For years, the Republic of Panama has ranked as a top destination to retire. While an abundance of information can be found on retiring in Panama City and places such as Coronado and Boquete, information on Pedasi as a retirement destination is still hard to come across which is why we’ve designed this report specifically focused on health care and retiring in Pedasi.
Retiring to a foreign country requires a lot of preparation. One of the most important things you want to know when making the decision to move to a different country, especially one where a language is being spoken that you are not familiar with, is that you are in safe hands if something happens to you. No one wants to face any unpleasant surprises and unexpected expenses in case of an accident or illness. So what can you expect in terms of health insurance and medical care when retiring in the small town of Pedasi, Panama’s hidden gem in the Azuero Peninsula?
Health Care in Panama
It is often stated that the Republic of Panama has a great health care system. To a certain degree, this is true, as the country has some of the best hospitals in Latin-America. Nonetheless, it is important to take into consideration that the quality largely depends on where you are in the country and whether you visit a public or a private hospital. Outside of Panama City, you will mainly find (smaller) private clinics and public hospitals, where it may be a challenge to find English speaking staff.
Health Care in Pedasi
Up until not long ago, the best option for people living in Pedasi was to either go to the Centro de Salud (public clinic) in town or to the public hospital in Las Tablas, a 40-minute ride from Pedasi. The public, walk-in clinic is where people usually go for emergencies and usually costs only a few dollars to see a general practitioner, who may or may not speak English, and who will refer you to a specialist in Las Tablas, Chitre or the new Minsa-Capsi just outside of town in case you need more extensive treatment.
The recently opened Minsa-Capsi hospital in Pedasi offers services in hospitalization, general practice, gynaecology, obstetrics, paediatrics, orthopaedics, pharmacy, laboratory, dentistry and physiotherapy. Though this is a new, modern facility, it is still a public hospital meaning if you need major surgery and wish to receive medical care that is comparable to the one you would find it North-America or Europe, it is recommended to go to Panama City.
The state-of-the-art Hospital Punta Pacifica, affiliated with Johns Hopkins, is where you will find the most advanced technology and English speaking staff who have been trained abroad. The good news is that the Hospital Anita Moreno in Chitre, a 1¼ hour drive from Pedasi, is currently undergoing a major renovation, introducing a modern facility with advanced equipment and is expected to be completed by the end of 2016. We can’t count on having English speaking doctors, but given the growth that Chitre has been experiencing, it’s highly probable.
Due to a relatively low cost of living in Panama, it is of no surprise that the cost of medical treatments is significantly lower than in North-America or Europe. A visit to a general practitioner will cost you anywhere between $15 to $100, depending on where you go. Extensive medical procedures often cost half or even a quarter of what the same procedure would cost in the United States.
Medicine is inexpensive and can often be purchased over-the-counter in Panama. Apart from the hospital and the public clinic, Pedasi has a small pharmacy: Farmacia Edith. An additional advantage is that retirees who join the Programa de Pensionado receive a 20% discount on doctor visits and surgery and get 10% off on the already inexpensive prescription medicines.
You may have a better idea now what to expect in terms of medical care when you move to Pedasi, but you also want to make sure you are properly insured or are able to cover the medical expenses in case something happens. Foreigners who decide to permanently reside in Panama have several options when it comes to health insurance:
- Government provided health insurance
The Panamanian government provides a basic health insurance for all permanent residents, both national and foreign. Under this insurance, you are covered for healthcare expenses at public hospitals and clinics in Panama. Coverage is nominal and it is important to take into account that, as mentioned before, the majority of the public hospitals in the Republic of Panama do not meet US or European standards. Technology is often not as advanced as in private hospitals and staff, including doctors, do not always speak English.
- Local or International Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs)
For those who prefer to be treated in private hospitals, the best option is to purchase an insurance plan with local or international HMOs. Your insurance premium largely depends on your age, health and medical history, which is why it is difficult to give an estimate, but it will most likely range anywhere between $75 and $200 per month. The best thing to do is to contact an insurance broker or agent who will be able to compare plans offered by different providers. Internacional de Seguros, MAPFRE, Ancon, ASSA and Pan-American Life Insurance of Panama are some of the most well-known insurance companies in Panama. While some foreigners choose to get local health insurance, which only covers medical expenses made in Panama, many prefer to purchase an international plan to cover them anywhere in the world.
As healthcare costs in Panama are significantly lower than in the United States, Canada and many European countries, some foreigners living in Pedasi have decided not to buy insurance and pay medical expenses out of their own pocket. If you are reaching retirement age or have a long medical history, this may not be the best option for you, but the wisest thing to do before making your decision is to talk to other foreigners, preferably of around the same age who have been living in Panama for a while. Ask them about their experiences, calculate the possible expenses in case you need medical treatment and weigh the pros and cons to make a proper decision.
By now, you hopefully have a clear and realistic understanding and view of what to expect in terms of healthcare and medical care when moving to Pedasi. If you are curious to learn more about retiring in Pedasi, keep on eye on our blog.