S.O.L. In Paradise – Beating A Dead Horse

As I mentioned in the previous S.O.L. post, it will be worth following the thread in Boquete Ning.

Today, Bonnie Williams wrote a comment that I don’t want to get lost in the midst all the other comments on the ongoing thread. While she limited it to ExPats in Boquete, I would expand it to all of Chiriquí.

Here is her comment.

I think we’ve beaten this subject to death. To summarize, I see expats in Boquete having essentially four options for healthcare:

1) Have no insurance in Panama. Go to Hospital Regional for medical emergencies, but be aware that it may be difficult to receive timely attention. And you will be billed upon departure. Non-emergency surgery will be delayed, perhaps forever. Plan to return to the U.S. for any needed medical non-emergency services.

2) Enroll in the Hospital Chiriqui co-pay plan. This will pay for many routine, preventive procedures, but it will pay only part of the cost of hospitalization and/or surgery, and there is a relatively low cap on how much it will pay annually. It pays for no bodily appliances such as stents and pacemakers. This can result in the patient owing a significant amount of money.

3) Buy comprehensive national or international insurance. It is expensive. But it has a high payout limit and, after the chosen deductible, pays most or all medical expenses. There generally is no required deductible for emergency or pre-approved hospitalization or procedures.

4) Self insure and hope that you have enough put aside to cover a catastrophic medical event such as heart surgery, serious automobile accident, etc.
As routine medical care in Panama is relatively inexpensive, most expats can meet those expenses without incurring significant financial difficulty. When considering health insurance needs, it is my opinion that particular attention should be given to catastrophic medical events which, without good insurance, could subject one to no care, poor care, and/or financial ruin.

8 thoughts on “S.O.L. In Paradise – Beating A Dead Horse

  1. And get all your affairs in order. Have a will in Spanish signed and approved by all concerned stamped an readily available so folks can get you buried within a few months.

  2. These are the same 4 options for every country. Except option 4 is no longer an option in the US. Perhaps Panama could use our model to get folks insured?
    (OK, now I’m just being silly!)

  3. Routine exams…cardiac assessment, colonoscopy etc if done in the US might help to fore-warn of some unforeseen medical condition. The need of a cardiac stent, is the example that comes to mind. Once you have the emergency need of a stent here….you will be paying a lot of money. The recent quote of $160.000.00 here for a cardiac stent procedure seems like a lot of money to me if you were self- insured. I consider the Hosp. Chiriqui plan partially self insured.

    Medical devices…ie: hip replacements. These devices are being updated and made better year by year. An implanted hip replacement device requires a set of expensive surgical tools that are unique to and match the particular device. Hospital Chiriqui borrows the hip replacement surgical tools from a Panama City hospital ( or at least this was the case years ago, and I speak of my own experience). This tells me that local private hospitals may not necessarily invest in updated surgical implants that match updated surgical equipment. USA hospitals with bone specialists that are up to date are more inclined to be implanting a device that meets current FDA approval.

    Bill and I will take a vacation to Florida and have these routine exams done under Medicare in the near future….ie colonoscopy, cardiac stress-test etc. We are partially self insured with Hosp Chiriqui insurance plan and have Medicare plans A and B along with set-aside savings for emergency. That said, we are in no way prepared to exhaust our savings for an emergency we could avoid living here

  4. I think the estimate on the stents is high. Our friend had two done a few months ago and it was $13,000. He paid out of pocket. I had a stroke and stayed in the Chiriqui Hopsital with two specialist (a cardiologist and neurologist) Total was $3300 which included all my meds, room and several MRI’s. We don’t carry insurance. But, did get our jubliado discount.

  5. My wife and I are seriously considering moving to Boquete. Last week and emergency came up, I had to go to the ER, and have emergency surgery. Last week an emergency came up, i was in extreme pain and had to go to the ER, and have emergency surgery. It had to do with the gastric bypass I had over a year ago. We realized that we had no idea how we would’ve handled that in Panama, and it shook us up. I saw a doctor within 15 minutes of arriving and they started pain medication within an hour. They ran a cat scan. My doctor showed up a couple hours later, admitted me to the hospital and after some more tests I had surgery the next day.

    How do we find out the answers to these questions – who do we call, where do we go, how and when do we pay, and what will it cost? And would my experience have been much worse there than here in Houston?

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