The Republic of Panama may be a tiny country on the world map, but it is one of the most diverse countries you’ll ever find. With incredibly long coastlines, mountains, and tropical rainforests, this Latin American country has it all.
As an expat, working in this transcontinental country in Central America can be a truly wonderful experience. The amazing weather, beautiful scenery, and low cost of living can boost your mind and savings tremendously. But to enjoy your stay in the country, you must buy expatriate health insurance to make sure you don’t end up spending all your savings on hospital visits and stays.
Here is a quick guide to understand the Panama healthcare system, and what to know when buying a Panama expat health insurance plan.
Healthcare Model in Panama
This Latin American country has charted out three healthcare systems: Two of them are government-run, and one is handled autonomously by the private sector. The three healthcare systems in Panama are:
- Public healthcare facilities such as hospitals and clinics governed by the Ministry of Health (MINSA).
- Social Security medical facilities administered by the Caja de Seguro Social (CSS).
- Private hospitals and clinics, mainly located in big cities such as Panama City and David.
Public Healthcare System
This is a national healthcare program designed to serve the poor. The facilities are either free or low-cost.
All the hospitals and clinics under this healthcare system are painted white and green with a yellow logo. The word “Salud” (health) is written in every clinic and hospital. There are several such medical facilities in Panama’s smallest villages.
The patients who avail medical facilities from the Panamanian public healthcare insurance are mostly indigenous and live in remote and rural areas. The services are free or subsidized, and only the cost of expensive medicines needs to be paid upfront by patients.
Who can take advantage of public healthcare benefits in Panama? Only citizens of Panama.
Social Security Hospitals - Caja de Seguro Social
This is the largest healthcare program for the working class in the country. Caja de Seguro Social (CSS) health coverage is funded by co-payments through contributions from employees and employers from the wages to the system. This entails the employees (citizens or expats) and their dependent family members to health coverage.
CSS coverage can be used by expats only if they pay taxes to the government.
Visitors to Panama were previously entitled to free medical insurance coverage under CSS for 30 days for accidents and unforeseeable illnesses. However, due to rising costs, this facility has been eliminated.
The healthcare facilities in CSS are subsidized and not free of cost.
Every working individual is required to pay into the Panamanian Social Security System. However, sometimes employees may risk this amount for a higher pay check and end up paying out of their pockets for medical care. Another advantage of contributing to social security is that the contributor will get pension once they retire.
This sector is very crowded, and long queues make medical treatment chaotic and delayed. Hence, as an expat in the country, you must buy Panamanian expatriate health insurance to receive timely medical attention with good hospital facilities.
The healthcare providers have to juggle between private and CSS healthcare sectors as mandated by the Panamanian Ministry of Health.
Public healthcare insurance in Panama does not include:
- Medicines (some are subsidized, but not expensive ones)
- Dental care and optical care
- Elective cosmetic surgery
- Fertility treatment
- Psychiatric treatment
- Other non-medical or alternative treatments
Who can use CSS healthcare facilities in the country?
- Employed citizens (and dependent family members) who are contributing to the Panamanian Social Security System.
- Expats (and dependent family members) who are employed and are contributing to the Panamanian Social Security System.
Private Healthcare Services in Panama
The private healthcare sector is made up of four big, multi-specialty hospitals in large cities of the Republic of Panama. The private health facilities in Panama are:
- Hospital Nacional (HN)
- Centro Medico Paitilla
- Hospital Punta Pacifica (HPP)
- Clinica Hospital San Fernando (CHSF)
There are also several smaller private health establishments that are exclusive for health insurance buyers (private and expat), as well as for the upper strata of the country, in exchange for upfront direct payment.
Advantages of Using Medical Care in Private Healthcare Facilities
- Shorter waiting times
- State-of-the-art equipment
- Adapting modern medical techniques
- Clean private rooms with undivided attention to each patient
- Accepting private and expat health insurance and upfront payment
Who can use private healthcare facilities in the country?
- People with private or expat health insurance
- Individuals who are able to pay upfront private healthcare fees
Expats in Panama must know this…
The CSS healthcare centers in Panama are overcrowded and many times lack basic facilities. You may be contributing towards the Social Security System and will be eligible to access CSS healthcare facilities. But buying Panama expat health insurance will enable you to access the best private hospitals providing the best medical treatment in the country.
What is generally covered under expat health insurance in Panama?
- Evacuation during natural disasters
- Repatriation due to covered reasons
- Treatment by exclusive doctors and practitioners
- Shorter wait times
- 24x7 visiting hours and better facilities
- Advanced medical procedures and special care
- Dental and optical care
- Pre- and post-maternity care
- Wide range of cancer treatment
- Hospital charges and emergency / planned surgery
- CT, MRI, and PET scans
- Second medical opinion after diagnosis
- Alternative therapies
As an expat in the country, you must buy expatriate health insurance for yourself and your loved ones to ensure that you get the best medical facilities if required. Compare plans, select the one that best fits your needs, and ensure yourself the peace of mind you need in a foreign land.