The health care in Panama is made up of three systems:
Health cards are not required to receive medical treatment in Panama.
The majority of doctors can be found in Panama City.
Most expats in Panama rely on private practices and clinics for medical care. These will be pricier than public, although $20-30 USD out of pocket would be a steal in a Western country. Expats will receive faster and more proficient treatment through private doctors. Private offices where staff and doctors also usually speak English.
Payments for private treatment are usually made with cash. But some offices and clinics will accept card payments. It is important to note that Panama has made it mandatory that doctors who practice privately also practice publicly. So, the variation in level of skills between public and private is not so different. It is the service and treatment that is different.
In order to find a doctor, you do not need to be registered and you do not need referrals. Most clinics are walk-in visits without an appointment needed. A search of Google for doctors near you will do the trick for receiving medical treatment. You can also inquire with your insurance for a list of doctors.
If you would like to find a doctor or clinic that other expats have had positive experiences with, be sure to check out the Panama forum and ask your fellow expats for their recommendations.
Once at the doctors, you may need to provide your passport and proof of insurance and provide a small payment.
Panama has become a hotspot for medical procedure trips for dentistry because prices are so low. This is because most dentists in Panama perform the work that dental assistants would do and don't deal with so many malpractice lawsuits.
Porcelain crowns can be put in for $450 USD. Dental implants, which can run as high as $5,000 per tooth in the US, will cost around $1,500. And \ whitening, which can run as high as $600 in the US, can be done for $100 USD.
But because legal standards are lower, it is highly advisable to ask around and do research before you choose a dentist. Most expats prefer to go with a dentist affiliated with a major hospital like Punta Pacifica or Johns Hopkins.
With so much to deal with before leaving your home country, (taxes, moving house, paperwork etc.) the careful planning of your expatriation to Panama City is an essential step. As far as healthcare is concerned, your local social security scheme won’t be accompanying you to your host country and, once abroad, you might be surprised by the care system you find in Panama. So, before leaving, make sure you have appropriate cover!
EasyExpat.com works in partnership with APRIL International to provide specific insurance solutions for travelling or staying outside your country of nationality.
Designed for either short or long stays, APRIL International’s insurance policies offer protection against any problems that might arise before departure or during your time in Panama: cancelling your trip, medical expenses following an illness or accident, needing to be repatriated, causing damage to a third party or losing your luggage.
For more information on expat health insurance in Panama, visit our partner APRIL International