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Do I Need International Medical Insurance to Live in Panama?


Living in Panama is a paradise on Earth, and the last thing you want is a medical emergency. If you want to protect yourself or a loved one, having medical insurance in Panama is crucial. The question, however, is if you need international medical insurance instead.

If you plan on settling down on Panama, international medical insurance is a good option. For those planning to travel, it can be a good way to protect yourself from any untoward incident. For those who will stay in Panama most of the year, get domestic medical insurance. Not only is it cheaper, but it also covers more for less.

Looking to stay in Panama long enough for medical insurance to be useful? Take a look at the reasons why or why not get yourself international medical insurance. Your decision here can impact how you live in Panama for a long time.

Understanding Healthcare In Panama

Panama has one of the best healthcare in Central America, with many world-class hospitals. Panama boasts some of the most state-of-the-art hospitals in the region. As you can expect, many of them are within Panama City.

For example, Hospital Punta Pacifica is one of the most advanced hospitals in Latin America. Its affiliation is with Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, which is among the best in the world. This hospital has some of the best tech and best-trained doctors on this side of the continent.

Many of the doctors you’ll find in Panama have international experience and training. You’ll also find many other hospitals in the city to have almost the same superior quality. These include:

  •     Centro Medico Paitilla
  •     Hospital Nacional

These hospitals will have the best medical staff in the city. It becomes an assurance that you get a specialized treatment that no other clinic can offer. These hospitals are private and can afford the best of the best.

The incentive to go to private hospitals is the price of admission. Even if you pay out of pocket, the cost will be almost ten times lower than the US. The quality is almost the same as most hospitals in the US too, so you’re getting more for less.

The same is not true for public hospitals.

The Status of Public Healthcare In Panama

Public hospitals in Panama receive funding from the government. They get it specifically from the Ministry of Health and the country’s Social Security System. Because of this funding, you’ll notice when you visit that public healthcare is almost free. The only fees you’ll have are nominal at worst.

If you can afford to pay for private healthcare, however, it’s best to opt for something private. The problem stems from the small funding that public healthcare receives. Most public hospitals do not have the same healthcare standards as private hospitals.


Most public hospitals are catering to the rest of the population. What this means is people would need to get appointment weeks in advance for low-cost healthcare. Waiting time can be as long as two weeks; it will take too long before you get their attention.

This situation is the best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario is far more annoying if you’re an expat. You can expect rude behavior, and you’d have to deal with people who know they’re overworking.

Even if you get admission in the ER, we’re talking about hours before actual admission happens. Don’t let the drawbacks distract you, however, that this is a very viable option. If you plan on paying out of pocket, a public hospital is a way to go.

Sure, they will have outdated equipment and limited facilities, but the medical professionals are still great. If you plan on taking advantage of this option, find out the best choices you have. Every locale has a different experience, so be on the lookout.

How Does Health Insurance Work in Panama?

Insurance is not a requirement if you’re an expat residing in the isthmus. You can pay out of pocket for any healthcare needs that you have. You can also get a private health insurance company to handle everything that you need.

You will need to pay around $20 out of pocket if you don’t have insurance for a generalist. If you need specialist doctors, a visit will cost you somewhere around $70. If you go to small public doctors, you likely would only need to pay for medication.

A trip to the emergency room should set you back around $100, with an MRI at around $500. Prescription drugs will cost less and cosmetic surgery will cost around a quarter of US price. You can get everything much cheaper if you have some level of insurance coverage.
Which Medical Insurance Is Right For You?

Domestic health insurance and international health insurance vary in coverage and price in Panama. How you choose your medical insurance depends on your level of activity.

If you’re staying more than 90 percent of the time inside Panama, go domestic. Local medical insurance coverage will give you a good chunk of savings in the long run. It covers the same types of services that you will get with any insurance in Panama.

Sure, they may come in lower maximum limits, but all you need to do is shop around. Look for the best health insurance in Panama and get the best equivalent offer they give as the one you have in your country. The difference in pricing is night and day.

If you’re nomadic in nature and settled in Panama, it’s best to opt for international medical insurance. This type of insurance will handle all your medical needs wherever you are, which is great for your needs. They will have high limits in exchange for having higher premiums.

International medical insurance is worth it if you’re going and gallivanting around the world. You will get special perks like emergency evacuation coverage, which is always a great thing to have.

Public vs Private: Which Medical Insurance is Better?

So, apart from the price, why opt for local medical insurance in Panama? For starters, local medical professionals are some of the best in the region. Many trained in the US and are bilingual by nature. Some practitioners are even expats who stayed in Panama to retire and ingrain their roots locally.

While many of the nurses and other health professionals only have local training, their care and compassion is something you can’t question. They’ll make sure to take care of you and provide the best healthcare service available.

It’s not uncommon to see local doctors attend to your every medical need. They’ll spend hours making sure that you are in the best condition and care. The one on one attention is hard to deny, and you’ll feel like you hired a family doctor to take care of you.

Opting for international medical insurance, on the other hand, gives you clear cut advantages. First, you have insurance all over the world, which is great if you travel a lot. The limit can be anywhere in the millions of dollars, depending on the plan you take.

These types of medical insurance also let you pick any doctor and any hospital that you want. Outside Panama, you can get doctors within the network of your insurance provider. You can also pick from the hospitals within their network of affiliates.

You also have the option to save a lot of money if you opt to exclude the United States from your coverage.
Tips To Take Advantage of Your International Medical Insurance

If you decided to get international insurance, there are some tips that can save you a ton of money.

If you’re willing to exclude the United States from your international medical insurance, you can also save a ton of money. Many insurance providers don’t like covering the United States due to the cost of healthcare in the country. If you need to go back to the locale, there are some workarounds for it.

When traveling back to the US, your best bet is to get travel insurance for the duration of your stay. You’re now staying most of the time in Panama and outside the United States. Travel insurance is your best pick.

Many insurance companies will not cover pre-existing conditions. Take into account if coverage of your pre-existing condition is important to you. This will cost you a bit more on your insurance premiums, but it should be worth it.

Like any medical insurance, they will have their local doctors give you a physical exam. They will check for any pre-existing condition, what they will cover, and what they won’t.


Do you need international medical insurance to live in Panama? The short answer is no. If you’re staying for most of the time in Panama, domestic medical insurance is enough. If you like to travel around different countries, international medical insurance is the best.

Follow our tips and we’re sure you’d save more money with your medical insurance in Panama. Find the best insurance that will handle your coverage and read on what it covers. Medical insurance is among the most basic needs in Panama, so you want it on standby.

What kind of insurance do you have in Panama? Are you looking for the right insurance for you? It’s best to customize your insurance to your exacting needs. You’ll save more money and keep yourself protected in the long run.