Healthcare in Panama: Key Considerations for Expats

Panama offers a high quality of life, beautiful weather, and a variety of healthcare options, such as a variety of options of healthcare in Panama for expats. When it comes to healthcare, Panama offers a unique dual system of public and private sectors. Expats considering Panama as their new home need to be well-informed about the healthcare landscape in the country.

The public sector is funded by the government and is free for citizens and permanent residents. However, the quality of care in the public sector can vary, and wait times can be long. The private sector is more expensive than the public sector, but the quality of care is generally better. There are many private hospitals and clinics in Panama, and many of them offer English-speaking doctors.

Image of a doctor holding an iPad, representing the modern healthcare facilities available for expats in Panama

Modern healthcare facilities available for expats in Panama

Health Insurance

Although health insurance is not mandatory for residents in Panama, it is highly recommended for expats. Having a comprehensive health insurance plan safeguards individuals against unexpected medical expenses and ensures access to quality healthcare services. Expats should carefully research and select an insurance plan that covers their specific needs and provides access to both private hospitals and reputable medical professionals.

Types of Health Insurance:

  • Local Health Insurance: Panamanian insurance providers offer a range of health insurance plans specifically designed for residents, including expats. These plans typically cover medical consultations, hospitalization, medications, laboratory tests, and other necessary treatments. Local insurance companies in Panama include ASSA, Mapfre, and Bupa Panama.
  • International Health Insurance: Expats who prefer a more global coverage option can opt for international health insurance plans. These plans often provide broader coverage, including medical services both in Panama and abroad. International insurers such as Cigna, Allianz, and AXA offer health insurance plans that can be tailored to meet individual needs.

If you want to learn more about health insurance options in Panama and the documentation required to apply, we recommend reading our full article on Health Insurance in Panama.

Cost of Health Insurance:

  • The cost of health insurance in Panama varies depending on factors such as age, health status, coverage needs, and insurance provider. Generally, health insurance premiums tend to increase with age.
  • It is advisable to obtain multiple quotes from different insurance providers and compare the coverage and costs before selecting a plan.
  • Expats should also consider the deductible and co-payment requirements, as these can impact the overall cost of health insurance in Panama.

Common Health Conditions

Panama’s tropical climate exposes its residents and visitors to certain health challenges. Some of the most common health conditions include:

a. Malaria:

Particularly prevalent in rural areas and the Darien region, preventative measures such as antimalarial medication and mosquito bite prevention are essential.

b. Dengue Fever and Zika Virus:

These mosquito-borne diseases require precautions such as using insect repellent, wearing protective clothing, and eliminating standing water.

c. Typhoid Fever:

Caused by contaminated food and water, maintaining good hygiene and consuming safe, cooked meals is crucial to prevent this bacterial infection.

d. Respiratory Infections:

Practicing good hygiene, including regular handwashing, can help reduce the risk of contracting such infections.

It is important to be aware of these health risks and take steps to protect yourself. Vaccination, using insect repellent, and staying hydrated are common measures to prevent them.

Image of a doctor holding a vaccine, illustrating the importance of healthcare for expats in Panama.

Importance of healthcare for expats in Panama

Language Barrier

While Panama is an attractive option for expats seeking healthcare, language barriers can pose challenges.Spanish stands as the official language, and while a rudimentary grasp of the language is beneficial for expats, it may not suffice in complex medical contexts.

Fortunately, urban areas have numerous private hospitals and medical centers that recognize the needs of expats and maintain staff fluent in English. This bilingual capacity fosters an environment where expats and medical professionals can effectively engage in fruitful doctor-patient interactions. However, this will be reflected in the cost of services.

Additionally, employing the services of a skilled translator or interpreter can serve as an invaluable resource, skillfully bridging any remaining communication gaps and facilitating a seamless healthcare experience for expats or tourists pursuing medical treatment in Panama.

Quality of healthcare in Panama.

Panama offers commendable healthcare services, characterized by a competent pool of medical professionals and well-equipped private facilities. The country’s private hospitals and clinics, particularly in urban areas like Panama City, maintain high standards of care with modern infrastructure and advanced technologies.

Access to healthcare is convenient, thanks to the widespread distribution of medical facilities and well-developed transportation networks. English-speaking medical professionals in private healthcare settings ensure effective communication with expat patients, enhancing the overall quality of care. While the public healthcare system faces challenges such as resource limitations and variations in quality, efforts are being made to improve access and quality of care for all residents.

Specific examples of the quality of healthcare in Panama

a. The Hospital Punta Pacifica

Is a private hospital in Panama City that is affiliated with Johns Hopkins Medicine. It is one of the best hospitals in Panama, and it offers a wide range of services, including cancer care, heart surgery, and neuroscience.

b. The Hospital del Niño

Is a public hospital in Panama City that specializes in pediatric care. It is one of the best pediatric hospitals in Latin America.

c. The Hospital Santo Tomás

Is a public hospital in Panama City that offers a wide range of services, including general medicine, surgery, and obstetrics. It is one of the oldest hospitals in Panama, and it is still a leading provider of healthcare in the country.

Secure Your Path to Quality Healthcare

Navigating the intricacies of healthcare in Panama as an expat requires careful consideration and expert guidance.

If you want recommendations on insurance brokers, Contact Kraemer & Kraemer and we will be glad to assist you.

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Published July 27th, 2023, as Commentary on Immigration by Johana Sum