International Living – A Reader Confesses: “This is Why We Moved to Panama…”
By Jessica Ramesch

If health care is at the top of your priority list, a visit to Panama may well ease your mind. Just ask the many expats who are moving here. The personalized attention… inexpensive procedures…and quality care in Panama presents a winning package.

Ohio native Tracy Hallen, 41, lives in Boquete with her husband. She says that health care was one of her primary reasons for moving to Panama. “Back home, early retirement is not an option for most…and the expense of health care is a big reason for that. The low cost in Panama made it possible for us to retire early,” she says. Tracy has always been physically active, playing a variety of sports including golf and tennis. When her left knee started to bother her, a friend suggested she go see an orthopedic surgeon at the Chiriqui Hospital. The doctor scheduled a same-day MRI and discovered she had a torn meniscus.

Though a meniscectomy is classified as “elective” surgery, Tracy didn’t have to re-mortgage her beautiful home in Boquete to pay for the procedure. Her local plan still covered part of the procedure and her total out-of-pocket expenses were approximately $1,000. This included the MRI, anesthesiologist, hospital room, surgery, and 10 rehab sessions. She would have paid many times more for the same back home.

Three months later, Tracy was back to golfing, running, and playing tennis. “I never once felt like a number and was so impressed by the care I received. This is why we moved here.”

Panama has much going for it when it comes to health care. Expats are often surprised at how many English-speaking doctors there are—many of them U.S.-trained. Even for expats who are learning Spanish, medical terminology can pose a problem. Knowing you can explain to your doctor exactly how you’re feeling—and have him understand you—is priceless.

Other pluses include a hefty discount program for retirees. Expats who qualify have access to the same comprehensive discounts as Panamanian citizens. Imagine getting 10% to 20% off hospital and private clinic services, prescription medications, medical consults…even dental visits and optometry services. And keep in mind, the prices here are extremely low compared to the U.S. and other First World countries.