While I was waiting for Marion to finish a laboratory test last week, I started thinking about some of the recent discussions on some of the local forums.
Entirely too many people are moving to Panamá with no plan for their healthcare. This really concerns me.
They my be ignorant about Medicare not covering them in Panama. They may think their health is good and they don’t need insurance. They may not have money for insurance and think healthcare in Panama is cheap. They may think the country healthcare system won’t turn them away.
Let’s consider these thoughts.
First people need to understand that Medicare is not valid outside of the USA. If that is their plan, then they are not covered. They will not be admitted to any private hospital in case of emergency without providing proof of payment, often $4,000 dollars or more for admittance.
One should never think that good health is a reason not to have insurance coverage. Look are the increase in home invasions sending people to the hospital. Home invasions, automobile accidents, being in the wrong place at wrong time. Many things can send you to a hospital.
Since I moved here the private hospitals are becoming more insistent on proof of payment prior to admission. The minimum I have heard was $4,000 and normally it is $5,000 or more and depending on what the hospital expects the total care to be, it may request a payment plan.
Can people go to the public hospital. Yes I have not heard of any shooting victims or emergency cases not being admitted. That doesn’t mean I would ever want to have to depend on my life surviving the emergency care in a public hospital. I can say with 95% certainty that Marion would not have survived had she not been admitted to Hospital Mae Lewis.
Now let’s say you just need a gall bladder removed or something else that might be considered elective surgery. A Panamanian recently told me of a family member that needed to schedule an operation. They received a time frame several months away. They considered the problem significant enough to search and find a doctor to do the operation in Puerto Armuelles.
Panamanians have enough family contacts and connections to make that happen. If you are not Panamanian you may have to hope that your “many months away” schedule is met and not rescheduled.
I recently was sent an email of a person’s experience applying acceptance into the Panama healthcare system and paying a monthly amount. Following was the experience.
I went to the Panamá Seguro Social office in Beautiful Downtown Boquete,
which is between BDB’s main street and El Constructor, the big hardware
store that is on the next corner on that side of the street.
I presented our Turista Pensionado visa cards, mine, my wife’s and our two childrens’, and told them that I wanted to enroll us in their healthcare plan
on a ‘ pago voluntario ‘ basis. They then filled out a form for an examination
at their local ‘ polyclinica ‘, their medical clinic and asked me to go there for
a medical examination. A medical examination was not necessary for either my wife nor for our two children. My age was 67 at the time of application.
The next morning at 6:00 AM, I arrived at their polyclinica, which is approximately two blocks from Romero’s in the direction of David and made an appointment for later that same day. There was a fee of 50¢ for the doctor’s appointment that day since we weren’t yet members of their healthcare plan. The doctor examined me, asked a series of questions relating to my health status and gave me several forms requesting various healthcare tests to be presented to their laboratory there in the same building.
Following the doctor’s request not to have anything to eat or drink after I woke up the next morning, I returned to the clinic with my various bodily function samples nestled in the containers that the clinic had previously provided and presented them to the laboratory with the appropriate forms that the doctor had given me. They then drew a blood sample for testing.
I returned the next morning at 6:00 AM and made an appointment with the doctor for that day and picked up my lab test results. The doctor reviewed
the test results and filled out a form stating that my current state of health
qualified me for enrollment in the plan.
I returned to the Seguro Social office, handed them the form that the doctor
had executed and they requested that my wife and I take the form that then prepared to Panamá’s immigrations office in David along with a copy of our Turista Pensionada visas and passports. I gave all of this and, as I recall, a $5.00 processing fee for each of the two requests, to the clerk there in the immigration office.
Approximately one month later, the forms were completed and I picked them
up and presented them to the Seguro Social office in BDB. We then made our initial monthly premium payment of ± $54.00. They said that all of the completed forms would then be submitted to their Panamá City office and would probably be approved in approximately six months.
You’ve heard of something taking an Act of Congress, well that’s we received
in ± six months, the official approval document of our enrollment was an actual Panamá Act Congress.
Well, sure enough, we were finally approved for enrollment and their BDB office give us the enrollment number for our family. A picture ID card is optional and the camera in their BDB office was broken, so I had my picture taken at their office in David there on the Pan American Highway and immediately received a picture ID card.
And that’s the way it was, Judy. I make my ongoing monthly premium payments to their office in BDB.
We have only required their services once in the last year, we’re all quite healthy, and the service there was on a par with any that I have ever received at any healthcare facility in the United States.
I cannot speak to this still being possible. I will say, I think it is preferable to coming to Panama and expecting the system to take care of you. At least you are making monthly payments. I have seen many foreigners enter Hospital Regional and leave promising to pay a substantial bill only to high tail it back to the US leaving the debt behind.
This is the reason many doctors consider all US citizens as irresponsible or indigent. Why do you think the private hospitals now demand a down payment before admitting a patient.
Many people move to Panama because they hear the healthcare is excellent and cheap. The two words “excellent” and “cheap” ,Abu be correct, but should not be in the same sentence.
There are some excellent hospitals in Panama City and they are not cheap. Many procedures may be less expensive than the similar procedure in the US, but if you can’t afford to pay in Panama or the US, what difference does it make?
For simple treatments of colds, etc, you can go to a local clinic and pay $3 to $8 to see a doctor. Granted that is a lot cheaper than in the US.
If you have a permanent residency, and are a jubilado in Panama, you can go to one of the local centers and get free flu vaccinations. That is a good deal and probably not taken advantage of often enough.
Another rant. I have also heard of young families moving here and being unsatisfied with schooling for their children. It may be a surprise to some, but Panama is a Spanish speaking country. Anyone moving here expecting schooling to be the same as public schools in the US has not done their due diligence.
If you have school aged children, you better be prepared to handle the English part of their education. If you can’t do that, don’t come.
If you plan on coming to Panama and retiring and spending your money, welcome. If you plan on coming to Panama and creating jobs for Panamanians, welcome. And if you plan on moving to Panama and taking jobs from Panamanians, please don’t come.
Now let me rant a little about the increase in violent crime. A little over three months ago a good friend of mine was shot and left to die in a home invasion in Potrerillos. Three young men broke into her home and shot her twice and stabbed her multiple times. One of them was only 14 years old.
Just a few days ago another home invasion took place in Volcancito.
There have been many others and in the 13 years I have lived in Chiriquí, the violent crimes have greatly increased. Chiriquí is not a large province, but is is a very important province. It is know as the breadbasket for Panama, because so many food products are produced here.
Also, there is Boquete. It is the most popular tourist attraction on the western part of Panama. It has the Baru, which is Panama’s only active volcano. It is home a famous flower festival that takes place in January. It has also been the location that International Living listed as one of the best retirement places in the world.
This has cause individuals from all over the world to want to move to Boquete, many with idealistic fantasies about living in paradise. This growth has also attributed to the increase in crime in my mind. Many build houses in US fashion without bars on the windows minimal external security. Why would anyone living in paradise put bars on the Windows.
The laws in Panama are also conducive to minors committing crime. 14 years old and younger will be immediately released independent of the type of crime committed. If this doesn’t change, there will be more and more violent crime.
I have had some of this conversation with new retirees that have moved to Boquete and had team me she couldn’t have an opinion and didn’t want to voice objection about how Panama was handling crime or their lax laws because she was merely a guest of the country. I was shocked.
Guests deserve the right of protection as much as anyone and it is loud voices of those investing in Panama that may get the attention of the Panamanian government to make the needed changes. To ignore a problem is the same as being part of the problem.
I feel as strongly as I do, because I see every day how three young men changed the life and almost ended the life of a good person. A person that gives to others and helps the needy. They knew that Panama laws were lax enough to make it worth the risk of breaking into a house.
They watched for the right opportunity and planed what they were going to do. If they had to kill the owner to remove a witness, so be it. It was premeditated.