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Health Care Quality and Price

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1/19/2019 14:46 EST

Just yesterday, a lady who came on a Panama Relocation Tour, and who lives just down the road from me, fell and broke her wrist. Another neighbor took her to Hospital Mae Lewis in David which is 30 minutes South of Boquete. This is how she explained her experience:

The service and care that I got at that hospital was absolutely phenomenal. I walked in at within five minutes I walked into the triage room and then about five minutes after that I had my x-rays and 10 minutes after that I saw the orthopedic surgeon and he put a cast on me and set an appointment for me for a month from now gave me my pain med prescriptions, which I was able to go and fill right there at the hospital pharmacy.

She was an x-ray technician in the US and said that Mae Lewis has better x-ray equipment then she had in the departments in California.

TOTAL COST, without insurance, was $212 for the ER and $30 for pain medications.

READ THIS ARTICLE to Learn More About Panama's Quality and Affordable Heathcare

1/25/2019 10:23 EST

One thing’s for sure... hospitals are full of hypocrats! ;^)

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1/25/2019 07:29 EST

I have had some friends who went to the private hospitals and didn't have credit cards sufficient for the private hospital so they were shipped to the Social Security Hospital. One was emergency and the other just went there on her own steam, non emergency, so they don't turn you away at the Social Security Hospitals, but they will at the Private Hospitals. They should post the Hippocratic Oath at the Private Hospitals in the Emergency Entrance.

1/24/2019 22:10 EST

Jonoyakker, that was not true in my friends cases. One does not even have residency status, and he still got non-Emergency surgery at a Ss hospital, You can pay into social security if you desire and reduce your share of the medical costs. I think it is about 7% of your income, but I am not an expert on thst.

1/24/2019 21:47 EST

Medical in PC and at the beaches is very good. I assume anyone that does not feel the same, does live in the coronado area or close to the city!

Tmamato, Did you mean to say "doesn't live" in the Coronado area or close to the city?

1/24/2019 11:24 EST

Medical in PC and at the beaches is very good. I assume anyone that does not feel the same, does live in the coronado area or close to the city!

allianz international health insurance

For expats in Panama, choosing an expat health insurance provider is an important decision. Get a quote from our partner, Allianz Care. Their plans ensure that you have access to quality healthcare whenever you need it. Allianz Care's flexible solutions allow you to tailor your cover to meet your needs and budget.

Get a Quote

1/24/2019 09:55 EST

Ooops mi culpe, I replied to another tread, guess I just wanted to use “my pleasure” today? Carajo

1/24/2019 09:32 EST

If that was addressed to me? “My pleasure“, I seldom use that expression but if it’s about a post I don’t want to go back to on my iPhone, I say again “my pleasure”
Saludos amigos de Chagres, sonrisas

1/24/2019 08:36 EST

Thank you for this post. I've begun to believe Panama has the same problems as Costa Rica where I now live.

1/24/2019 02:35 EST

Yeah, that jives with what I have heard...the doctors are great, the nurses and support staff, not so much. Several years ago, I started to apply for private insurance through Santa Fe hospital, and they were always bumbling something...I finally asked myself, why would I want to be affiliated with this mess? That memory helped me make the decision to go to Medellin for hernia surgery.

1/24/2019 02:30 EST

I am curious about something that I have heard...that expats, unless they have paid into CSS, are only eligible for emergency services?

1/23/2019 19:31 EST

It is the same doctors at the Social Security Hospitals as at the Private Hospitals. They all have to take a turn at the Social Security Hospitals in order to receive Social Security when they retire. The equipment at the Social Security Hospitals is hand-me-downs from the private hospitals, and they don't have the nursing staff that the private hospitals do. My friend brought his girlfriend in to be his nurse for his 10 day stay having his gall bladder removed 10 years ago. He is still around today and says that his 10 day stay only cost him $600 and he had a great experience at the Social Security Hospital. Your experience may differ............

1/23/2019 18:57 EST

I know people in my town who had surgeries at the social security hospital here and have only good things to say about their experiences.
On the other hand, I know a man who went to a big hospital in Miami for tests and came out paralyzed and speechless. This horrible medical malfeasance destroyed his body for three years, until he just passed away recently.

1/23/2019 13:08 EST

My experience with dental work in Marbella was unsatisfactory.
Yes, like so many they tout " trained in the US , or Europe etc," but that means little.
I thought I got a professional root canal until my dentist in calif. noted on his xrays the several bits of root 'missed' by the endodontist.
On another related note, my colonoscopy at St Vincente in rio negro
Colombia was great !!
Not sure I would have that procedure in Panama.
Knew a old timer in casco viejo who had prostrate surgery and his bladder was compromised so he had to have a bottle strapped to his leg. Can happen anywhere, yes, but it did happen in panama...public health system, not private.

1/23/2019 10:57 EST

My wife has had to attend the emergency room a couple of times in the two highest rated Panama City private hospitals. And the lauded inexpensive healthcare costs I would say are in comparison primarily to US healthcare which is extremely costly.

I was actually surprised by how expensive things were coming from Europe and spending time in Asia after reading a ton of positive reviews.

Cheap it is not and my experience in Colombia which is next door was that its much cheaper there. In Panama an Emergency room visit in the night, early emergency morning surgery and a couple of hours recovery was $9.5k. Surgeon and the staff in the room were fantastic but rest of the process and admin staff were horrible with a bunch of serious issues. And yes it required a guarantee on a credit card before they would do anything without telling me any idea of expected costs (asked numerous times). Was more painful because we had insurance in Panama but our broker royally screwed us by telling us out coverage kicked in for everything immediately when it didn't. Our fault for not being fluent in Spanish

Fortunately its only money and my wife is fine but was a super scary experience. So advice to all is to research research research to ensure comparisons are relative to where you hail from and you understand how the process works.

1/21/2019 13:16 EST

Beware of anecdotal stories about Healthcare. Those whose business is to attract you to Panama. Those who have no real expertise or report on a single bad experience up North and extrapolate a comparison to single clinical or surgical instances here in Panama.
What about distance from specialists and who manages your multiple chronic conditions? How do you gain access to PC in a timely manner? Why did a 13 year Spanish speaking, resident of Chiriqui move back to the US due to Healthcare access issues in David? Why did a Boquete founder pass away from a comcomitatant cardio condition immediately following treatment at Mae Lewis?
Why do 1/2+ of new residents move home after 6 months to 2 years? How good is care from Panama public health system?
All worthwhile research points on your own and not via dream merchants!
Last point now. Keep your Medicare, have a US address in a county with free Medicare Advantage and self evacuate when needed.
Your health morbility is individual, not determined by another's story. Particularly as you age, your health status is your most valuable asset. If you move here for cheap living and great free orblow cost health care, you must live like a Panamanian, expect no more!

1/21/2019 09:17 EST

Thank you so much for this reply. I'm a pensionada in Costa Rica and have been considering moving to Panama mostly because of the poor quality of the health care here and the rude behavior of the caregivers. Presently I'm very healthy and my health needs are small. I've kept up my US Medicare and supplementary insurance for when a need does arrive. Then I will return to the US. After reading your reply I will forget about moving to Panama.

1/20/2019 18:24 EST

A friend wrote an article about his experience with medical care and the costs he paid in Panama for surgery and dental implants.

Note, this is in HIS own words, not 2nd or 3rd hand information.

1/20/2019 17:37 EST

Ok, since we’re comparing numbers, here are 5 cases that occurred in Panama City in 2018 that I’m familiar with personally.
-A French businessman had a massive heart attack, was taken to your hospital SF, where he spent 4 days in intensive care. He was then medically evacuated home where he had a bypass. The hospital saved his life, but the bill was $20,000 or $5,000/day. He paid with his AmEx card, and it took the hospital 9 months to come up with an itemized bill that was acceptable to the insurer.
- A French tourist had an attack of acute pancreatitis. His hotel took him to a public hospital, but they had no beds available, so next stop was your hospital where two days in intensive care on an i.v. drip cost $8,000, or $4,000/day. He had no insurance, so paid the bill by maxing out his CC, plus help from his embassy’s emergency fund.
- A French tourist had a horrific accident. He eventually wound up at a private hospital in Panama City named P where he spent 10 days, had 4 surgeries including to repair fractures and a nick to a kidney. He was lucky to be alive. The cost was $90,000, or $9,000/day. His insurance took several months to pay, again because of a lack of an itemized bill.
- A French businessman was feeling unwell, so went to the ER of the other very renowned hospital beginning with P. They put him in intensive care and told him he had coronary artery disease and needed a by-pass, which they said would cost $120,000. He discharged himself after 48 hours and returned home, where his doctors told him his arteries are fine. He was out of pocket $40,000, or $20,000/day. Definitely US prices. His insurer is still dickering with the hospital over the bill.
- A French tourist had acute stomach pain, so went to a private hospital beginning with N, where they told him he might have an intestinal blockage. They wouldn’t treat him without cash payment up front. They did an emergency colonoscopy for $1,000, plus the ER visit and medications which cost $300. They were not able to diagnose the reason for his pain.

Private hospitals will give you price quotes for various in-patient services, even online. It pays to shop around if you need hospitalization in Panama City. This is what Panamanians do. I stand by my claim that $4,000/day is a good ballpark figure for private hospital care in Panama City.

1/20/2019 10:42 EST

For point of reference, my friend paid $2500 for a hernia procedure in Panama. In Medellin, I paid $1350, though I can't say they were exactly the same services. I was impressed by the level of care.

My friend, who works in a hospital in Miami, told me that procedure would cost over 10 times that in the States.

1/20/2019 10:33 EST

I will never forget, when I was still living in the States, I had an epidural injection for a herniated disk and I was getting terrible headaches afterwards at times. I was driving up to my mom's and couldn't stand the pain, so I pulled into the local hospital, gave admissions my insurance card, and I sat in the reception area. I tried laying on the floor, trying to alleviate the pain, which was successful. After around an hour, I got up and walked out. I had laid on the floor for nearly an hour, with no one coming to check on me.

The vastly corrupt medical system is one of the big reasons that I won't be moving back to the States.

In Medellin, I just had an operation for a hernia. The quality of care, and cost are even better there.

1/20/2019 10:30 EST

It is absolutely a good idea to get health insurance, no matter where you live.

There is no hype about the quality or costs of health care in Panama and I don't know where in the world you are getting your $4000 a day price.

I've had two surgeries in Panama. It was $1800 for the operating room with a doctor and his 5 assistants. And $185 per night in Hospital San Fernando.

A neighbor had a heart attack. He was in the hospital 10 days, total cost was $1000 at a public hospital. He say the same cardiologist that he would have seen at a private hospital.

1/20/2019 08:48 EST

Beware of any hype about the quality and cost of healthcare in Panama. Over the last 4 years I’ve volunteered as a friendly visitor for those awaiting medical evacuation to European Union countries, and have heard many horror stories. Panama being a small, developing country, the critical mass, expertise, equipment or products for some conditions is just not here, unlike the situation at a major North American or European medical centre where they see hundreds or thousands of cases annually.

As for cost, sure, basic healthcare is widely available at reasonable prices. However any kind of healthcare that is beyond basic is getting expensive. If you have advanced health needs like cardiac care, joint replacement, cancer treatment or neurosurgery, you’ll eventually wind up in Panama City where specialists cost $60/visit, and hospitalization runs up to $4,000/day in a private facility. Public facilities are available but are overcrowded, not very clean, and poorly equipped. Costs for anything requiring advanced diagnostic testing or hospitalization can add up quickly. You’d have to set aside quite a bit to deal with emergencies, or have deep pockets to cover the costs. Furthermore, in Panama you pay upfront, called “una garantia.” If you can’t pay, they send you home, no joke.

I recommend that everyone immigrating to Panama purchase health insurance that will allow you to get the best treatment possible back in your home country. If that is not an option, at least get insurance that will cover you in Panama, assuming your age and pre-existing conditions allow you to qualify. One of the reasons North Americans leave Panama is lack of adequate healthcare as they grow older.

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