You will often see statements such as “YOU CAN LIVE BETTER FOR LESS IN PANAMA!” and “Healthcare is cheaper in Panama”. I just saw one of these statements in another blog I read.
I know that statements like those will be a huge incentives for many to take the leap and move to Panama.
I will examine both of those statements from my perspective. For “You can live better for less” to be true, you have to identify what “living better” means to you. It is a very subjective thing and the more money you have the more likely the statement is true. If I had enough money, I could enjoy living almost anywhere.
Living in Panama has provided Lilliam and I the opportunity to take several cruises, visit more places in Europe than I had visited prior to moving here, and splurge on some technology that I might not have been able to buy had I been living in the U.S.
However, does that mean I I am living better for less in Panama? Some of the real enjoyment came from being outside of Panama! Some of my technology doesn’t work to its fullest in Panama because the the technology infrastructure in Panama is not always reliable.
It is cheaper to have maids, gardeners, and general service help. However, I have had maids break items that were family keepsakes that cannot be replaced. I have had workmen steal more than what I paid them for their work. I have known many people to go through several maids before they found a good one. If you have a maid leave that was unhappy, you may find yourself talking to the local office of the Ministry of Labor.
Maids are also one of the best sources of thefts. They have boyfriends and husbands and friends and if they talk about what you have in your house, the word will eventually get to those that might want to relieve you of your belongings.
You should also know when you have a person come to repair something they most likely won’t have the tools to do the job. If the job requires a ladder, you better have a ladder. If it requires a drill, you better have a drill.
If your gardner uses your mower, you better hope he has experience with mowers and not just machetes.
I do not know anyplace in Panama that does not suffer water or electricity outages. Some places it’s excessive. You will not be warned by the individual selling the property. Some places may only have water pressure a few time a week, or early in the morning. Having a reserve tank is almost a requirement in many places in Panama.
It may not be due to a lack of water but to poor maintenance of the PVC tubes bringing water from the source. If a line is broke it may be days, weeks or months to get repaired. When we lived in the third floor apartment, it would sometimes take an extra day for water to reach our floor following an outage just to get sufficient pressure.
Since most water is heated using instant heaters, if you don’t have sufficient water pressure, you will not get hot water. This may be another reason to have a reserves tank and a pressure pump for your residence.
Depending on where you live, power and water outages may be longer than in other areas.
You can go to a movie in David for around $1.80 as a retiree. A bargain. However, you cannot compare the quality of the theater in David to one in Dallas. I have better sound in my house than in any theater in David and no longer go to movies. It was a source of great entertainment in the U.S.
However, it is much cheaper than the U.S., so if measure your enjoyment by the price and not the poor sound quality, then you will think it is great.
These are just a few examples. I could write many more pages of comparisons, but the bottom line is that whether you feel you are living better for less will be based on your view of the world. Not the author of some book.
Lets switch to healthcare being cheaper. If you have a new Yugo and a new Buick priced in front of you, I can guarantee that the Yugo would be cheaper. Would that make it better? That probably isn’t a fair comparison, but I want to get your attention.
If I have a minor cold or infection, I can get treatment for a $6 walk-in cost. I coudnn’t do that in the U.S. Office visits to a specialist will be from $40-$50. Still a bargain.
I think drugs are a little more expensive in Panama, even taking my 20% Jubilado discount into consideration. Then there is the fact that many medicines are not available in Panama. If you are dependent on some specific drugs, you better check the availability before moving.
I think it is a bad idea to move to Panama without an insurance plan.
I am not saying there are no qualified doctors or in Panama. There are. However, whether they fit your needs depends on whether you can pay for them. If your insurance runs out you may be shipped to the public hospital. If you don’t have insurance to start with, you may have to go to the public hospital to start with. Before you say you have no problem going to the public hospital, go visit one.
They do a great job with the staffing they have and what they have to work with, but it is your opinion of your needs that is important. If you don’t use part of your time checking out Panama to visit the hospitals, you will not be as informed as you should be.
The fellow I look after, who is living in Hogar Santa Catalina, gets outstanding care and it could not be matched in similar places I have seen in the U.S. for the price. He has a 24 hour nursing care and doctors that visit. I would say, he probably pays about a 1/3 what he would in the U.S.
However, I have been told by Panamanians that places like Hogar Santa Catalina are few and far between and that nothing in Panama City can touch it.
So I can point to some things that are better and cheaper and some that are not. Any healthcare is good if it takes care of the problem and you can pay for it. The differences in cost are relative and if you get well, and have money left, then that may be all that matters.
I will say that I have gone to doctors in Panama and they have spent a large amount of time with me, never rushing the visit for the next patient. That has been much better than my experience in the U.S.
Some things can’t be done in Panama. I have a good friend that was diagnosed for a tumor behind his eye. The Panama doctor said he would be better off going to Colombia to have it checked. He did and the tumor was removed in Colombia without the loss of his eye, to which he had resigned himself. He raves about the hospital care in Colombia and said it was orders of magnitude cheaper and better than had he gone to the U.S.
Healthcare is something that the individual has to plan on doing his own research to verify that the best treatment is given for the money. The days of trusting your doctor’s opinion on what to do are past.
Of all the things that may affect your enjoying Panama or not, your health will be the most influential. If you feel well, you can put up with most things that are less than perfect. If you don’t, you won’t. Do not move to Panama if you are in bad health or haven’t had a recent physical evaluation.
Beware of all absolute statements implying Panama is the best. Best, Better, Worse, Worst are all relative. Again I say, only your opinion counts.