On Saturday, November 17th, I had some technical difficulties with a Facebook Live so I quickly switched to a Live Conference Call instead. This is the replay of the conference call to discuss the quality and availability of health care in Panama. I also discussed the various options for affordable health insurance in Panama. Some people self-insure in Panama because the costs are so affordable. Some people have health insurance which only covers then in Panama. And some people have international health insurance. I have United Healthcare international health insurance which covers me in any country.
In a recent report, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that in 2017 insurers will raise the premiums for plans sold through HealthCare.gov 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.
With 10,000 people turning 65 every day in the United States, the share of the US population aged 65+ grows—from 47 million today to 72 million by 2030, a 60% increase—more and more money will be spent on healthcare, ultimately suffocating the already weakened US economy.
SO, WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?
With health care cost 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. 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 United States. Despite the lower costs, the quality of care is high.
A routine doctor visit is $10 to $20 in Panama. That’s not a co-pay. That is the total cost without insurance. A specialist is $30 to $40. If you need to go to the emergency room, it will set you back $25 an hour. These are the prices without insurance.
No monthly fee for the public hospitals & no age restrictions!
Many expats 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. A friend was hospitalized with a heart attack a few months ago. After 10 days in the public hospital, his cost was less than $1000 including MRIs, Cat Scans, and medications.
But, 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 which only covers you in Panama. Or, you can get international health insurance which will cover 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.
I have international health insurance with United Healthcare. At 64, I pay $2200 a year with a $500 deductible then I’m covered covered 100%. International health insurance means I’m covered at any hospital or doctor in Panama or the United States or any other country
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 in Panama, I have had two more eye surgeries including a lens replacement. Insurance covered 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.
No age restrictions available too!
Another affordable option for health insurance in Panama, is a medical reimbursement plan through Pan American Life Insurance. With this insurance, there is no age restrictions, no deductible, and they cover pre-existing conditions after the first year. This plan covers 85% 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 my tour then moved to Boquete is paying $82 a month for the medical reimbursement plan with Pan American. You can get a discount if you pay for 3-6 months in advance.
Some 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. And they will have have restrictions about how long you can back in your home country to stay insured. So, you cannot buy insurance in Panama at the much lower price then move back to the United States full time.
Shop around for health insurance. And beware that many insurance “brokers” charge 30-40% more for health insurance. You’ll save money by buying your insurance directly from the company instead of using an insurance broker.
There are other savings when it comes to health care in Panama It cost about $30 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 $2200. These low prices are attracting medical tourist to Panama.
You can go in to any lab to order your own lab work without a doctor 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 or expat women who are over 55 or men who are over 60.
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 34-year-old daughter would have to pay $297 per month for insurance with a $6,000 deductible under Obamacare. Or she can pay a $1100 a year penalty for not having insurance then pay out of pocket for healthcare. With a deductible that high, it is doubtful that she would ever actually get to use her insurance so it just makes more sense to pay the penalty for not subscribing to Obamacare.
Many people in the U.S. don’t know how bad and how expensive health care is in the United States or that there are very affordable alternatives when they live in Panama.
Many of the 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.
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?
Neither the U.S. Medicare program nor the Canadian Health System provides coverage for hospital or medical costs outside the United States and Canada. Some expats keep these plans then have an additional Panama only plan to keep their costs down. Others decide to just get international health insurance then opt-out of Medicare.
US military veterans and disabled veterans are eligible for free medical and prescriptions in Panama.
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.
Join us for a Panama Relocation Tour to discover what your life could be like living in Panama. During the tour, you’ll receive detailed information about various health insurance companies including their direct contact information. Plus, during a tour you get to visit many different areas in Panama and meet expats who live there.
To see a general doctor in Panama you can just walk in to the office, no appointment is necessary. You may have to wait 5 minutes to see the doctor. The cost will be about $15 in Boquete or $25 if you live in Coronado or Panama City.
For a specialist, you need an appointment but they can usually see you within 48 hours. You could call their office to get an appointment but the receptionist will usually only speak Spanish. If you don’t know Spanish, you’ll need to get a friend to make the appointment for you.
You can send a WHATSAPP message to the doctor’s cell phone to make the appointment. Most doctors publish their cell phone numbers in Panama.
During the September tour I got an eye infection the day before the tour started. It got progressively worse during the tour but there was not much I could do about it because I was busy with the tour group.
I sent a WHATSAPP message to my ophthalmologist in Panama City telling him about the problem and asked what I could do. He asked me to send him a photo of my eye which I did via WHATSAPP. Then he prescribed some eye drops to take. I picked up the drops at a pharmacy during a tour stop.
Many doctors in Panama speak fluent English.
But after 2 days of taking the medication, my eye was getting worse and I was in a lot of pain. Once again I sent a photo to my eye doctor in Panama City. He recommended that I either come to see him right away or see an ophthalmologist in David Panama. He sent two recommendations for doctors in David including their cell phone number.
During the tour I sent a message via WHATSAPP to one of the doctors asking if he could see me the next day. I explained the problem. He replied back within 5 minutes and asked me to send him a photo of my eye, which I did. He checked with his receptionist then scheduled me for 4pm the next day. I arrived at his office in Hospital Chiriqui about 3 and was seen in a few minutes. He did a thorough eye exam then prescribed different eye drops. I was in and out in less than 30 minutes. The cost was $32 which I paid out of pocket even though I have insurance.
Since then, the ophthalmologist in David has followed up with me two times via WHATSAPP to see how I was doing. And my ophthalmologist in Panama City has also followed up via WHATSAPP.
I rarely get sick since moving to Panama.
But a few weeks ago, I could feel the flu coming on so I went to my doctor in Boquete. She prescribed antibiotics and other medications and told me if I’m not feeling better in 3 days to let her know. I was not feeling better so I sent her a WHATSAPP message on a Sunday. She replied right back a few minutes later that she wanted me to come to her office at 8:30am the next day so she could see me before other patients arrived. She put me on a stronger medication and gave me a neubilier to use 3 times a day. She also followed up using WHATSAPP to check on my status. By the way, the total cost of the doctor visits and all medications was $82!
Doctors put the CARE back in to healthcare in Panama!
WHATSAPP is widely used by everyone in Panama. It’s a free app that allows you to make calls, send text, send audio messages and share photos.. all for free. You can even call or text friends and family in other countries if they have WHATSAPP downloaded too. You will need wifi to use WHATSAPP
Before coming to Panama make sure you download WHATSAPP to your phone. It will be very useful even if you don’t need to make a doctor appointment. Learn more here https://www.whatsapp.com/features/