This is our 9th year of offering Panama Relocation Tours. In all that time, we’ve only had very few minor medical situations until the February 2019 tour when we had two major medical emergencies which required visits to a hospital emergency room. I’m sharing details about these two emergencies so you can see the costs and quality of the care received at a public hospital and with doctors in Panama.
In Panama, there are public hospital and private hospitals. The private hospitals cost more. At the private hospitals, you’ll pay $15 – $20 for a routine doctor visit or $40 to $50 for a specialists.
But, the public hospitals are much more affordable. Anyone can use the public hospitals. There is no monthly fee to use the public hospitals, instead, you just pay when you go. It is typically about $2 for a routine doctor visit or $5 for a specialists at a public hospital. Interestingly, the doctors who work at the private hospitals are required to work a certain number of hours each week at the public hospitals so you could see the same doctor, but for a fraction of the costs, if you go to public hospital. However, unless it is an emergency situation, you might wait longer to see a doctor at a public hospital than a private hospital.
I have been to the small public hospital in Boquete for physical therapy a few times after messing up my shoulder with a weird yoga move called the Five Rites. Even though I had an appointment at a specific time, I had to wait about 20-30 minutes for my treatment. The doctor spoke perfect English and my treatment was $5. The results were great!
Some expats who live in Panama decide to “self insure” (meaning they do not buy health insurance) because the costs of health care is so affordable at the public hospitals. Instead of paying a health insurance premium, some expats set that money aside for any medical expenses. You’ll understand why when you see the costs below.