Panama: Great Health Care at a Fraction of The Cost

As a Texan firefighter my husband, Clyde, had premium health insurance—which the city helped pay for. But once he retired we would have had to pay the full amount, about $1,000 a month.

Since we were both too young for Medicaid, we wanted to live somewhere with good health care that cost less than the U.S. Panama topped all the lists. It offers world-class care and English-speaking doctors at a fraction of the cost. And these doctors will even give out their personal cell phone numbers for after-hours questions!

Panama City has top-notch hospitals, and the best one (Punta Pacifica) is the only hospital in Central America associated with Johns Hopkins International. Since my husband had cornea transplants, our first priority was to find a cornea specialist.

A visit to the ophthalmologist at Punta Pacifica costs $50. Compare that to Clyde’s visits with a doctor in Houston: $200 – $450…and the appointment takes much longer in Houston. Clyde feels his doctor in Panama is equal in skill to the U.S. doctor, has a good attitude, and speaks very good English. For what it’s worth, she’s drop-dead gorgeous, too.

Punta Pacifica is about an hour from our new home near the beach in Chame (two hours if the traffic is heavy). We paid $90,000 for this four-bedroom home surrounded by 1.6 acres of lush greenery and mature fruit trees.

Although we can pay out of pocket for doctor’s visits here, we felt it was necessary to get insurance to cover any major illnesses, should they occur. The cost is about $180 for the two of us, with a $250 yearly deductible. The plan we chose will only cover us in Panama, but does have some emergency coverage when traveling.

Driving the hour into Panama City makes sense for specialist treatment, but for everything else, our local doctor is just a few minutes away. A recent visit to Dr. Jose Pablo Garcia cost $6…and the prescription was filled at the pharmacy next door for a few dollars.

We could never imagine back in the U.S. that seeing a doctor could be this cheap anywhere in the world.

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