Why US Expats are Obsessed with Health Care

I saw this excellent article here. http://futureexpats.com/why-us-expats-are-obsessed-with-health-care/

Availability and cost of health care and health insurance are topics that come up frequently in the expat forums and discussion groups. In the US we worry so much about health care that we can’t imagine not worrying about it when we live somewhere else.

Everyone has to figure out what will work best in their situation. Ourselves, we don’t have any health problems (knock on wood) so we don’t have insurance in Panama. We do have money set aside for emergencies though, and coverage in the US (thank you Obamacare and VA!) Others I know have international insurance policies. Heath care is inexpensive in Panama in the private system, and even cheaper in the public system which isn’t fancy, but you will get the care you need.

Read the article for more thoughts and actual experiences with the health care in Panama vs the USA. http://futureexpats.com/why-us-expats-are-obsessed-with-health-care/

The last line sums it up – “And that, my friends, is why US expats seem obsessed with health care. We are one illness or medical emergency away from bankruptcy even with insurance

This is just one more reason I am very thankful to be in Panama.

About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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21 Responses to Why US Expats are Obsessed with Health Care

  1. Robert&Helen says:

    In most of the European countries you are fully covered for an affordable fee. Usually for 7% of your income. The USA, land of the cowboys, mafia, banksters, cheating, robbing, crime and war criminals. 330 million trying to to rule the world. It is over!!! The whole world does not like the USA.
    We are Europeans living in Panamá.


    • Many other countries have managed to give their people health care at an affordable cost. The US could look at that, one would think.
      The whole world does not like the US for many good reasons. The whole population of the US doesn’t like the US either, especially these days.


  2. oldsalt1942 says:

    Lack of insurance coverage here in Panama and health problems (emphysema) are forcing me to repatriate. At least I have Medicare up there. Here I’ve had the Hospital Chiriqui plan which isn’t REAL insurance but a reimbursement program. You have to pay up front and then apply for reimbursement. I’ve looked into real insurance here and it would be fine if I didn’t plan on eating or paying rent to have a roof over my head. I’m NOT kidding about that. Premiums would eat up every penny I get from SS. And that’s IF it would be possible for a 75 year old man with three stents in his coronary arteries and emphysema to even GET a policy.


    • I’ve heard the Chiriqui plan won’t take you if you are over 70, but apparently they will keep you if you turn 70. I hope things go well for you in the US and Medicare provides you what you need. Do you have part B?


      • oldsalt1942 says:

        I DO. One of the smart things I did when I moved here was to keep paying the $100+ a month to keep Medicare active because you never know when you might have to repatriate and if you canceled it you’d be in deep doo.


        • I turn 65 in June so I’ll be on Medicare soon. I think I will opt out of part B though. Maybe I’ll be sorry some day but $140/mo adds up over the years. I’m glad you will get what you need though!


  3. Laureen says:

    I am unable to get private insurance here in Mexico because of a pre-existing condition. Mexico does have nationalized healthcare though, and with residency, I qualify, so I do have very inexpensive médica coverage for emergencies. Like Panama, going to the doctor’s office or getting minor problems taken care of is very inexpensive by US standards. I had an appointment with an internal medicine doctor to take care of some blood work, and she sat and talked with me for about an hour. She explained things to me that no specialist in the US ever bothered to (of course it is hard to do so if one only has 15 minutes tops per patient). Total cost for that hour of chatting w/a specialist was about $40 usd. Life is good south of the border.


    • Exactly! What a joy to get all the time you need with a doctor at any price. Here a specialist is $50, a GP maybe $30. It’s a huge relief to know we can get affordable care. We also could go to the public system for much less if necessary.


  4. Well that sums it up for us as well … we’re just knocking on wood that nothing serious happens to either of us before we make the move … our insurance premium is over 20k per year. It has quadrupled since ObamaCare. We are in that in-between income where we barely qualified in 2015 and may not in 2016 in which case we’ll have to pay back nearly 9k … next year the ramifications will be double that amount so we are thinking of going without insurance for the rest of the year, and canceling our policy.

    As self-employed, without Obamacare, we sink here and it gets harder and harder to qualify, or to make enough money to tuck away enough money in pre-tax retirement accounts to lower our Adjustable gross in order to qualify. One gets in the position of worrying about making “too much money” … crazy sad.


    • Good heavens! That’s a crazy amount to pay for insurance. It’s close to our entire income. Yeah, get a job for the benefits. Where does that leave the self employed and the entrepreneurs, the people who really make América great by forging their own paths and doing innovative things? The whole thing is just crazy and I’m sorry to hear you are one of the ones who isn’t getting much help.


  5. jim and nena says:

    Hola Kris,
    at first blush, I automatically brace with any website offering ads in the sidebar. That is a for-profit site so the information will be to generate traffic.
    Routine healthcare in Panama is cheap. Doctor visits take forever because the hours the doctor spends with patients is great unless you are the 5th patient that day. We don’t have insurance in the US, just Medicare, and Nena’s last overnight in the hospital last year was totally billed to Medicare, no charges to us. Nena is preparing for cataract surgery next month, total cost to us about 500 bucks, we have zero additional insurance beyond Medicare. My impression is that having supplemental insurance just adds to the bill, the healthcare provided is the same.

    The major portion of the money in the US goes to the huge bureaucracy tracking healthcare costs, not to docs or nurses or any medical procedures. I see doctor’s offices staffed with 4 or 5 times the number of paper shufflers as I see medical staff; that is where the money is going, docs and nurses ain’t getting rich. Obamacare did not fix that.

    For the record, we are generally in good health, no chronic issues, and no surgeries. My last 3 docs all dropped me after not seeing me for 2 years. That’s a good thing.


    • Medicare covered everything? I thought the patient still had to pay a portion. That’s good news because I also will have only Medicare part A. I don’t see paying for more when I don’t even live there. Insurance doesn’t change the care, but depending on what you have they might fight more to provide less care so you cost them less money.

      Don’t even get me started on the paperwork. I was a home health field nurse and case manager. By the time I quit I was spending 50% of my time at my desk. There was a whole office of people behind me doing nothing but paperwork. The requirements were crushing but if everything wasn’t just right, we wouldn’t get paid and nobody would be working or getting care. Interesting enough, I worked for 2 agencies, one totally computerized and one still on paper, and both took the same amount of time to do the same work. I miss all that…. NOT!!


  6. peggyjoan42 says:

    The U.S. is a big mess in many areas. This country is not what it use to be. I do not believe things will get better with a different health insurance bill. Enjoy living in Panama.


  7. I work for an insurance company so this is my life. I can promise you my next phone call with have something to do with the repeal of the ACA or how high their premiums are. Its good to read different articles and get different perspectives.


    • Oh dear, that must be a challenging job! I was thinking, without ACA how high would the premiums be? Even before ACA they were going up and up and up. I am one of the uninsured who finally has insurance because of the ACA so you would only get happy calls from me. Too bad this isn’t so most of the time. Hang in there!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Kris – Medicare gives me panic attacks. I had to sign up for part A (which is free) when I turned 65, and specifically decline part B as I’m still employed and have employer provided insurance. Part A only covers hospital stays. Part B covers doctor visits, and is not free. At the most recent count it would cost around $129 – $139 per month – with late sign up penalties at about 30% kicking in if you delay signing up – for the life of the policy. And you’d have to provide two signed forms proving you had employer provided insurance if and when you do sign up during their next open enrollment window. Part B would be deducted from your social security payments. And then there’s Part D – for prescription drugs – which also costs extra. The mess goes on and on. It’s a never ending morass of confusing regulations. I too would like to bury my head in the sand somewhere… Ugh.


    • I know! I figure $139/month put aside would pay for a lot in Panama, and I much prefer the care here. I suppose Medicare A is some sort of safety net but I don’t have a lot of faith in US care over Panamanian care. As you can imagine, I’ve seen things and I have too many stories, and it’s worse when you look at the care and challenges of the elderly in the US.


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