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Boquete, Panama

15 Expats Talk about Health Insurance and Healthcare in Panama

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Feb 01, 2023

Summary: Expats and global nomads in Panama share their experiences with health insurance, healthcare in Panama, local hospitals and specialists, quality of medical care and more.

How are healthcare services Panama?

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

" We have found the quality to be better than what was available was in Oklahoma, the price is definitely less, the doctors spend a lot more time with you and actually care. ," commented one expat living in Panama.

"Care will not be as good unless you live in the city. Insurance will not cover pre existing," added another expat.

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"The Clinic in Horconsitos is open only part time. Additional Clinic is available M-F in San Lorenzo. Otherwise a trip to Davis is required, 1:15 minutes away from home," said another expat.

"all six pharmacies in the area have been out of my cholesterol drug for over a month," remarked another expat in Santa Clara.

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William Russell Health Insurance

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.

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William Russell Health Insurance

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.

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Are healthcare and health insurance expensive in Panama?

"Health care is excellent, in private hospitals, with excellent doctors, specialists, surgeons, nurses, etc....and price are cheaper than the USA. A Healthcare plan here (we are with Cigna but there are many other companies to choose from) covers us, my wife and I, in Panama and worldwide for a fraction of USA health plan cost so Healthcare is very affordable in Panama," said one expat living in Panama City.

"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," mentioned another expat in Bocas del Toro.

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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 InsuranceExpat 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.
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What are emergency services like in Panama?

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," added another expat.

"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," commented one expat who moved to Coronado.

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William Russell Health Insurance

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.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

William Russell Health Insurance

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.

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Will I 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," remarked another expat in La Chorrera.

"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 living in Coronado.

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Are common prescription medications available in Panama?

"Many common prescriptions are available over the counter just by talking to the pharmacist," said another expat.

"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.

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"Public and private hospitals. I was hospitalized and my insurance coveted it. It is very cheap. The care is better in Colombia. s.A," said an expat in Panama.

"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 one expat living in Pedasi, Panama.

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As a foreigner living in Panama, will I have access to public healthcare? What is it like?

"Today, June 16, 2021, went to Parque Miguel Cervantes de Saarveda in David, Panama for a free COVID-19 Rapid Antigen test. I go the results on paper within 20-25 minutes without any difficulty. It helps to speak Spanish there. Be sure to check the print-out they provide to make sure all of your information is accurate and that it is stamped with their agency and Negativa," commented one expat who moved to David.

"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," said another expat.

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What have your experiences during the pandemic with the local healthcare system been like?

We asked expats in Panama if they have access to public healthcare in Panama. And, if they do have access, what is it like. They wrote...

"I thought the response in Panama was good though too drastic. Closing beaches I felt was a mistake and pools at condos should have been limited not closed. Five months with no outdoor exercise was hell to live through. Also though many closures, very little enforcement," added another expat.

"So far have not needed any assistance. We have signed up for the vaccinations, that seems to be organized," commented one expat who moved to Boca Chica.

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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:

"First and foremost, make sure to obtain a detailed birth plan from your health care provider in advance to ensure that all the necessary paperwork is in place before the birth. It is essential that you know your rights and the maternity laws in Panama, as there are certain procedures that must be followed for the birthing process and registration of the baby. Having a good local support system is also critical for new parents, so get to know your neighbors and build relationships with other expats who have children. Make sure to research the different hospitals and clinic options available to you and their safety record, as well as familiarize yourself with different medical care options if there are complications or postnatal care. Finally, invest in a good medical insurance that meets your family’s needs and is accepted in Panama, and have all of the necessary documents and forms prepared in advance and with you when at the hospital or doctor’s office," remarked another in Panama.

"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," explained one expat.

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Are healthcare services good in Panama?

We asked people if they have access to good medical care in Panama. They wrote:

"Healthcare services in Panama are generally of high quality, with a wide range of medical facilities and personnel. The public healthcare system is largely funded by the government and is available to all citizens and legal residents. The public health services are generally well organized, with access to general practitioners, specialists, hospitals and medical centers. The private healthcare sector is also well developed, with many medical facilities offering a higher quality of care. Panama has a number of highly regarded private hospitals and specialized medical centers. Medical tourism is also growing in Panama, with many international travelers taking advantage of the quality medical facilities and healthcare services available," explained one expat living in Panama.

"We do have access but we have not had to use health care as of yet. However I do have friends that have battled cancer here and and the cost was incredibly inexpensive," said another expat in Playa El Uverito.

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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