A Chiriquí Chatter Reader’s Experience with Med-Serve

I received the following with a request to post. The following is the author’s experience. I have no experience or opinion about Med-Serve. I don’t know if this experience is the norm or an exception.

From……: David
Email…..: david@davidduty.com

I’m so angry I could spit nails!!! Where do I even start??????????

Back in Oct. 2008 I started having a back problem and my legs didn’t support me. I could barley walk. So I went to Chiriqui hospital and saw Dr. Emir Perez who I consider to be a great doctor. He felt that I had a pinched nerve or even worse, that it could be cut. If it got worse then I would be paralyzed from the waist down. I of course ask for second opinions and he was happy to set up appointments with other doctors. He told me I should have back surgery because if I happened to step off the curb wrong it could cut the nerve in half and them I”m toast.

He had several test scheduled, one was with another doctor at the same hospital using some kind of electronic equipment. That test also showed nerve damage between L4 and L5 just like Dr. Perez said. Then the two doctors spoke and ordered a CAT Scan which confirmed what they thought, a pinched nerve between L4 and L5.

I told him to schedule the surgery for as soon as possible. He ask if I had insurance or was going to pay cash. I told him I had Med Serve. He told me not to expect much as they don’t like to pay. That was my first clue about them. So I went to the Med-Serve office and met with Manual who is either the owner or manager or something. He is the head guy there. I explained to him that I had test done and needed to have surgery and wanted to know how much the insurance would pay. I told him that Dr. Perez said it would cost between $10,000 to $12,000 depending on how bad it was once he was operating. Manual said that this is in line with what the doctors charge for this. I said ok then, you are going to pay 70% of that. Manual told me that since I wanted a private room I had to pay the extra $35 a day for that and they didn’t pay for toilet paper, paper towels and personal items. I told him not to worry I would pay that. Then I even wrote down on paper sitting in front of him at his office saying that if the operation cost $12,000 that they would pay 70% of that less these “personal items and the extra charge for a private room. He said that was correct. What a lie that was!!!!

I had the operation done and was in the hospital for only two days. During the operation, I had respiratory failure and another doc had to come in. Also Dr. Perez had another doctor assist him. The operation itself was fine. I thought it would all be OK so I ask to see the bill so I could check out.

Now, I had already paid for the electrical test, the CAT Scan (cost was $1,000) and a $1,000 “deposit” to check into the hospital. When I got the bill I was shocked. Not in the bill itself which was about $12,000 or so. Add that to the $1,500 of test I had done it was up to about $13,500. All these numbers are aproximate as I’m going back three years in memory. But they are real close.

Guess how much Med-Serve was going to pay??????? They only paid $3,500 of the $12,000 hospital bill. I was furious and told the hospital that this had to be wrong that Med-Serve said they were going to pay 70% less the “little extras”. They said they did not know anything about that and I had to pay them about $7,000 more. Remember I had already paid them a deposit of about $1,000. I was furious. I think this was on the weekend because I wanted to go see Manual at Med-Serve and see what was going on.

Anyway, I told my friend who was staying with me to pack my cloths and take them to the car and pull the car around by the emergency room and I would be there soon. I ask the nurse for a walker so I could walk “around’. She brought me one and I walked right out of the hospital, got in my car and my friend drove me back to Boquete. About half way home, the hospital called and said that I can’t just leave and that I had to come back and pay the bill. I told them I was almost home and wasn’t coming back until I felt better.

About a week later I went to see Manual at Med-Serve. To say I was angry was an understatement. I went in his office and he informed me that they only paid 70% of what they “authorized” and they only authorized $5,000. He also told me that they did not pay for the second doctor and that they did not pay for the other doctor who had to be called in when I had respiratory problems. And to add insult to injury the two test I had done, electrical and CAT Scan the first one cost about $200 and the CAT Scan cost about $1,000. Manual informed me that they only pay 50% of these test and they only pay for one test a month!!!!!! So guess what they paid 50% of the $200 test and ZERO on the CAT Scan.

So all in all, the $14,000 or so hospital bill they paid about $3,600, certainly not much more!!!

But wait their lies get worse.

This pas January I had a heart attack and went to Chiriqui Hospital. They set up up with a cardio doc who was there to have a stress test done. I had the test done and he told me I had blockage and needed to see another doctor which I did. This doctor told me that I need by-pass surgery and between 5 to 8 stints and it would coast about $30,000 and ask if I had insurance. I still had the @^$#^&# Med-Serve Insurance and knew they would not pay anything close to 70%.

I decided to have some alternative treatments done call EECP which is done in Panama City, not here in David. The treatment is FDA approved, Medicare Approved, and is about the only treatment they even use in much of Asia. The cost is only $3,000 here but I had to stay in Panama City for about a month and have 35 one hour treatments.

Back to Med-Serve. They said it is not on their list of approved treatments and they did not know anything about it and I would have to have my cardio doctor here in David write them a letter and say that he thinks I need it. That was a major task in itself since the cardio doc here was not that familiar with it. I bought him books, sent him links to websites and had the doctor in Panama who does EECP call him. Reluctantly he wrote a letter to Med-Serve telling them that I need to have this treatment done.

So we take this letter to Med-Serve. They wanted more information about it. We provided that as well as having the doctor in Panama call them and explain what a great success rate they had with it for 1/10 the cost of by-pass.

So back to Med-Serve again. This time the office manager, not Manual took all the paperwork and told us to call him back. Every time Manual saw me he quickly left. I wonder why???? We called them back and they told my friend (I don’t speak Spanish) that Med-Serve had approved me to have these treatments done and that they would pay for 50% of the cost. Not great but better than noting.

They told us to just pay for it and bring them the receipts and they would reimburse us. I did just that and they told me it would take about 45 days to get paid. So I thought at least I would get some money back. So on the first of June I called to ask if my check was ready. They told me it would not be ready until the 15th and to come get it then. On the 15th I called and they said it was not ready but would be ready the next day. So the next day I call before wasting a trip to David. Guess what???

They told me that they were not going to give me a check that they decided the treatment was not covered!! And this was after they told me it would be covered and to just bring them the receipts.

I was furious and called Manual back. He told me that he was not going to give me a check and that the treatment was not covered. I told him that his own employee had told me it would be covered. He said that didn’t matter because the employee doesn’t have the right to tell me it would be covered and only he could do that. Every heard of this kind of BS.

I can tell you know that if you have Med-Serve “insurance” (they can’t even call it insurance because it’s so bad) just be aware that they are a bunch of crooks. Let them sue me if they want to. I’ve got documents and proof of everything I’ve written here.


Has anyone else had a similar experience with this “Insurance Company”?

30 thoughts on “A Chiriquí Chatter Reader’s Experience with Med-Serve

  1. One, they are Panamanian so their word is worthless, the word is only to get you out the door. And really when they tell you to pay and they will reimburse you they must still be telling their friends about how you fell for it. Although we still have to hear their side of the story unless you have something in writing you have nothing and even in writing it’s almost worthless. If a hospital won’t agree to bill the insurance directly then that explains clearly what your chances are. I’m sure that Manuel has never given you anything in writing with his signature on it, if so please present any documents here. Sorry to be so harsh on you too but why would you take their word that they would pay 50% without something in writing? It’s now up to Med-Serve to explain their side of the story.

  2. I did have something in writing. It’s called an insurance policy. In their insurance policy, about three or four pages, it says they cover this kind of doctor requested treatments. That doesn’t seem to matter much though. They just lie through their teeth.


  3. This in incredible! The only explanation that I can think of for refusing to pay after they agreed to, is that they must be experiencing extreme financial difficulties, and they simply don’t have the money.

  4. “”John says:
    June 17, 2011 at 8:16 pm
    One, they are Panamanian so their word is worthless,…””

    John, nothing like slandering an entire nation of people because of a few bad apples. My wife is Panamanian and I would take her word over yours and other hateful people like you any day. Why do you live here if you feel like that????

    David: you have had previous experiences with them, why did you allow yourself to get snared in their trap again??? Fool me once, your fault, fool me twice, my fault!!!

    I’ve been here since 1999 and my advice is to either seek treatment in a hospital in Panama City or, time permitting, fly back to the U.S. for treatment.

  5. My doctor in this hospital ordered several lab tests for me. The “insurance” decided to pay only 2/3 of them, saying that the others did not have a specific diagnosis. This tells me that, 1. Physicians were never informed that they have to write several “diagnoses” for lab tests, 2. Someone other than my physician gets to decide what tests I should have (without ever examining me or my records) 3. A diagnosis is required to produce lab tests…I thought it was the other way around.
    I am furious with this “insurance” organization – for my self and for the many others who have been cheated out of their money and health care. Read some of their horror stories.

    I am not going all the way from Boquete to Panama City for each and every medical need I may have. I certainly am not flying back and forth to the US. Many here are on limited budgets and ORIGINALLY this hospital provided a means to have insurance at a reasonable cost and medical procedures at a reasonable cost. But all that has changed. Here in Chiriqui it has been the only option for people with limited incomes who want a private hospital.

  6. Patrick, “a few bad apples”, more than a few I believe. Have you ever tried to do business here or build anything in Panama?

    I apologize for slandering your wife, as I don’t believe I have had to take her at her word. “Hateful”, why is it hateful to say how I find it here? Maybe I have a higher standard as I always try and keep my word. I found it interesting that you could only bring yourself to defend your wife, “is there no one else”? It’s not a state secret how it is here, whether your talking to foreigners or Panamanians everyone seems to bitch about this. Just bring up lawyers at any gringo bar or with a Panamanian for that matter to hear amazing horror stories, and I mean ‘frigging unbelievable’

    Patrick, Perhaps you could give us a rough percentage of the bad apples?

    David, Yes re-reading my post I hope I wasn’t to harsh. I think we have all had to redefine reality living here. Lawyers are worthless and surprise themselves if they succeed which they usually don’t. From what I’ve read when a hospital finds out someone has insurance the price skyrockets, so suddenly your 30-40% would have paid for the uninsured price before paying out for the worthless insurance. Does anyone else find this is correct?

  7. It is easy to come to conclusions that throw the baby out with the bath water. The main issue being discussed is the merits or lack of merits of the insurance offered by Med-Serve of Chiriquí Hospital.

    The focus of the discussion should be to determine whether people are being misled with false claims by this provider. That is a good discussion to have and awareness brings changes. Panama is a small country and the word travels fast.

    The other discussion has seemed to creep into this discussion or discussions on other discussion groups implies that Chiriquí Hospital may not provide as good of care as other hospitals. The Truth be known, your care in any of these hospitals depends on the specific doctor. One thing that many new residents of Chiriquí don’t realize is that the same doctors practice in Hospital Corp, Hospital Chiriquí, Mae Lewis, the Regional hospital and others.

    In the U.S. a doctor is typically tied to a specific hospital. That is not true in Panama. Many specialists that practice in Panama City come to David a couple times a month to see patients.

    There are very good doctors in David; there are doctors that see all patients as a $ and there are doctors to steer clear of. I believe you can say the same for doctors in the U.S.

    Knowing which doctor to choose is one big reason that new comers to Panama need to become a part of the community. Panamanians know which doctors they trust and which ones they don’t. Often you will learn more by talking to a Panamanian than to a non-Spanish speaking gringo.

    The bad doctors rip off Panamanians just as often as they do gringos. Gringos just have a bigger target on their back.

    Unfortunately as we get older we all need insurance more, and we use insurance more. A good thing to do is to talk to some insurance brokers and get estimates for coverage for your age and physical condition. My bet is that the more reputable companies will have rates similar for similar coverage to the others and they will have similar restrictions on preexisting conditions.

    Any insurance provider that offers an order of magnitude lower price, should be questioned as to how they can do that. You can’t get something for nothing and if the deal seems to good to be true, then it most likely is.

  8. This is also about the Hospital, which seems to be charging more than other hospitals in Panama for the same procedures. This was not the case 5 or 6 years ago. Their prices have skyrocketed. Perhaps it is tied to the insurance perhaps it is not. Nevertheless, the prices quoted by people who have had them are only slightly below or the same as the equivalent procedures in the U.S.

  9. I would say that the prices of the hospitals have gotten more expensive. When I have been in Panama City I have found doctors and hospitals to be higher than in David. I would agree that prices in the hospitals are close to the same prices in the US.

    I do know that you can get things done cheaper in the Regional hospital, however you pay price for that by just being there.

    I have heard people complain about Mae Lewis as well as Hospital Chiriqui. I do not believe the problem is solely one of a single hospital. My opinion.

    And if you think they are high here, be thankful you do not live in Costa Rica!

  10. John:‭ ‬I’ll‭ ‬try to answer your questions.

    ‭“‬Have you ever tried to do business here or build anything in Panama‭?”

    Yes I have,‭ ‬11‭ ‬years ago I‭ ‬build a house,‭ ‬it is a two story very large house.‭ The builder submitted in the contract that the house would be completed In‭ ‬4‭ ‬months.‭ ‬Work was started the first week of February and completed the‭ ‬3rd week in May before the‭ ‬4‭ ‬months expired‭! ‬No,‭ ‬I have never tried to open a business,‭ ‬don’t believe most foreigners moving here seek to open a business as most are retired.‭ ‬My builder,‭ ‬Panamanian,‭ ‬kept his word‭!!!

    “Hateful‭”‬,‭ ‬why is it hateful to say how I find it here‭?”‬,‭ ‬John,‭ ‬I do not know‭ where you come from but if I said:‭ “‬One,‭ ‬they are Americans‭ (‬or any other‭ nationality‭) ‬ so their word is worthless,‭…”‬ reasonable people would consider that statement hateful.

    John,‭ ‬your statement‭ “‬I found it interesting that you could only bring yourself‭ to defend your wife,‭ “‬is there no one else‭”? ‬Having lived here for over‭ ‬11‭ ‬years if you wanted me to list every Panamanian friend that I trust and whose word‭ I trust then this response would never get completed.‭ ‬What an asinine statement‭!

    John says:‭ “‬Patrick,‭ ‬Perhaps you could give us a rough percentage of the bad apples‭?” Well,‭ ‬John,‭ ‬it’s probably the same percentage of bad apples as where you came from‭!

    Don’t like it here John, nobody’s holding you prisoner, planes leave daily. Oh, by theway John, this reply in no way condones the actions of the Med-Serv group or some Doctors associated with Hospital Chiriqui. As a matter of fact, I saw a Cardiologist at
    Hospital Chiriqui and without examing me, wanted to insert a heart stent for $12,000. not including Hospital expenses and I don’t have Medi-Serv. A few days later I flew backto the U.S. and had a top Cardiologist examine me and give me every type of stress test known to man with the result being that the blood flow going in to my heart was the same flow as exiting. Cost of rount trip plane tickets $300., cost of Cardiologist and test fees
    $194. out of pocket (thank God for Medicare). Total cost $494. ‭

  11. Hi Don, beg to differ with you on your statement:
    ” I would agree that prices in the hospitals are close to the same prices in the US.”

    I currently go to Hospital Punta Pacifica in Panama City every 4 weeks to see my Eye Specialist for treatment to both of my eyes. The treatments consist of injections of medicine into the retina behind the eye. I had originally thought of going back to the U.S. for treatment but the treatment is not a one shot deal so traveling expenses would be prohibitive even though Medicare would cover a large part of the Doctors fee. I have no idea how many more appointments it will take so I opted for treatment in P.C. The cost of treatment for one eye in the U.S. is over $1,000. the cost of treatment for one eye in P.C. is $465. so basically the same treatment is twice as much in the U.S.

    Oh, one other thing. I had heard that Blue Cross/Blue Shield is covering expenses at some private hospitals in San Jose, Costa Rica. Maybe their rates should be explored. It’s the same distance from David to San Jose as to Panama City.

  12. Hi Patrick. Glad you can confirm that Panama rates are cheaper. Luckily I haven’t had enough experience to compare and have only heard that some prices are similar. I will take your word for it. I do know that the hospital prices in Costa Rica is a good bit more expensive than Panama.

    I did have an eye procedure done in Panama City and my expenses were very reasonable.

    I would bet that Blue Cross insurance isn’t cheap and not available for many able to many. I had wanted BC/BS when I moved here. Unfortunately I was over 60 and pasted their cutoff age limit.

  13. I am a panamanian who likes to read blogs such as Don Ray’s. It is like a window into a parallel social group in Panama. I find very interesting to learn about the perils and niceties of their experiences living in Panama.

    As a panamanian I want to apologize to do those of you who have encountered some bad apples, but not all panamanians fall under that category. A great number of us are very honest and hard working people who try to live their lives with a lot of integrity and harmony. But we also have bad experiences with our own crooks.

    Living in Panama and doing business here is a complete different ball game, with a complete different set of rules. It seems to me that those foreigners that choose interact more with the panamanians and learn the the ways of the country, have an easier and more enjoyable time living here, than those who still embrace what I call the ‘wagon train” mentality. In other words, get to know your panamanian neighbors, and very soon they will consider you one of their own. They could be your most reliable source of information when it comes to choosing a doctor, a hospital, or where to find the finest cuts of beef. Don Ray’s comment could not be any more accurate.

    As in any country, we also have very competent and honest doctors and attorneys, as well as a lot of mediocre ones, you just need to know which ones to go to. The same goes for hospitals, clinics and insurance organizations. Always read the fine print and have all the costs detailed before you agree to any procedure. If possible, have somebody familiar with the intrinsicates of the language help you with it and have a contact person who can assist you in case of an emergency.

  14. Don Ray:
    Agree with David H. and could not agree more with your comments. Once again you are hitting the nail right on the head. For minor things I would recommend any decent doctor office in Panama, but for non urgent medical procedures, flying to US seems to be a better option.

  15. Oops question goes to Patrick. $300 round trip to usa? Too good to be true, that needs an abreviation text style, TGTBT.

  16. My early on experience with Medic Serve was when I asked for the jubilado medical discount, I was told I couldnt use that with Medic Serve.
    My most recent experience with a biopsy is this. When I went to pay the bill I was charged with the doctors bills also. No problem here except that doing this means you dont get the doctors discount. So I went to the doctors individually and got the bill from them with the discount then submitted these along with the hospital bill to medic serve. Big savings. Medic serve seems to have many traps to not pay. If you dont submit all the receipts within 30 days they wont pay. If you dont get pre authorization on everything they wont pay. If you dont keep the submission claim number, they cant find the check. A couple years ago after trying to keep track of this tiny piece of paper (they are much larger now) and checking with the office for several months the check was never in. Eventually I lost the paper. Guess what. I never got reimbursed. So their system has a problem. Now I keep a folder with a copy of all submissions with the claim number attached and when I get the check I get a copy of what the check includes. You have to stay on top of it. Believe me, if you cant prove it you wont see it.

  17. Well I guess everybody has a different experience with the medical care here in Panama. I took my girlfriend of 2yrs to Hospitol Chirique with severe back pain, she could hardly walk. The doctors at the emergency room treated her very promptly and we stayed there for approx. 3 hrs. while they observed her and gave her an IV . I did’nt realize that the company she worked for did not cover Hospitol Chiriqui until we got ready to leave. My thoughts were uh oh going to get screwed here but to my surprise the total bill was $52 that included the Dr. and IV and emergency room. I forgot to mention the Dr. came in about every 15min. to check on her. The Doctor prescribed celebrex which cost almost as much as the hospitol. I’ve had good experiences with the Doctors there though fortunately I have’nt needed to use them alot. Dr.Lucas a gastroenterologist (that looks like a misspell) charged me $35 and gave me a complete check-up and I’ve used him for recommendations for a friend who came to Panama to get a colonoscopia at Punta Pacifica because it was 1/2 price, I was with her and she was really impressed with the doctor and service there, by the way she has her masters in education and shes a RN with a BSN. The Doctor was fluent in english and the care was excellent.(better than the US she thought) I just wish I could find insurance here in Panama like I had in the US, I think its called catastropic, High deductable 5-10k, pays 100 % after deductable. Also believe references are very important. I would only use a Dr. that has been recommended, one last thing Doctors are like yardboys you can hire and you can fire them, att. too.

  18. I Guess we are living under a cloud of fairy dust because our several experiences; biopsies, hospitalizations, etc. have all gone both smoothly and pleasantly. We’ve always been re-imbursed by this “hospital discount plan”. Could be that we in turn are courteous and follow all the rules to a “T” and maybe are just a tiny bit blessed!

  19. To Jeff: to answer your question I went to Anavilma Palms Viajes David travel agency in Boquete in January 2010 who booked a flight on American Airlines, round trip for a month’s visit to Ft Lauderdale.
    The flight left Tucuman Airport and arrived in Miami Int’l Airport and returned the same route. I highly recommend her as she always finds the lowest fares when traveling (better than the Internet).
    Her e-mail is: vdavid@cwpanama.net if you have any more travel questions. Many foreigners here in Boquete use her. Hope this helps!

  20. To Jeff: now that I remember it was less than $300. It was something like $294. and included all taxes, fee’s etc…

  21. Internet connections, hmm yeah! an double yeah! for all the wiifi in David yet my little flash drive type modem from Claro leaves alot to be desired for speed, basic surfing, ect due to to location primarily i think unless there is another way to get connected without expierencing something similiar to droped calls on a cell phone way out here in Qville, halfway out to Playa Baroquete. Are those private residencial hookups really any better. Who has the, or might have best set up for this if any. Seems like chasing the wind if its all dependent upon my location in the end. Anyone know…

  22. I get close to my 4mb most of the time in David. Just ran Speedtest.net and got 4.21.

    If you are in the boonies you are very limited and often without.

  23. Well is not so different in your country Jhon …and if you don’t like it in Panama pack your bags and go home…that’s the problem with some of you people for some stupid reason you think you are better or deserve better…anyway insurance company all suck…they are not here in order to help…they are in order to screw you…in Panama, USA, and everywhere :s

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