical Insurance. 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 the United States or any other country. When you are 65+ the prices go up substantially for international health insurance.
Other international health insurance plans like Cigna, Bupa, or WorldWide Medical are even more expensive.
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 Texas.
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.
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 $4000 a year for worldwide coverage. Because I have Medicare, I switched to an international plan that EXCLUDES the United States and that brought my costs down to $3000 a year for international health insurance which covers 100% after my $500 deductible.
I also got Family Medical (see above) insurance for $102 per month and plan to drop international health insurance when it expires. 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
WHAT ABOUT MEDICARE OR TRICARE?
Certain Medicare plans will cover emergencies and urgent care in Panama.
The Canadian Health System does not provide for medical costs outside of Canada.
Retired US military veterans and 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.
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 August 2021, we’ve completed 145 relocation tours and have helped more than 1800 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.