Learn about the Panama Healthcare System & Medical Insurance Options for Expats

Panama is a popular expat destination. Due to the high volume of expats, Panama’s healthcare system is reaching international standards. To improve the health infrastructure and uplift the quality of services, the government is investing heavily in the medical sector. As an expat or digital nomad in Panama, you may need access to adequate healthcare services owing to the country’s tropical climate. Here’s what you need to know about the Panama healthcare system and medical insurance options for expats.

The public hospitals and private clinics of Panama have adequate doctors, qualified medical staff, and specialists. Even then, you can buy international health insurance from a leading global insurance company to secure your health while staying in the country.

More health information about Panama is available at CDC.

Overview of Healthcare System

A highlight point of the Panamanian healthcare sector is the quality of its well-trained bilingual doctors and medical professionals. The quality of healthcare in Panama hospitals equals the quality of hospitals in Canada, the U.S., and Europe. The best part about the medical professionals and nurses in Panama is that expats find them compassionate. Additionally, even general physicians provide exceptional care.

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How the Panama Healthcare System Works for Expats

The government of Panama continues to work towards enhancing the quality of healthcare. It has worked hard to implement the universal health care system for permanent residents as well as citizens. Since it mainly provides basic coverage, opting for private health insurance may be the best option. Expats, digital nomads, and global citizens should invest in a private health insurance plan before arriving in Panama. Otherwise, they will have to pay from their pockets for all the services rendered. For expats, international private health insurance serves as the best option, and it not must include emergency evacuation coverage.

Public Healthcare

The public hospitals in Panama are funded by the Social Security System and the Ministry of Health. Services in these hospitals are almost free. However, those who can afford private healthcare may choose to do so. Many expats do not opt for healthcare at public hospitals because of the long waiting periods. They may not even get the dedicated care they can expect at a private facility. As an expat, if you want to go for public healthcare in Panama, you must check out the public hospitals well in advance.

The public healthcare in this central American national was designed to provide accessibility to basic medical services, including consultations, hospitalization, and preventive care. As with many public systems, it has faced challenges such as long waiting times and limited resources, particularly in more remote areas. Expatriates may find that public healthcare facilities may not consistently offer English-speaking staff or the same level of amenities as private options.

Expatriates residing in Panama are recommended to obtain private health insurance to cover medical expenses and ensure access to a broader range of healthcare services. Public health services are designed with local nationals in mind, not expats and global nomads.

Panama healthcare system

Private Healthcare

Most expats seek treatments at the country’s state-of-the-art private hospitals. Also, the hospitals are equipped with video conferencing facilities to encourage learning and sharing of information across hospitals. Owing to the small size of the country, having access to a modern private hospital is quite easy.

Private health centers in Panama provide expats and locals who can afford their costs access to extremely high-quality medical services with shorter waiting times and increased comfort. Hospitals and clinics in urban centers, such as Panama City, provide modern facilities, state-of-the-art technology, and English-speaking medical professionals with their training obtained in countries such as Canada and the USA.

Emergency Medical Services

In the event of a medical emergency, dial 911 for ambulance service. In case the ambulance does not arrive on time, take a taxi and reach the nearest hospital. Small towns have clinics, and cities have hospitals where you can receive immediate, basic medical care. Citizens, permanent residents, and expats, regardless of income, can access free healthcare as a part of emergency medical treatment.

Panama City has well-equipped hospitals and medical facilities. Some notable hospitals include Punta Pacifica Hospital, Hospital Nacional, and Hospital Santo Tomás. Hospital Nacional is a private hospital with 78 beds distributed in 33 private rooms, 28 semi-private rooms, 5 suites and 3 VIP suites.

Outside major urban centers, healthcare facilities may be more limited.

Medicines and Pharmacies

Pharmacies in Panama allow the purchase of prescription and non-prescription drugs. Moreover, medications that may require a prescription in other countries are generally available over the counter in Panama. If you know the name of the drug you are seeking, you can directly ask for it at the pharmacy and get it without a prescription.

Pharmacies are easily accessible in cities and towns throughout the country, including popular expat destinations like Panama City. Pharmacies typically carry a wide range of medications, including both brand-name and generic options. It’s advisable for expats to ensure that any specific medications they require are available locally. There is a wide assortment of pharmacies in Panama City, including brand-name and generic medications.

Best Private International Medical Insurance Plans for Expats

International companies offer expats, global citizens, and digital nomads private health insurance plans at competitive costs. Private healthcare is an add-on to public healthcare in Panama. Ideally, it should be complemented by an international health insurance cover that provides medical airlifting and overseas evacuation during an emergency. Most of our expat clients in Panama, often choose the Cigna Global and Allianz International offers. The healthcare institutions across Panama mainly recognize them.

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