Panama City, Panama
Panama City, Panama
Panama City, Panama

Guide to Healthcare in Panama

16 Expats Talk about Healthcare and Health Insurance in Panama

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Jan 18, 2021

Summary: Expats living in Panama talk about healthcare, proximity to hospitals and specialists, quality of medical care in Panama, availability of prescription medicines and more.

GeoBlue International Health Insurance

Expats in Panama offer insight into the quality of healthcare in Panama, proximity to hospitals, cost of health insurance and more.

What advice do you have for expats having a baby in Panama?

We asked expat moms who gave birth in Panama about their experiences and advice they have for other moms to be. They said:

"The care you will receive here is unlike the US. THe doctors are very hands on - not afraid to touch you. They have very good bedside manner and are not in a hurry. The Ob yo start with will be with you until the baby is born," commented an expat living in Santiago, Panama.

"Visit Mae Lewis Hospital for consultation. Talk to Javier Adames who is the medical director for the hospital," said another expat in David.

"Don't be afraid, most medical professionals received their training in the United States. Panama is renowed for having the best medical care in all of Central America," remarked another in Panama City.

Expat Health Insurance in Panama

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

What are medical services in Panama like?

When we asked expats and global nomads about the quality of medical care in Panama, they replied:

"Bocas has just finished a new modern hospital Centrally located on Isla Colon. There is a quality Med clinic for daily no emergency needs. Several well stocked pharmacies. There are 3 dentist offices. Very good care for more serious instances can be had in Changuenola which is about an hour. Private state of the art care in David or panama city is available too. Depending on the location (private vs. public care) costs can be a fraction of those in the western world. Actual quality care can be had in the public hospitals for free. (lots of retirees unfortunately do not trust these hospitals and attempt to disqualify them ?????)," commented an expat living in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

"There are several English speaking doctors in our area and clinics. The nearest major hospitals are about an hour away in Panama City but there are small hospitals closer to home. My last visit to the local ER cost $31 in total for X-rays, IV meds and Doctor consult. My ER co pay in the US was $75. You do the math," said another expat in Nueva Gorgona.

"Health care is either middle-rate, or world class, depending on how long one wishes to wait, and how much $$$ you have. No Medicare, of course, and Tricare (military coverage) is available, but not widely accepted," remarked another in Boquete.

"Yes, Panama has first world medical care but also has third word cares and everything between," explained one expat.

"Care will not be as good unless you live in the city. Insurance will not cover pre existing," commented an expat living in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

"Being from the U.S. it's hard to say medical care is better, but the difference is it's 1/10th the cost to get the same type of medical care. Don't be afraid that you're going to get 3rd world medical care in a foreign country. Also, just as in the U.S., don't be afraid to ask questions or to give your opinion of what you think needs to be your course of treatment," said another expat in La Chorrera.

"Don't be afraid. Many doctors speak some English and the care is excellent. We never had to wait for service and we're always treated great," remarked another expat in Nueva Gorgona.

"It is not like others want you to believe. It is not up to US standards. The one private hospital wants you to believe they are part of the Johns Hopkins network and they are not. Clinics are often store fronts, crowded and dirty. Equipment is old. ," explained one expat in Coronado.

"Make sure you can fly back to the US for health care. You can not get health care in Panama unless you have cash. We were held at gunpoint in Panama till we came up with the CASH following my husband's surgery. Did not matter that we had retired military health insurance," said another expat in Coronado.

"See Dr. Levy, even if you have no insurance his office visits are only $15 and he is a very nice Dr who will send you to the appropriate specialists. Also there are a number of alternative doctor's locally who are not expensive either and are very effective if you are into that type of medicine. I have not renewed any medications since I arrived so I do not know about prescription drugs yet. But in terms of just seeing someone because you are not feeling well, Dr. Levy seems to be the place to go. And his fee is such it does not even make sense to claim insurance for the visit," remarked another expat in Coronado.

What do you think about the cost of medical care in Panama?

"If you can get health insurance before you have issues, the private insurance is affordable compared to the US. I'd say about 25 percent of the cost," commented an expat living in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

"In the event described above my experience was at least as good as I would have gotten in the U.S. This included the Dr. spending about 45 minutes sewing up the large wound in the back of my arm, 4 return visits for him to look at it to make sure it was healing properly and there was no infection. And on the other days if I hadn't taken and picture by noon to send to him and given an update that it was ok he sent me a text message to ask what was going on. On the 7th day I returned and had the stitches removed all for a grand total of $100. Keep in mind this was an open wound torn open on the pavement that was about a 2" circle exposing the muscle and tendons, this wasn't just a simple cut with stitches. There's a scar but I was amazed at how well it turned out. Not very noticeable unless I just raise my elbow and point it out," said another expat in La Chorrera.

"We don't have insurance in Panama because we are in good health and healthcare is so affordable we don't feel the need for insurance. Since it is part of my retirement benefit, we still have insurance in the US however the cataract surgery I am looking into might well be less expensive in Panama without insurance than in the US with copays so I am in the process of comparing this," remarked another expat in Nueva Gorgona.

"Health insurance is not accepted by providers of care. Have Tricare which is military insurance world wide and is part of the Hopkins network so we thought the private hospital that says they are part of Hopkins would accept it. We were sadly mistaken and had the worst experience of our life. If you compare US costs and Panama cost, yes, it is less expensive. But, it is still expensive if you have to pay for surgery before any care is rendered. ," explained one expat in Coronado.

What are emergency services like?

When we asked about emergency services, members in Panama wrote:

"Emergency services in my area on Bocas del Toro are pretty well non existent. There is a new hospital. However is does not have much equipment. Great for small things. Cuts to be stitched. Infections, this hospital is public. If I had a choice I would go to Punta Pacifica in Panamá City," commented an expat living in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

"The San Fernando Clinic is an emergency clinic about 10 minutes from us. My husband got 14 stitches there once and it was as good an experience as it could be. The whole visit plus follow up was $135. Can't imagine how much it would have been in the US. I went to the emergency room at the San Carlos Social Security hospital once with severe back pain that turned out to be sciatica. I saw a doctor, got X-rays which were given to me on a cd and had two IV pain medicine treatments. All for $31 and no waiting. I was very happy with the service and how I was treated," said another expat in Nueva Gorgona.

"Private hospital is one hour away and forget any ambulance services. We had an emergency (needed surgery) and we almost lost the life of my husband," remarked another expat in Coronado.

"We are near the San Fernando Clinic. I have not had to go so I cannot tell you how they are. If I needed to be hospitalized I would go to Punta Pacifica hospital where they take my insurance BCBS and stay there, I have heard very positive things," explained one expat in Coronado.

Are their specialists in the area or do you need to travel to see a specialist?

"I was in a public hospital overnight for an open wound on the back of my arm caused by a car accident. The care, and the food, in the public hospital was subpar to standard treatment in the U.S., but as soon as I left the free public hospital and went to a private Dr. at his office, which is open 7 days a week 365 days a yea. Once at the office the Dr. came outside to the car I was riding in and looked at my elbow and said, it need some stitches here, here and here and I can fix it right up. I told him that's exactly what I'd said to the ambulance drivers the day before. So, I went inside and about 45 minutes later I was sewn back together and good to go," commented an expat living in La Chorrera, Panama.

"I am right now looking into cataract surgery and will be seeing a specialist in La Chorrera," said another expat in Nueva Gorgona.

"You must go to Panama City an hour away and you must have Cash! No one will take insurance and treat you. Credit cards are not accepted nor are checks. All care even surgery must be paid for before any care is given. They will refuse care and put you on the street regardless of your condition. ," remarked another expat in Coronado.

"You have to go into Panama City. Care is adequate only if you have CASH in hand," explained one expat in Coronado.

"If I needed a specialist I would go into Panama City to Punta Pacifica hospital, which is a private hospital," said another expat in Coronado.

Are most prescription medications available in Panama?

"Many common prescriptions are available over the counter just by talking to the pharmacist," commented an expat living in La Chorrera, Panama.

"We are able to get our prescriptions at any pharmacy without a written prescription. We still get most of our drugs in he US because we have insurance but if we did not have insurance they would be cheaper in Panama," said another expat in Nueva Gorgona.

"No the only pain Meds are Tylenol or OxyContin. Only pain specialists can prescribe. Some cardiac Meds are not available and you must mail order them (if this is part of your prescription plan.)," remarked another expat in Coronado.

"I need many prescriptions, we have not needed refills yet, and have some waiting for us in the US. I intend to make a list of prescriptions and show it to Dr. Levy and find out what is available here in Coronado and what I need to go elsewhere to find," explained one expat in Coronado.

"There is a clinic in town where you can consult a doctor 24/7 for $2.00. If you have a real emergency they will take you by ambulance to the hospital in Las Tablas or Chitre. We have not used the hospital but have used some of the private clinics in Chitre for specific problems and that has been economical and good," commented an expat living in Pedasi, Panama.

Do expats and global nomads in Panama have access to public healthcare? What is it like?

"No. You cannot enroll in public healthcare system. If you buy health Insurance in Panamá, pre existing is not included or covered There are public hospitals and cost there is much less however quality of care is not great, if you go to one of the private hospitals in Panamá city, care is very good but very expensive. My husband had a severe heart attack I. He Spent time in a David Panamá hospital where the stent cardiologist was out of town with no replacement. He also died before we could get him airlifted after 5 days to Panamá City. Cost of it all? $75,000 You move at your own risk. Care may not be as good unless you live in the city and it will not be covered by insurance," commented an expat living in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

Need health insurance in Panama? William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a Quote

Need health insurance in Panama? William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

William Russell Health InsuranceInternational Health Insurance

Get a quotes for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
Get a Quote

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000. Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Some of Joshua's more popular articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and 5 Best Places to Live in Spain. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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GeoBlue International Health Insurance

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Panama City, Panama
William Russell Health InsuranceInternational Health Insurance

Get a quotes for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
Get a Quote

Healthcare in PanamaHealthcare in Panama

Expats have differing opinions about healthcare in Panama. Many advice against public hospitals and healthcare, but some recount good experiences. This article covers public vs private healthcare, cost of healthcare, obtaining prescription medications and much more.

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Expats in Panama offer 8 important tips about healthcare and health insurance in Panama. While the quality of healthcare varies, there are world class doctors and facilities throughout Panama. Health insurance is much less expensive in Panama. Doctors visits (with and without insurance) are very affordable. The one negative seems to be that medications can be more expensive that in the U.S. Despite these pros and cons, many expats mentioned that people have healthier lifestyles in Panama - cleaner air, cleaner water, fresh produce and less stress.

Expats in Panama offer 8 important tips about healthcare and health insurance in Panama. While the quality of healthcare varies, there are world class doctors and facilities throughout Panama. Healt...

Hospitals in Panama City, PanamaHospitals in Panama City, Panama

Knowing which hospital you would go to should a medical emergency arise while living in Panama is important. This information is provided (but not endorsed) by expats and the US Embassy in Panama.

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Answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about healthcare and health insurance for expats in Panama.

healthcare surveyAnswer Questions about Healthcare in Panama

Help others moving to Panama by answering a set of questions about health insurance, public healthcare in Panama, prescription medicine, quality of medical care and emergency services.

Having-a-Baby-In-PanamaExpats Talk about What it's Like Having a Baby in Panama

Read recent baby reports submitted for Santiago and David.

If you're an expat parent who had a baby abroad, write a report about your childbirth experiences to help other expecting expat parents.

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