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Do you need health insurance in Panama? That’s a question we get asked a lot, and the best answer we can give is that it depends entirely on your own circumstances and your tolerance for risk. One of the biggest determining factors for us, at least for the moment, is our ages (late 50s and early 60s). As U.S. citizens, we have a few years to go before we qualify for Medicare. We are not comfortable going without some type of coverage (also known as self-insuring), particularly since we travel often and spend a fair amount of time in the States visiting our family. When we first moved to Panama over two years ago, we talked about our initial forays into the insurance market in this blog post. We initially settled on a global policy from VUMI International Health Insurance, which luckily we never had to use. From the initial yearly premium…

Ah, health insurance – such a necessary evil (or evil necessity). At this writing, the U.S. Supreme Court has just announced that it is upholding a key provision of the Affordable Healthcare Act, also known as the ACA or Obamacare. We believe the ACA is a step in the right direction for U.S. citizens but still has a long way to go towards ensuring universal, affordable healthcare for all. Hopefully, with this ruling, the politicians will stop wasting time and resources trying to defeat the act and start working on how to make it better (and on that day the air will fill with porcine aviators!).

Lucky for you, I’ll get off that soapbox and explain how John and I are approaching the health insurance dilemma as Panama expats. It’s a complicated topic, so hang on!

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…

After almost three years of expat living in Panama, we still hear two questions pretty frequently: 1) Is the cost of living really lower there than in the U.S. or Canada? and 2) What are your actual living expenses there? We’ll get to the second one in a minute, but as to the first — it’s highly subjective. Where are you coming from? Where in Panama do you want to live? How fancy do you want your lifestyle to be, and how important is “stuff” to you? Will you rent or own your home? How much do you travel? And those are just a few of the factors that come into play. Everyone’s situation is different, but here are a few facts about us. We’re not wealthy by any means, but we’ve both worked hard all our lives and planned carefully to secure a comfortable retirement. We came from Southern California, one…

With apologies to John Lennon (“Life is what happens when you’re making other plans”) I have been remiss in blog posting because, well, life has been happening down here in lovely Chiriqui Province, Panama! Occasionally I’ll think of a blog topic, log onto Wordpress, and start a draft. I’ve got quite a collection now: Discovering David Adventures in Spanish We’re Not in Kansas Anymore Adventures in Health Insurance It’s a Dog’s World, We Just Live In It It’s a Bus/Taxi Driver’s World, We Just Live In It John and I are settling smoothly into our new life here. Nothing about this feels routine, yet, but we are establishing somewhat of a routine on week days – especially now that I’m back to working full-time. It goes like this: wake up with the bird song and rooster crow. Make some strong and excellent Panamanian coffee, and get busy checking emails and starting…

 I’m trying to imagine this experience from a dog’s-eye-view. Say you’re Maggie or Rosie. You’ve lived a lush life (OK, you’ve been spoiled rotten) in the U.S. and you haven’t had to think about much except maybe whether Mom and Dad will ever get that dinner into the bowl, or when you’re getting out for your next walk. Then everything changes overnight. You’re locked in a kennel and placed in a noisy and dark cargo hold. Many hours later, you’re rolled out of there and onto a rattling conveyor belt. Damn, it’s hot and humid. You’re thirsty, and you need to pee badly. But there are two familiar faces waiting for you on the other end.

IMG_3461This past week has been an emotional roller coaster. Within seven days we have: sold a car, sold a good percentage of our furniture, and (drum roll, please) accepted a CASH offer on our house above our asking price, even before it was officially listed! I am a strong believer in signs and portents. And all of the tea leaves here are reading “This move to Panama is the right decision. Full steam ahead!”

“So, Susan,” you ask. “Why the emotional coaster ride? Aren’t you beyond elated?” Of course we are. But for the first time, we’re actually confronting the reality of leaving our home here in Long Beach. And I gotta tell you, it’s breaking my heart a little. John and I have owned several homes, loving each one more than the last, and there’s something about this house that fits us like a glove. I know the minute we set foot on Panamanian soil and see those two pup faces looking out at us from their crates, all things Long Beach will be forgotten. But for now, I’m letting myself be a bit wistful . . .

Our first three months in Medellin have been busy. We’ve been preoccupied with getting our long-term visas and cédulas (a cédulas is a type of ID card that you need to conduct most business here), opening a bank account, signing up for healthcare, and — biggest of all — securing and furnishing a long-term rental. On top of it all, Susan had to deal with another major life event, the passing of her beloved dad on Jan. 26 in Texas. None of this left much time for sight-seeing, but now that we can take a breath, we’re getting reacquainted with everything that made us fall in love with Medellín to begin with. For those who don’t know, Colombians pronounce certain double-l words with a j, so “Medellín” sounds like med-a-jean.   A roof over our heads Almost every day I say to Susan, “I love Laureles!” And she says back, “Really, babe?…

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