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 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 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 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-exising condition. You’ll pay about $2 to see a doctor or $5 for a 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 expats living in Panama use the pubic 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 kind of prices, you can see why many expats 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
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.
MS-PANAMA is one of few insurance companies that has 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. MS-PANAMA may exclude some pre-existing conditions the first year or two then cover then at 50% after that. See their brochure in English here. MS-Panama offers family discounts. Their costs are very reasonable:
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 65, 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.