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.
An “expat” is the nickname for an expatriate or someone who has moved from their home country to a foreign country. In Panama, we have a lot of expats from many different countries. Some make a smooth transition to living in Panama but unfortunately some do not.
I’d like to tell you the true story of two different expat couples to illustrate how to make the transition to living in Panama easier and how to avoid some pitfalls too.
Expat Couple #1 came on a Panama Relocation Tour. They spent 6-days touring Panama during an all-inclusive tour all while learning:
♦ which reliable and affordable attorney to use to get your Visa in a week
♦ what their Visa options are, which one is the best fit, and why they need a Visa
♦ how to find a rental & what not to do when renting
♦ which questions to ask and what to check out before renting
♦ how to bring their pets in to Panama (and get them out of other countries)
♦ how to save 30%-50% on health insurance
♦ how to get a Panama driver’s license
♦ what to do if you get pulled over by the police in Panama
♦ how to bring precious metals in to Panama
♦ the unique micro climates in Panama
♦ which towns/elevation have their ideal temperature
♦ which towns are the most affordable yet still offer the amenities you need
♦ what NOT TO DO and what to AVOID
♦ and much more!
Because they took a Panama Relocation Tour, they were completely prepared when they moved to Panama. They know what to do, when to do it, and how to relocate to Panama so the whole transition was smooth and easy.
Instead of renting a car then driving around Panama, those who take a Panama Relocation Tour get to sit back and relax in a very comfortable bus while our professional driver takes care of the driving.
Expat Couple #2 did not have such a pleasant experience. They did not go on a Panama Relocation Tour. Before moving to Panama, they did spend a week driving around Panama to decide where they wanted to live and talking to as many expats as they could find. But they had no clue how to get things done once they moved to Panama. They purchased a used car in Panama City when they arrived in Panama the second time. Little did they know that it is better to buy a car close to where you want to live because they will have to go back to Panama City every year to get their annual registration OR pay a lot of money to get their registration moved to the city where they live.
Next, they drove to Boquete where they rented a house after seeing an ad online. They signed a one-year lease by email, paid a $1000 security deposit through paypal, then paid the first month’s rent when they arrived. After a month of living in the house, they realized they made a big mistake. The metal roof is extremely noisy when it rains. To make matters worse, their neighbors have 6 dogs who bark all the time and roosters too. So, after a month, they moved to a different house (losing their $1000 security deposit because they broke their lease).
They paid $2000 to an attorney in David to get their Pensionado (retiree) Visa. But, unlike Expat Couple #1, instead of getting their Visa in a week, it has been 2 months and they still don’t have their temporary Visa let alone their permanent Visa. It is very possible that the attorney just took their money but they will never get a Visa. Yes, that can happen in Panama.
Expat Couple #2 went to one of the most expensive insurance brokers in Panama to get their car insurance and their health insurance. They paid WAY too much for both. This alone cost them an additional $3000! It is so sad. By the way, it is better not to use an insurance broker when buying health insurance in Panama.
After another month in Panama, Expat Couple #2 does not like the second house they rented either. They decided the weather is too cold and windy in that area even though they love the house and the views. They paid $800 for the security deposit and signed a one-year lease. They will lose another $800 if they move out early.
Now, in total frustration, Expat Couple #2 is moving back to the United States after being in Panama just a few months. They lost $1000 on their first rental, they will not get their $800 security deposit back on the second rental, they lost $2000 paying the wrong attorney to get a Visa, and they will likely lose $3,000 to $5000 when they sell their car. They will not be able to get a refund on the extremely expensive health insurance they purchased.
Luckily, they did not rush in to buying real estate. They would have lost even more money if they tried to sell the house quickly. And they did not ship down their household goods to Panama since the houses they rented were completely furnished.
It’s too bad they did not take a Panama Relocation Tour because they could have saved all the frustration and avoided losing all that money too. During a Tour, we educate people about how to avoid all these costly mistakes and how to get everything done an easier and more affordable way.
You don’t know what you don’t know! Mistakes can be expensive.
A Panama Relocation Tour is not an expense, it is a WISE INVESTMENT in your future life in Panama. If you’re considering relocating to or retiring in Panama, you should consider taking a Panama Relocation Tours to avoid ending up like Expat Couple #2. We still have a few spaces available for 2018 Tours.
To Life in Paradise,
P.S. Next Article – Amazing Incentives for Agriculture Businesses in Panama.
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.