newsroom-panama1-300x122 A quickie update on healthcare in Panama Healthcare Panama The Expat Life

A couple of days ago we came across an excellent article, “Health care for the Panama retirement dream,” on the Newsroom Panama site. It’s a great summary of the costs and insurance options, that you can read here. 

We believe healthcare – how you’ll access it and how you’re going to pay for it, should the need arise – is an important consideration for any expat. We’ve blogged about this topic several times before, most recently in this post. Here are a few more of our thoughts and observations about the Panama healthcare experience:

  • The Newsroom Panama article only lists hospitals in Panama City. Folks in our home province of Chiriqui can choose from two private hospitals, Hospital Chiriqui and Hospital Mae Lewis, in addition to the large, public Hospital Regional. All three are in David, capital of Chiriqui Province.
  • We’ve now had several experiences with both Hospital Chiriqui and Mae Lewis, and we can state that we’ve gotten outstanding care from both. In fact, we’ve heard very little negative feedback about the quality of care from anyone we’ve talked to – and that includes friends who have had knees replaced, cataracts removed, and hernias repaired. Early this year, I (Susan) had a cyst removed from the back of my head by a plastic surgeon, and it could not have gone more smoothly.
  • By and large, the process of seeing a doctor or getting a procedure done is a lot less structured and formal that it is in the U.S. Forget the reams and reams of insurance and HIPAA forms you have to fill out in the U.S. And even if you make an appointment and show up on time, you can expect to sit and wait your turn – sometimes for quite a while. We’ve learned to take a book and BE PATIENT.
  • Your patience is rewarded with attentive doctors that are involved at a level that’s pretty uncommon elsewhere. Not only are the doctors very accessible (they often share their personal mobile numbers), but they never seem rushed. The doctors we’ve seen have all been willing to spend as much time as it takes to understand our history and needs (maybe that’s why appointments don’t really work here). For that cyst surgery, I met the doctor in his office and he walked me down the hall to the operating room, and personally oversaw the prep and every other aspect of the surgery. When he was done, he walked me back out to the waiting room.

We are blessed with good health and, fortunately, have not had serious issues needing attention. If the need arises, we feel very confident in the level of care we can expect from the doctors and facilities here.

Buena salud a todos!


  1. I agree, whenever you live aboard, healthcare is an important thing to consider – the access and the cost of it. Great information!

  2. I worked as a pharmacist for my career and remember fully buying into the lie that the US had the ‘”Best healthcare in the world” which was used to justify rising, absolutely astounding, costs. In fact, before we left the country, people would ask quite seriously, “But what happens if you get sick?” I can fully agree with everything you say about the wonderful level of care we’ve found in many countries outside the US, the compassion of doctors and other healthcare professionals and the feeling of stepping back in time to become a patient again, not a number. Although we had travel insurance during our 3 years of full-time travel for serious health care emergencies, we paid for routine medical expenses out-of-pocket and were often stunned by how low the costs were. Good information for Panama expats and a great testimonial about your experience!

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