The simple answer is that physicians, surgeons and private hospitals in Panama expect to be paid. If you cannot confirm health insurance coverage, show a bag full of $$$ or credit cards with a sufficient limit to cover the bill……..you may be denied treatment. Foreigners in Panama have died waiting for surgery, because they could not show an ability to pay. At the very least, you should have some type of “air evac” coverage that might return you to your country of origin.
You may not wish to use the Panama Government facilities or may be delayed in receiving treatment behind Panamanians needing medical services.
Panama has invested heavily in the their public hospitals, including the Santo Thomas facility on Avenida Balboa and the regional Govt. health centers. Physicians in Panama are well trained, most doctors speak English and you should eventually receive competent attention. If you don’t mind hearing “we don’t have that medication”, “take a seat and wait your turn” or do not have a problem watching a criminal with “cedula” and a bullet wound cut in front of you…..then you may be satisfied utilizing Panama’s socialized medical facilities. Although I take great comfort knowing it’s there, I have paid Panama Seguro Social for over 30 years and never used it……..I have private health insurance!
Outpatient treatment is very reasonable ranging from $5 a visit for a general practitioner in the inner city/countryside, to $50 for a specialist in a private clinic.
I don’t know where the internet myth of “full medical coverage” in Panama for $50/month came from. Someone please show me that policy and I will sell it! There are several low cost PPO’s and even policies with international coverage available from local Panama insurance companies. If you are over 62, taking medication or have preexisting conditions…..they may not accept you. You will have to pay for and take/pass a physical exam/labs to qualify.
There are several “prepaid medical” schemes offered by hospitals in Panama and David. While the “premiums?” are low, so are the benefits. Do the math…….a serious operation, anesthesiologist, surgeons fees, followed by intensive care unit, will consume the limits of protection in a short time. These “service contracts” between you and the hospital are NOT insurance policies.
If you are looking to save money…….pay outpatient visits, lab work and exams out of your own pocket. Acquire a legitimate “catastrophic” policy, with a high deductible from an established insurance company to cover the life & death situations……you will sleep better at night.
I have had the unpleasant task of paying hospital bills for clients who have become ill, injured or died in Panama. It is not uncommon for a hospitalization/surgery and follow up treatment to cost $50,000+. My recent appendicitis/peritonitis surgery + hospitalization for one week cost $9,000.
After a horrible automobile accident, surgery + hospitalization one of my clients was denied the body of his deceased wife for cremation, until he guaranteed payment of her $65,000 hospital bill. He had a USA health insurance policy that delayed coordination/payment! (not with me)
Get proper coverage! You do not want to depend on Panamanian Government or the generosity of strangers to save your life!
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