Health Care Service in Panama

Most foreigners considering a move to Panama medical hospital
worry about medical care.
Quality of health insurance, medical care, medical facilities, public hospitals and private clinics are topics of interest I repeatedly encounter by serious investors. Most of these folks are retirees with concerns usually based upon staying healthy during the golden years and being prepared for an unfortunate accident or medical emergency.

I am not of retirement age yet, so I can not speak first hand about the retiree mindset. Though I can share my personal experiences concerning Panamanian medical facilities both private and public.

Try to stay out of the public facilities and go to a private clinic for any surgery or emergency care when possible is something I hear often from both foreigners and Panamanians.  The public hospitals serve best those that can not afford the private route. Economically stressed families are prevalent in Panama. The majority of the public’s only option is public hospitals and clinics. Public hospitals are nearly always crowded. Long lines of sick folks, bureaucracy and lots of nurses and doctors in training are what is found there. Not to say the public health care system is bad, just that the personal attention and patient care at a private clinic is much better. I have many Panamanian friends, poor and well-off, who have used the public system and all of them say go private if it’s with-in your budget.

I have gone to a public clinic in Chitre when I first moved here and I will admit it was a pleasant experience. When I first moved to Panama I caught a nasty flu. At the time I had no idea where to go. Luckily a good friend of mine worked in a public clinic in Chitre.  I went to the Centro de Salud and she helped me to see the doctor for consultation. When I left the bill was only $1.00! They gave me some meds at no charge and away I went.

Health care in Panama is inexpensive. As an example, we just had our first child at a private clinic in Chitre called Clinica Dr. Venancio Villareal. The Obstetrician/Gynecologist visits including ultra-sound were between $35.00 and $60.00. Fetal monitoring sessions towards the end of pregnancy were only $10.00. Four Dimensional ultra sounds are only $100.00. My wife had a planned C-section that entailed us staying at the clinic for two nights in a suite that included two beds, couch, refrigerator, snacks and three meals a day. Our entire stay, including all meds, surgery and doctors cost was just over $2,000.00. To visit a pediatrician at the same clinic for any reason is $20.00. Like most businesses or services here in the interior of Panama, or outside Panama City, the clinic and amenities are a little run down looking, not bad, just not glimmering modern, screaming expensive. The facilities were very clean. The doctors, nurses and support staff were always friendly, smiling, professional and went out of their way for the smallest requests. Plus, the food was good.

If interested in a health care experience as close to what one would experience back in the best hospitals in the United States or Europe one needs to travel to Panama City. In Panama City there are new modern hospitals such as Hospital Punta Pacífica which is a part of John Hopkins Medicine.  There are folks, including friends of mine here in the interior, that prefer to go all the way to the city for the smallest of issues. Its a personal choice. Obviously there are serious operations and treatments that require going to the city where the latest modern medical gadgets are located.

Also, medical insurance in Panama is easily available to foreigners. I choose not to have medical insurance. Once I am older I may consider it, but at this stage in life I would rather go with out. I have looked into it in the past and there are a number of options including Blue Cross and Blue Shield. As well, cash discounted pre-pay at the private clinics is an option. A quick Google search: health insurance + panama will point you in the right direction to explore medical insurance.

I have found after being down here a while my over all health and well being dramatically improved compared to living in the United States. Most every expat I know says the same thing. Im not sure what the reason is, but I know I get sick less, keep weight off and generally feel better here in Panama.

I  hope this helps give you the reader a glimpse into the medical system here in Panama.  Healthcare here is basically like any where else in the modern world, just a little less shiny and a lot less expensive.