Using The Healthcare System In Panama – A Short Guide For Expats

Panama’s healthcare system can vary greatly depending on which part of the country you live in. The system is not perfect, but most expats have had positive experiences. The better quality facilities and medical staff are mainly located in the capital of Panama City. However other areas are also seeing improvements.

Private healthcare

Expats will be happy to know that Panama City houses many technologically advanced private hospitals, many of which are associated with reputed facilities in the United States.One example of this is Punta Pacifica, a state-of-the-art facility and the only hospital in Latin America that is affiliated with Johns Hopkins Medicine International. The city of David also has a couple of modern medical facilities. Since Panama is a small country, it takes just an hour or two to reach any good modern hospital. Apart from Punta Pacifica Hospital, other private medical care centers include Hospital Punta Paitilla & Centro Medico Patilla and San Fernando Hospital in Panama City.

Public healthcare

The Ministry of Health and the Social Security System fund public hospitals in Panama. Medical services at public hospitals are nearly free, but expats may choose to avail of private healthcare instead. This is because even getting an appointment may involve a long waiting period. Also, patients may not receive the same specialized attention in public hospitals as they would in private hospitals. But those who wish to take advantage of affordable public healthcare in Panama should evaluate the facilities in advance. This will provide a better idea of how the system works and which hospitals provide better service. Some of the public medical care centers in Panama include Santo Tomás Hospital on Balboa Avenue; Hospital del Niño, which specializes in pediatric care; Rafael Hernández Hospital in Chiriqui; General Hospital in Bugaba, Chiriqui; Materno Infantil José Domingo De Obaldía, Hospital in Chiriquí, Rafael Hernández Hospital in David; and Policlinics, which are located all across the country.

Medical staff

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Doctors in Panama are highly trained and many of them are educated in the United States and therefore speak fluent English. Doctors and nurses are known to provide personal attention to patients. Doctors also make themselves more accessible by allowing patients to contact them even after hours.

While Panama’s healthcare system is known for its skilled and well-meaning medical staff, not all hospitals have the resources and equipment to provide all kinds of treatments. Therefore you may have do some research and narrow down on a hospital that specializes in the treatment you require.

Health insurance

There are several affordable options for buying health insurance in Panama. Some health coverage plans offer total reimbursement of the cost of services from certain providers. There are also international plans that can be used to avail of medical treatment in places outside Panama. Private hospitals provide membership plans that offer discounts on procedures that are done at that particular facility.

Visitors that have entered Panama through Tocumen Airport are eligible for free healthcare insurance for the first 30 days of their stay. The stamped passport provides proof of their eligibility and the relevant health facility determines if their condition is covered under the 30-day insurance. This insurance covers the costs associated with accidents, diseases contracted in the country and emergency dental treatment.

Cost of healthcare

Many medical procedures in Panama cost far less that they would in countries like the United States. The healthcare system here is less litigious than it is in other nations and as a result doctors don’t pay much for malpractice insurance. These savings are then transferred to patients. This could be one of the reasons why healthcare in Panama is so inexpensive.

Medical tourism

On account of the low costs of medical services, Panama has become a major destination for medical tourism. Expensive or elective procedures are done here at affordable costs. Panama’s proximity to the United States, the use of the US dollar as its currency and the technologically advanced state of medical facilities also contribute to the booming medical tourism industry. Plus, Panama has several spas and resorts where people can spend their recovery period. In fact, medical tourism operators can arrange the entire trip for their clients, from air travel and accommodation right up to the medical procedures.


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