Healthcare Costs Are One of the Reason People Move to Panama

A report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that in 2017 insurers raised premiums for plans sold through by an average of 22 percent — about triple the 7.5 percent increase from 2015 to 2016.  In some states, the premiums will go up as much as 30-100%.

Mauldin Economics recently reported The Affordable Care Act (ACA), which at this point should be renamed EECA (Excessively Expensive Care Act), is in its death throes.

Let me just recap some of the most vital facts for you:

  • A family of four making $60,000 per year could spend almost one-sixth of their pretax income on health costs (premium plus deductible) before receiving any insurance payment.
  • In 2017, insurance premiums in many states will rise by 30%-40%—further squeezing middle-class Americans who make too much to be eligible for a tax credit and too little to be able to afford the high premiums and deductibles.
  • More and more insurers throw in the towel because financial input vs. output just doesn’t add up for them. In 2016, 225 counties in the US had only one health insurance carrier in the ACA marketplace. In 2017, that number will rise to 650 counties.

Prices for health insurance just keep going up!  Many people who come on a Panama Relocation Tour report that they are spending $700 – $1000 per month EACH on health insurance with very high deductibles and less coverage every year!


With health care costs rising, more Americans than ever are choosing to move to Panama so they can significantly reduce their 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 healthcare and health insurance cost a small fraction of what they would cost in the North America.  Despite the lower costs, the quality of care is high.

A routine doctor visit is $15 to $25 in Panama.  That’s not a co-pay.  That is the total cost without insurance.  A specialist is $40 to $50.  If you need to go to the emergency room, it will set you back about $25 an hour.  These are the prices without insurance.


Many ex-pats living in Panama self-insure because the costs are so low.  They can take advantage of the public hospitals where it is only $2 to see a doctor, $5 for a specialist, and $10 a day if you are hospitalized. 

chitre panama pubic hospital
public hospital in Chitre Panama

A friend was hospitalized with a heart attack a few years ago.  After 10 days in the public hospital, his cost was less than $900 including MRIs, Cat Scans, and medications.

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.

You can get insurance that only covers you in Panama.  Or, you can get international health insurance covering you in Panama, the United States, or any other country.  These plans usually require that you are under 74 on the day you sign up but then they cover you for as long as you pay the premium.    Some insurance companies may exclude pre-existing conditions for the first year or two then cover the condition after that.

Medical care in Panama

At 65, I pay $102 per month for Panama-only health insurance. Honestly, I rarely use it because healthcare is so cheap in Panama that I just pay the $15 when I need to see a doctor – which is rare!

I previously had international health insurance for $2700 a year that 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. But when you turn 65, the international health insurance premiums go up to about $4000 a year.

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 Texas.


Another affordable option for health insurance in Panama, is a health insurance plan offered through some private hospitals.   With this insurance, there are usually no age restrictions, no deductible, and they cover pre-existing conditions after the first year.  This plan covers 80% of your costs.   But with costs so low for a doctor visit or a hospital stay, your out-of-pocket expense is still very low.

A 68-year-old woman who came on a Panama Relocation Tour then moved to David. She is paying $125 per month for this health insurance plan.  You can even get a discount if you pay 3-6 months in advance.

Most international and 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.  And they all have restrictions about how long you can back to your home country to stay insured (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 expat’s health insurance.  The insurance agents we recommend in the Online Complete Panama Relocation Guide always give you the best prices.

There are other savings when it comes to health care in Panama  It cost about $50 to get your teeth cleaned.  It is less than $1000 for a dental implant.  A friend had an upper and lower eye lift in Panama City for only $2000.  These low prices are attracting medical tourists to Panama.


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 and foreigners who have a Pensionado Visa, or foreigners who have other residency Visas who are over 55, or men who are over 60 who have a residency Visa.


It’s unfortunate that 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 per month for insurance with an $8,000 deductible at  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.

Panama doctors put the CARE back into healthcare. They will take as much time as needed to get to know you and your symptoms so they can understand what caused the problem and then create a solution for you. They take time to explain why they are prescribing medications or other courses of action. You will never see a Physician’s Assistant in Panama. You’ll always see the doctor.


Panama has quality hospitals too.  Punta Pacifica Hospital (Pacifica Salud), 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 most prescription drugs in Panama are very low. They are priced for the local market.  Some drugs will cost more in Panama but you can get them mailed to Panama if you have a more affordable source. Unless you are buying an antibiotic or a narcotic, you will not need a prescription so you can save money on unnecessary doctor visits.

Here’s an example:

A few months ago, I had to go to the emergency room because I thought I broke my elbow after a nasty fall. Four hours in the emergency room, an orthopedic doctor, two IVs of pain medications, and 6 x-rays only cost $114 – without using my insurance!

Can you imagine what that would cost where you live if you did not use insurance?


Neither the U.S. Medicare program nor the Canadian Health System provides coverage for hospital or medical costs outside the United States and Canada.

However, if you have the right Medicare Advantage plan, it covers medical emergencies in Panama.

Retired US military veterans are eligible for free medical prescriptions in Panama through either the VA or Tricare. Veterans with disabilities also have medical benefits in Panama.

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.


We’re the Retire in Panama Experts!  We’ve helped 1000s relocate to Panama! We have the experience you can trust and need when making a life-changing decision to relocate to Panama.

Come see how you can live BETTER for less in Panama!

Join us for an all-inclusive 6-day 7-night Panama Relocation Tour to see the most popular places to live, meet experts and other expats. 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! You’ll learn all the things you need to know to have a smooth hassle-free move to Panama.

See all-inclusive Tour details HERE

See available Tour dates HERE

Book a Tour HERE

Our Online Complete Panama Relocation Guide has the same information you’d get on a 7-night Panama Relocation Tour.     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.

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


  1. Duria Hudson Jr says

    Really super informative…please can you post the next Annual Veteran meeting.
    My email is [email protected]

    • Jackie Lange says

      The Veterans just had an annual meeting in September 2019. I’m not sure when the next meeting will be. It has not been scheduled.

      • Julie Green says

        Grand article Jackie!

      • Joanna says

        Hello Jackie,

        I am interested to know more information about private heath care in Panama. Cost, requirements and how to go about receiving quotes.

        • Jackie Lange says

          HI Joanne. Panama is like other countries in that you search for a doctor who does what you want done then contact them for a quote. Some doctors will say they need to see you before they can make a quote. All the hospital’s websites have a list of doctors. (note that some doctors speak English and some do not)

  2. Kim reynolds says

    Oh my! So much great info Jackie! I can say better than IL ! U hve covered so much in these sites! Wow! I am sure its PANAMA!
    Retired single lady looking for a peaceful life of no stress! 🏝

    • Jackie Lange says

      Hi Kim

      So glad you are enjoying the information on on website! Be sure to check out our YouTube channel where we have video interviews with retired single women who relocated to Panama. See

  3. Jean Henry says

    My husband and I are so excited to be coming to Panama in September 2020 and very seriously considering moving there permanently!! Can’t wait to meet you!

  4. Deborah Quinette says

    Hi Jackie , I was curious as to why you have international health insurance. I’m 69 and have Medicare Part A and B so I was thinking I could use that when I visit the US and get a separate policy for just Panama . Which idea do you think is best .

    • Jackie Lange says

      I had international health insurance before I qualified for medicare. Now I have medicare for the US and insurance for Panama. The International health insurance is much better than Medicare but it’s more expensive too.

  5. Deborah Quinette says

    Thanks Jackie , we’re moving to Panama in October and then applying for residency. Who would you recommend for me to get Panama only health insurance with ?
    Thanks again

  6. Katherine Schwadel says

    Thank you for some really clear information. I am so confused about whether my husband, who turns 80 in Nov. 2023, and I (I am 69) can move to Panama bec. it appears from your post punta pacifica hospital no longer offers coverage over age 70. Do you know if that is still the case? He has some pre existing conditions–he had a stent put in las yr after heart surgery did not work and has wet macular in his eyes. We want so much to move to Panama city from NYC (which is crazy expensive) but wonder if this is possible due to his age.
    THanks in advance :)

    • Jackie Lange says

      Hello Katherine. Punta Pacifica will treat people of any age. If you’re over 74 and/or have pre-existing conditions, it’s very hard to get Panama health insurance. A few insurance companies will write a new policy for those up to age 80. Once you have the insurance, you are covered for as long as you make the premium payments. Come on down! You can live better for less in Panama!

  7. Irene says

    Thank you Jackie!

    I ve been looking for where to go in winter for 2-3 years and now you helped me to make up my mind about Panama – I think that is where I will go this winter.

    I also wonder if you have any advice for where to stay to be close to beach and still convenient to everything else.

    Thank you
    Vancouver BC Canada

    • Jackie Lange says

      Hello Irene

      You’ll love Panama! Where to stay depends on your budget. Some beach communities are more expensive than others. Coronado/Gorgona/San Carlos are convenient to shopping and restaurants but it is the most expensive beach area. The beach communities on the eastern Azuero are 50% less and still convenient to everything. The beaches in Bocas del Toro are beautiful and convenient to restaurants and shops but getting there is more of a challenge. So, you have a lot of choices depending on your budget.

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