More on Health Care in Panama

One of my good blog friends shared a link to a post written by Larry Mathews HERE. Larry had COPD and lived in David for quite a few years, but eventually went back to the USA for more medical care. In the article he talks about the difference in care he got in Panama compared to the care in the USA.

One point I really agree with – your doctors and health care providers may give you various levels of education on how to take care of yourself and manage your medical problems, but it is up to you to educate yourself as well. This was a big aspect of my job as a home health nurse. Patients either weren’t given the information they needed, or had become overwhelmed with trying to grasp it all. I made home visits in a calm environment, and hopefully when I was finished they (with their families) were in a much better position to care for themselves and keep themselves out of the hospital.

Unfortunately Larry died five months after the article was published. I don’t know if his time in the US extended his life by a bit, or made his last months more comfortable. This is something to think about for all of us though. If, or more realistically when you are faced with health issues, what are your options? What would you do?

Myself, I am comfortable with the quality of care here. I enjoy a quality of life here that I don’t want to give up. You can see a doctor quickly without waiting weeks for an appointment. Care is affordable. And, there is a very high level of respect for the elderly. Who knows what we would do until faced with a situation, but I’m inclined to stay here if at all possible.

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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9 Responses to More on Health Care in Panama

  1. Felipe says:

    I shared your post yesterday with a few coworkers thinking about moving abroad for retirement. Now this one, you’re really on good topics.
    From the sounds of it, if you’re in Panama you get seen quickly and affordably. Here, I see wait times for appointments then stress from fighting with insurance companies on what’s paid, not allowed, not covered, not on a “formulary”, etc. You think you’re covered, and may not be.
    I live in the US but I’m healthy. My sister moved to the UK 15 years ago and has health issues. A big part of her decision to move (and become a citizen there) was our health system. Prior to her UK move, she flew to Panama City from Texas specifically for her routine health care. Our system, even 20 years ago, had become impossible for her and she found the Panama system superior I knowledge and ease of navigation. So, to each his own. Panama’s health system is part of my reason for considering an early retirement to Panama.
    Wherever I may be, I have to assume I should take an active part in my care, treatment and decisions and research options on my own and ask questions of my provider. (Fortunately, I’m bilingual which should help me if I ever move down your way)
    Nice topics! Thanks again.


    • The US health care system has “issues”! I’m glad to be here. I read statistics some time back that said the leading cause of bankruptcy in the US was medical bills, and the majority of those people had insurance.
      Being bilingual is a really big help. Many doctors speak English but other staff probably doesn’t, and just life in general is easier if you can communicate. My Panamanian friends are a huge part of why I am so happy here.


  2. Laureen MacDonald says:

    Thank you for sharing Larry’s post, a very interesting read. All of us aging baby boomers are concerned about healthcare, and I did the tour of Hospital Chiriqui when we were exploring the area two years ago.
    Ten years ago, we were in Mexico when I ended up being admitted to the hospital and was diagnosed with a rare blood condition, within 24 hours of my arrival. This was a condition that I’d had symptoms for years when we lived in the Pacific Northwest, and I’d seen many specialists, but nobody ever diagnosed it.
    Fast forward to today, since I now have a pre-existing condition, I have been unable to purchase private health coverage now that I live in Mexico. There is nationalized health care in Mexico, so I do have coverage that is very inexpensive, about the equivalent of $100usd for three years. That’s less than what some folks spend on one fancy dinner out in the US! I am limited to which hospitals I can use though, but like Panama, it is inexpensive to see a doctor here. When I went to see an Internal Medicine doctor here, she spent nearly an hour with me, and it cost approximately the equivalent of $40usd, less than many people’s co-pay in the US.
    Luckily I am healthy, even though I have a pre existing condition, I think of my health insurance here as a catastrophic plan. I can afford to go see medical professionals when I need to, since the out of pocket cost is so much less compared to the US. When living in the US, Obamacare saved our finances when we were having to fork out huge amounts for premiums due to my pre existing condition. It will be interesting to see what the current administration replaces it with. In the mean time, I feel very blessed to be able to live south of the border.


    • The same thing happened here, not as dramatic but Joel’s mom was with us for the first 6 months, and she got more help here in that time than she’d gotten in years in the US solving some things that had been bothering her.
      Don’t get me started on insurance in the US. They are happy to take your money unless you look like there is any chance you might need something, and then they want nothing to do with you. I’m glad to hear you have care available where you are, and at such affordable prices.
      I hope they don’t undo any progress made by Obamacare and leave more people without coverage but they will do whatever they will do and like you, I will be happy and relieved to be south of the border.


  3. An interesting point, and I agree with him that each of us would be wise to stay as informed research wise as possible on whatever condition we have …. here in the states, my husband suffers from allergy related inner ear issues and what it boiled down to , was that once HE took control of his own health … did the research, experimented with changing his diet , etc … is when he started to get better … here, they herd you through appts like cattle trying to make their “quota” … its frustrating everywhere I suppose.


    • Unfortunately I don’t think doctors in the US have the time to really get to know and evaluate someone. Like you said, they have to keep the money flowing above all else or the doors can’t stay open. It is frustrating, and a relief to see a quite different approach here. And doctors can’t/won’t stray too far from mainstream medicine, and health is so much more complicated than that. Good for your husband and glad he was able to get better!


  4. Anonymous says:

    kris ,here in the USA everyone is just one step from the poor house if they ever have a major medical event, April 2015 I was hit by a drunk driver , as I road my motorcycle, went 109 feet in the air , landed on other side of road, bike totaled , spent two weeks in hospital two surgeries on my right foot and other injuries,, then had rehab in a another facility ,, total bill just for the hospital stay was 238,000 thank god I had good insurance and a lawyer . I broke all the bones in my right foot so it was more or less put back together ,,


    • Oh good heavens, I’m glad to hear you survived! But yes, if you hadn’t had such good insurance and a lawyer, that would have been a crazy amount of money to pay for your care. I have heard that the leading cause of bankruptcy is medical costs, and most of those people had insurance. It’s bad enough to be sick or injured without being wiped out by the cost of care. I’m glad to hear you weren’t hurt any worse. That was plenty bad enough. Is your foot OK now, and the rest of you too?


  5. My comments on your previous post stand.

    Liked by 1 person

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