Healthcare in Panama


how does the healthcare system work in Panama ? Is it efficient ?

What are the main differences between public and private sectors?

Is it recommended to purchase private health insurance in Panama?

Thanks in advance for sharing your experience !


For all of us who are in the retirement age.  lol. Does anyone know if we have to stay in the US medicare system when we move to Panama on a full time basis?  Of course we will have medicial insurance in Panama.


In order to help expats and soon-to-be expats, we would like to invite you to share your experience on this topic, with updated info on the healthcare system.

Thank you in advance,

Julie Team

You do not have to stay in Medicare, especially when it offers no benefit in Panama,  However, some expats have returned to the U.S. and faced having to pay Medicare premiums for some or all of the time they were eligible but not enrolled.  So, I think you will want to look into what these costs.  I only know what I have heard and don't recall details.  If you're sure you'll never return, then forget the concern!

For someone over 65 with a pre-existing condition, it is very hard to get affordable health care insurance in Panama.  You can use Medicare for an emergency situation.  You pay first out of pocket and then get reimbursed from Medicare.  I use US mail order drug plan for plan D Shipped to me via MBE Miami.  You can use a U.S. Licensed doctor in Panama to renew your medication.  Myself I go back once a year for a physical and medication renewal.  The health care in Panama has been adequate and affordable.  Like in the U.S. Watch out for un-necessary treatment.  Ask questions.

Though we've lived halftime in Panama for eight years now, my experience with healthcare has been limited to just a few instances, all in the private sector.  I elected to have prostate surgery three years ago at the Punta Pacifica Hospital and was extremely satisfied with the entire experience from preop through my stay in hospital postop.  The private room ("sorry, all the suites are taken") was so well appointed that my wife stayed over the first night.  Service and care was outstanding.  And the cost was a fraction what I would have paid back in the States.
My second experience was an out patient cataract surgery which was done well but had some side effects due to the prostate drugs I was taking and which the doctor was unaware of.  Again, the cost was a fraction of US prices.
Overall, my experience with the private healthcare in Panama has been very good and I can understand why elective health tourism might well be thriving.

You may want to read this post about health insurance in Panama on the Gringo Guide to Panama blog;

We lived in Panama for a year but both my husband and I had US government insurance which was accepted in Panama.  My husband had to have 3 stints put in while we were there and Dr. Adames was a wonderful and thorough heart doctor.  Here is the clincher - upon admission I had to put $7000 on my credit card until the insurance kicked in and then they would credit back my credit card.  That was done and they were congenial.  My husband had a stroke in August and upon admission I once again had to put $5000 on credit card and then the next day and additional $3000,. which was once again credited back to the credit card.  Medicine is expensive and the only way to get supplemental benefits is if you do it on your own with your insurance company.  The doctors in Panama are very good and you can find English speaking doctors.  The nursing staff only speak Spanish so you have a language barrier there.  We did find an advocate who assisted us in speaking with the nursing staff.  We are now back in the states.
Friends had Hospital Chiriquri Insurance and found out that it only covers $25,000 a year versus admission if surgery is required.  Because they live on a budget her husband has not been able to have surgery and they are finding alternate ways to take care of his health.  He had been waiting for 3 weeks to have the surgery at the Regional Hospital where they would work out a payment plan.  To this day he did not have the surgery because they still wanted a certain amount of money up front.
Medications that you may be taking where you live, you have to see a doctor in Panama before they will refill them. The medications in Panama come from several different countries so one month it may be from Spain and the next month from Mexico.  Prescriptions in Panama are only written for 30 days versus 90 days in the states.  Mind altering medications (alprazolom, sertralina) each month you have to have a new prescription, where medicines for blood pressure, etc. you just take the container back to the pharmacy and they refill it.  With insurance in the states my husband pays $2.49 for a 90 day supply of alprazolom and in Panama a 30 day supply was $50.00.
I just want people to know when you are traveling to a foreign country you need to make sure if you have health insurance you will be covered where you are going or can afford what they have to offer.  Also, if you will be using a credit card for expenses increase your limits.
Please visit Chiriquiri Chatter - Don Ray runs this site who works for the US Embassy and there is a lot of useful information there.  He will be glad to assist you with any questions you may have and there plenty of information on his site that you can read.

I am also interested in answers to these queries of yours. I would also like to know if the private health insurance provider for private medical coverage in Panama  is located in or out of country ( e.g.: England?).

IF you get health care there I'm sure it's in country.But the problem is they only cover approx.$25-50K a year,and when you have spent that you are on your own.Now that being said i don' know if you can buy more coverage.The people i knew were on a fixed income,so it was cheap.But i have a friend there as we speak and can't get in with out real money as his wife has already used up the $25k that they had for this year.So he sol {shit out of luck} and he is dieing.
My wife had the best insurance in the world US government blue cross and blue shield which is recognized all over the world.And remember if they don't know WHO you have insurance with you may still be SOL.I am sitting on a table with a stroke in my right side,and i can watch some one from admissions talking to my wife in ENGLISH and they won't move until she put $7000 on our visa cc card.No shit,i had a very small stroke which was noticed later in the US,but there just standing there.I have no idea what would have gone down if i had cut my wrist and blood was going 3 feet in the air.
The insurance our friends had was through Hospital Chiriqui and I do not know what other insurance is available.
You best get some one there that speaks the kings english and make sure what you have,or that they will except the insurance you have.
any one is welcome to email me at any time{}or Skype me at windrifter3.I can tell you 1st hand about a lot of other things things there.I am my own man,walk around with bears and 150 lb+ tom cats in Montana,i don't lie,steal or cheat,or have room for anyone that does.But the whole world is welcome at my door,you have a room,food ,good beer ,no charge,i welcome people that have never seen what i see every day.I'm for real and there are few of us left in this world.
God Bless
Tom Crelly

Excellent comments SawMan and WINDRIFTER.

Thank you.MaryAnn
need any more info on anything let us know,we really had "boots on the ground".Got a call from a friend there been there 2 years,coming home.If you are going to live around David,i know some of the guys as far as buying a car etc.And there really is only one to know.