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Panama’s Health Insurance Options for Expats

Panama's Health Insurance Options for Expats

photo by Evan

If you’re considering relocating to Panama, you probably already know that its health care is among the best and the most affordable in Central America.  What you might be a little less sure of are your health insurance needs and how to go about meeting them.

Do I even need private health insurance in Panama?

Some expats choose to self-insure their medical expenses.  This is a valid option for those who are in good health and can afford to do so.  If you don’t want to take such a risk, you’ll need to obtain health insurance when moving to Panama.

While some U.S. policies may provide limited coverage in Panama, many don’t offer coverage for treatments obtained outside the States.  Medicare is also useless, as it doesn’t apply to those residing in other countries.  

Check with your current provider to determine if you’ll be covered once you leave the U.S.  If you are, the worst case scenario is that you might only get the benefits available for out-of-network providers. You also may have to foot the bill yourself initially and get reimbursed on the backend.

If your coverage doesn’t extend outside the U.S., there are some very good and inexpensive policies available both internationally and from Panamanian sources.

Does Panama’s government provide any healthcare benefits to expats?

At the most basic level, Panama offers government-sponsored health insurance to its citizens and permanent residents.  However the coverage isn’t great.  Treatment is available only from public hospitals and clinics.  While many great public facilities exist, they can sometimes have their challenges.  While the doctors are well-trained, the hospitals are often understaffed.  Public facilities often equate to long waits and inferior technology when compared to private hospitals.

Carrying private health insurance affords you more options to choose when, where, and by whom you’ll be treated.  It also offers a higher level of comfort and other attractive benefits, such as private hospital rooms.  Doctors in private hospitals are often trained in the U.S., and many are bilingual.  Even though they’re more expensive than their public counterparts, medical treatments in private Panamanian hospitals are still a fraction of what you would pay for the same procedure in the U.S.  And for the same quality of care.

How do I go about finding private health insurance?

When shopping for health insurance, there are a lot of factors to consider.  Obviously, the cost of the policy should be taken into account.  You should also look at things like the coverage territory (if you’ll be traveling much outside of Panama), any applicable annual or lifetime limits, whether the policy applies only to a certain network of providers, how claims are paid, and whether your existing health conditions will be covered.

If you aren’t comfortable interpreting and comparing policies, you may want to opt for buying through a broker or agent.  Insurance representatives who are licensed with multiple companies can compare costs and features to help you select the plan that best suits your needs.  

What types of health insurance policies are offered in Panama?

The two major types of policies available include local health maintenance organizations (HMO’s) and international HMO’s.  Local policies only apply for services obtained in Panama.  Common limits are between $300,000 and $500,000, and deductibles can be as low as $300 or $500.  Treatment from in-network providers are fully reimbursed, but you can often receive as much as 60% towards treatment received from other doctors or facilities.

International policies work the same way, but they also offer networks in other countries as well.  They also often carry limits as high as $700,000 to $1.5 million in lifetime coverage, with deductibles ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.  Premiums for both types of policies are in the $600-$700 range.  They often require medical screenings, and premiums usually rise with age.

A few of the companies that provide coverage in Panama are Pan-American Life Insurance Group, MAPFRE, Aseguradora Ancon, and even familiar names like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Panama.

Another option available in Panama is private hospital memberships.  These are discount programs offered specifically by private hospitals, which apply only to treatment received at that same facility.  Costs are as low as $18.00 per month and include benefits such as 100% reimbursement for emergency room services, 70% reimbursement for diagnostic tests, and 50% reimbursement for routine screenings.  Waiting periods apply for some services, as do annual coverage limits.

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9 thoughts on “Panama’s Health Insurance Options for Expats

  1. 1

    Which private hospitals offer this membership.
    I have called 4 and they know nothing about it.

  2. 2

    will they take my husband at 70 with a pacemaker

  3. 3

    We are in our mid-60s and want to move to Panama or Belize. We are having trouble finding private (local) insurance. Do you have the names of any companies you can share?

  4. 4

    No responses to the above questions? HELLO!!

    • 5

      Hi Ed, Sorry for the delay. Due diligence on moving to an expat country can be exhausting. I am glad you visited us at VivaTropical. The most well known local health insurance companies include ASSA (probably the most reputable local insurance company), Internacional de Seguros, MAPFRE, and a host of international companies with branches in Panama. Be aware many of these insurance companies do carry restrictions and it’s best to talk with an agent from each before making your decision.

  5. 6

    My wife and I are considering retiring to Panama in about four years. How can I find out about the premiums or costs for the reputable companies? Also, does the private hospital membership include doctors visits and/or prescription needs?

  6. 7

    hi we are moving to Panama and are looking for health insurance for fully comprehensive private . my partner has an existing medical heart issue so the best insurance possible is needed. can you please advise me?

  7. jacob benderman

    I am thinking of retiring in Panama and need to know if I can get high quality health cxoverage from a reputable/reliable source. I am 80 years old.

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