Health Insurance in Panama

Whether you have Panama among your choices to relocate or retire, you may have questions related to Panama health insurance plans. Panama is considered to have excellent healthcare compared to the United States, not only because of the high quality hospitals, but also for its affordability.

Panama’s healthcare system can be divided into three: the public hospitals and clinics administered by the Ministry of Health (MINSA), Social Security Hospitals operated by the Caja de Seguro Social(CSS) and the private system with hospitals and clinics, mostly located in larger cities like David and Panama City.

Punta Pacífica Hospital located in Panama City

Panama Health Insurance Options

Having a health insurance plan is not mandatory, meaning that people can pay medical services out of pocket. This is true of public and private hospitals, it does NOT require a monthly fee, and there is no age restriction.

Most expats use the private system because it provides faster service. To provide some cost examples, a walk-in visit to a general doctor may cost $30-$50, while an appointment with an specialist may cost $75 – $100. Visiting a dentist may cost $40 – $60. Also, many medications can be purchased over the counter without a prescription.

Hospitals in Panama are considered to have high quality facilities.

Some expats also use International health insurance. It provides long-term coverage to people living or working outside of their country of origin, being this a popular option among expats. In many cases, international healthcare plans require you to be under 74 on the day you sign up.

The amount of coverage ranges from 1 to 5 million dollars during the policy lifetime. International coverage is most suited for people who travel frequently and those who would like to have the freedom of receiving medical treatment in the U.S. or elsewhere.

Insurance providers usually let you choose from any doctor or hospital in Panama. However, if you are out of Panama, you may need to verify any restrictions.

Most doctors in Panama can assist you in English

Expats can also purchase a local/domestic health insurance plan, which will only cover medical expenses inside Panama. Prices start at $30-$40 a month, however, prices vary depending on the treatments and procedures chosen by the beneficiary.

Coverage varies widely with a local plan, but it is generally between US$300,000 and US$500,000 for a lifetime benefit.

In order to obtain coverage with a local plan, some service providers require proof of residency in Panama. This means, showing that the person is already living in Panama either renting or owning a property.

Something to keep in mind is that most local insurance companies have an age coverage restriction of 65. For that reason, it is recommended to get a domestic insurance plan before that age.

Documentation to Apply for Health Insurance in Panama

Some of the general documentation required to apply for a health insurance plan includes:

  1. Application form
  2. Copy of passport, residency card, or cedula
  3. Medical history
  4. Medical exam in Panama by one of their approved network doctors. Men need a recent PSA exam. Women need a recent mammogram. (Almost all policies require this.)
  5. Proof of residency or that you live in the country for 10 months a year. (Not all companies require this.

Overall, Panama has four major hospitals affiliated with prominent U.S. hospitals in Panama City (Centro Medico Paitilla, Clinica Hospital San Fernando, Hospital Nacional, Hospital Punta Pacifica). The country also has many doctors trained in the U.S. For that reason, Panama’s health care system is an important reason to be an attractive location to relocate and retire.

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Published February 13th, 2020, as Commentary on Immigration by Johana Sum