Another Healthcare Reflection

After writing the previous post and reading some of the comments, I am going to follow up with another point to consider.

I realize it is easy to think only of one’s self when it comes to living. It is natural. Most people think of what it takes to make them happy and little on how their happiness may affect others.

When I moved here, for a person to qualify for a pensionado visa, they only had to provide proof $500 a person. Now it is $1,000. If I am not mistaken. many that came with less than a thousand a month are now struggling. Yes, they would be struggling in the US or most other countries as well.

Obviously most foreigners that come for the pensionado visa are 60 years of age or above.This is the age that places the biggest burden on any healthcare system. Many of my age group grew up when smoking was the norm. All movies and TV programs glamorized smoking. Luckily, I never fell into that group.

Because of smoking or other kinds of hard living, many come here in less than a physically fit condition. Many find themselves in need of significant healthcare and many wind up in the Regional Hospital. This hospital is by far the cheapest hospital in Chiriquí and I would say much cheaper than a US hospital.

Even with that, a couple weeks stay can turn into thousands of dollars. Many of the third tier age group wind up dying or needing to return to the US to tap Medicare for their rest of the care. Too many times, either of these situations result in the hospital having a bill that doesn’t get paid.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the gringo community (all white non Panamanians are considered gringos) being bad mouthed because of a medical bill that was not paid.

This is one of the reasons that many of the local private hospitals will not take a patient, requiring surgery, without having a large amount paid up front. Insurance or not, they want their money up front. Also few will take on the burden of collecting from insurance, they want you to pay and you to collect.

Now based the fact of many leaving without paying, I can understand the hospital’s point of view.

I had an american contact me a couple months ago that was treated in Hospital Regional and had a hip replacement. She was going to have to return to the US because she could not get the therapy she needed in Boquete. She had been released from the Regional Hospital with an outstanding bill.

She had contacted me to see if I knew a way she could pay the hospital in payments from the US and had been unable to get the answer from the hospital. The Regional Hospital is not equipped to handle international payments.

I finally agreed that when she got to the US she could deposit payments to my stateside account and I would make a local payment for her. Why would I do that you ask? Because I don’t want the perception of gringos running out on healthcare debts and that perception causing problems for other gringos.

Now getting back to my previous post. This is one big reason why I don’t want foreigners coming to Panama with potential health problems. One of these day, I may have to tap the healthcare community here and I want friends in that community and not enemies.

10 thoughts on “Another Healthcare Reflection

  1. Such a nice man you are, Don. I.was hospitalized last August after suffering a stroke and a brain tumor was found during the MRI. I am only 56 and my husband and I are living on his SS. I am too young to collect any retirement. We did pay our bill which was much cheaper the states but we are now facing a much larger amount for the brain surgery in PC. We always negotiate on the cost and 9 out 10 times they will help you. We have been here six years and we have seen the cost of EVERYTHING going up. We have cut many corners since we moved here in 2007. But, we know it would be FAR more expensive in the US. We would never leave a bill unpaid here no matter how hard financially it got.

  2. If retired people from the world would want to retire/live in the U.S what is the cost? will they be given a visa with just being a retired person? nope. would they get health care? nope. this country has been very friendly and sometimes people just are not grateful and criticize everything.

  3. I believe the required income to qualify for a pensionado visa now is $1500. Or did I just dream that I read that somewhere?

  4. Noris, just to make clear. Being retired is not sufficient for a Jubilado Visa in Panama. Health care is nor free for retirees in Panama. I believe that those from other countries are paying a lot for the privilege of living here and the economy has benefited from many of those retirees.

    Likewise, many Panamanians go to the US for opportunities that they could never have without training they receive in the US. It goes both ways.

    Bonnie. I think it is $1,000. If it has changed again, I didn’t hear. There is an an additional charge for each additional person in the family. I think the cost for legal fees is upwards of $1,500 now.

  5. Well done & said Don Ray. My father-in-law is a doctor here & I hear about payment concerns. For better or for worse at least in the U.S. there’s a fairly comprehensive set of collection agencies that will try to recoup payments or place a notice on a person’s credit report (not a good thing for anyone that may eventually need to get credit) that do not pay their bills. The possibility of either usually serves as a deterrent but alas neither exist here yet or are not as well developed.

  6. Regarding Hospital Regional not being equipped to handle international payments, what about PayPal?

  7. The pensionado requirement for monthly pension is now $1000 per month plus $250 per month for each dependent. I am currently working with a Panamanian lawyer to obtain my pensionado visa.

  8. Charlie, there are many ways that could work, but if you have ever been to the payment area of the hospital, it requires a person face to face with the person to get the money. No checks or credit cards, just cash.

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