Tag Archives: Healthcare

Healthcare Is Cheaper in Panama – REALLY?

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. Continue reading Healthcare Is Cheaper in Panama – REALLY?

Panama Living Will Update

This week has provided two more learning experiences. In the past, I have written that if you have a Living Will, it would have to be in Spanish to be valid in Panama. I falsely assumed that your wishes would be taken into consideration in case of a situation where your life was only being maintained by artificial means, provided you had a legally executed document.

This week I have seen that the hospitals in Panama will not honor a legally executed Living Will or Power of Attorney specifying healthcare. These documents would be honored in hospitals in the U.S..

This may be enough to cause pause for some people considering moving to Panama. The understanding gained this week is that the hospitals will maintain life no matter the wishes of the individual or the individual’s family.

It is obviously financially beneficial for the hospital to keep a patient as long as possible, however, I do not know if this is a Panamanian law or if it is just universally observed.

In the past I have been involved with several cases where an individual has had an operation in Hospital Chiriqui and run up a bill of $30+ thousands of dollars. When the patient had run out of money, then the hospital transferred the patient to the Regional Hospital to die, while running up another bill. Continue reading Panama Living Will Update

**** An Alert ****

Our neighborhood WhatsApp group had a notice distributed about an up coming program at the Children’s Hospital (Hospital del Niño – Panama City) on Monday 23, Tuesday 24, and Wednesday 25.

Now maybe most of the residents in Panama are aware of this, but it is important enough that I am going to post the message in English as well as the original WhatsApp message.

Here is my rough English translation:

Doctors from the Shriners Hospital for Children in Shreveport, Louisiana will doing free evaluations of children with orthopedic problems. The evaluations will be performed on the first floor behind emergency room. Some of those evaluated may be approved for surgery and all expenses, including transportation and a chaperon, will be paid by the Foundation of Abou Saad Shriners.

The following documentation must be brought to the evaluation: Birth Certificate, Vaccination records, and recent X-rays of the affected area.

The program is for children a few months old to under 18 years.

Interested parties may receive more information by calling 3 15-1515..

The original WhatsApp message follows:

para avisarles que el lunes 23, martes 24 y miercoles 25 de febrero en el Hospital del Niño, en planta baja detras de urgencias; los medicos del Shriners Hospital for Children Sheveport, LA estaran atendiendo a los niños con problemas ortopedicos gratuitamente y de ser aprobados para cirugia entrarian al programa de la Fundacion de Abou Saad Shriners para ser operados en USA con todos los gastos pagos acompañados de su tutor. Solo deben traer: certificado de nacimiento, control de vacunas y la radiografia del area afectada mas reciente. El programa es para niños de meses hasta 18 años. Si saben de algun caso pueden darle estos datos o que llamen al 3 15-1515
Por si conocen a alguien q le interese

If you know of a Panamanian family in Chiriquí that might benefit from this program, you might want to make sure they know about it.

Let’s Talk Health Insurance

I am at the point that I need to investigate other insurance alternatives. I moved to Panama in 2003 and my age prevented me from looking at Blue Cross in Panama. I wound up going with MAPFRE, which, at that time, appeared to provide the best general coverage.

I have their basic plan. On reviewing my most recent VISA bill, I see that my monthly rate has grown to $845/month. I will be 73 in October and I realize that with age, coverage costs go up. However, I see no evidence that MAPFRE will ever reach a maximum limit and I am ready to start looking at alternatives.

I have only had one claim in 12 years and that was for a couple hundred dollars. Luckily my health has been good, but one never knows what is around the bend.

I consider healthcare one of the biggest risks in moving to Panama, if you don’t have a plan for paying medical expenses. I have seen too many cases of gringos being shipped from Hospital Chiriquí to the Regional Hospital, when expenses got too high, and most never walked out of the Regional Hospital.

So here is what I would like to find out from others living here. What has your research found to be the best cost effective solution? If you think you have a great plan that might work for me, I would appreciate knowing about it.

If you want to have your agent send me a plan to consider, that is great. If I can beat what I have for a better rate, then I will consider it.

I would like a international plan that provides coverage if I am on a trip. MAPFRE would pay if I were outside of Panama, but at Panama rates.

The discussions and comments that come from this post may also open the eyes of some considering Panama as their retirement home.

Hogar Santa Catalina

Natalie and I went to take some supplies to Robert in Hogar Santa Catalina. While I was there I talked to the head nurse, who is one of the nurses that cares for Robert. She mentioned that they currently have a few openings that are available and I decided to pass it on.

Hogar Santa Catalina is a private care facility for the elderly. Some are ambulatory and some aren’t. They have three shifts of nurses, so there is always a nurse there.

I have found them to be very caring and very disciplined in caring for their clients. Robert is in a private room with a private bathroom and shower. It is the only room I have seen, so I can’t speak for all that is available. I do know that there is at least one like Robert’s room available.

They monitor all medication, and provide all meals. They have them eat in a group setting for meals.

I have seen several elderly care facilities in David, and this is the best I have seen. I have been impressed by the care that Robert has been given. Prior to coming here, he was in the bed 100% of the time. Now he is up for all meals. He sits outside in the mornings.

If there is a downside for Robert, it is that Spanish is the primary language here. Robert speaks some Spanish and understands a lot, but I am sure he would like to talk to others in English. There is one other man there that speaks some English.

The home is run by nuns and it is very clean and sanitary. It is a very good option for the elderly that can no longer care for themselves. I spoke to one lady that was visiting her mother and she said there was nothing to compare with it in all of Panama.

If you want more information, feel free to contact me.

Click HERE for a Google Map to Hogar Santa Catalina.

First & Last Visit to Policlinica David

Back on November 17, we escorted the stroke victim for his scheduled examination at the Policlinica. This had been scheduled by the doctor when he had seen him in the Regional Hospital several months ago.

IMG_0628One of the benefits of the new residence for the stroke victim is that he was able to be transported to and from the Policlinica or other medical facilities by ambulance. While not an easy trip, it was easier than loading him in and getting him out of my car,

He was taken by wheelchair to the ambulance and then moved to the ambulance gurney. At the Policlinica, he was put back in the wheelchair. There is when the ordeal began.

It took over 2 hours to see the doctor, even though the visit was scheduled, the lead caretaker from Hogar Santa Catalina had to stand in many lines because it was his first visit and had no chart. We were finally told that appropriate paperwork wasn’t there and we could not see the doctor. The letter I carry as introduction from the Embassy finally convinced them to make an exception. The charge was only $2.00+. The doctor we saw (who will remain unnamed) was a horrible example of doctor.

He did a very cursory examination and then proceeded to berate U.S. citizens as being indigent and unable to pay their bills at Chiriquí Hospital (where he also offices). Of course I have dealt with several cases, where U.S. citizens have been charged tens of thousands of dollars (one was $40k+) for operations in Chiriquí Hospital and then when their funds ran out, they were moved to the Regional Hospital. Doctors like him can cause many people to become indigent.

Lilliam set him straight on his accusations. Luckily I got experience with this doctor without being a patient.

Needless to say, that is one doctor who will not see the stroke victim again. The lead caretaker didn’t like the doctor either, however, she comes from a belief in really caring for people. On returning to Hogar Santa Catalina, she had another doctor perform a physical and he was scheduled a complete lab workup.

I continue to be impressed with Hogar Santa Catalina. I am convinced that better care is not available for the elderly in Panama.

It’s great to be alive

When I visited the stroke victim on Monday, he was really down. He said we needed to talk. I said, “what about?”

He said he wanted to check out of here. I said, you want to leave this apartment and go to an assisted living facility?

He said, “no, I want to check out.”

After a few more exchanges, I realized he was telling me he wanted to die. I said, “and what is your plan for that?”

He said, give me a pill.

I said, “Sorry, there is no assisted suicide in Panama and I won’t participate in that.”

It was about that time he moved his right arm to his chest. It was the first time I had seen him move the right side of his body.

I pointed out to him that he was making progress and said I wasn’t giving up on him and didn’t want him giving up on himself. Continue reading It’s great to be alive

At a Crossroad

In all of our lives there are crossroads and only those traveling on their own paths decide which way to go. The decision process is an individual one and others can’t make the decisions for us. Others can advise, feel empathy for the decision process, remorse for bad decisions, but it is the individual that ultimately decides.

For the last a month and a half, I have been involved in the case I have previously written about of the US Citizen who had a stroke. This has been and continues to be a very stressful case.

My personal goal was to stabilize the situation and provide the individual the time to understand what he was up against, without the stress of worrying about the small details.

I feel that we have made progress, but there is much to be done. Most of the “to be done” falls to the individual and the healing process.

Tom McCormack provided the hospital bed and a very good wheelchair. I repaired the bed’s electric plug, and it is functioning as it should. The patient can raise and lower the bed. This is huge compared to his condition in his old bed.

The landlady has been fully reimbursed for her payment of the hospital bill and wheelchair rental. Medicine has been purchased, rent paid and phone and electric bills have been paid.

Therapy has been obtained at a reasonable price and personal care is being provided on a 24 hour basis. At the present time, this is as good a situation as I could hope for.

Yesterday, I received a major setback. I have been working with the stroke victim’s bank to obtain the ability for me to withdraw funds from his account so that his bills could be paid. A POA had been drawn up and his authorization had been notarized. Continue reading At a Crossroad

Vision Checkup

I have noticed over the last several months that my vision was problematic. I put off going to Optica Metro until I got back from the US.

Yesterday, I went to see Dra. Ines Chang at Optica Metro. She confirmed that things had changed and said she didn’t want to change my lenses until I saw an ophthalmologist.

Several years ago she had sent me to see Dr. Adriano Young León, who practices out of Hospital Mae Lewis. At that time he had recommended I get a study done in Panama City. That resulted in a diagnosis of dry macular degeneration in my left eye.

I told her I would rather see another doctor, if possible. While very good, Dr. Young did not speak English and that makes things a little more difficult. However, the big objection I had was that he is only here once in a while and when he is, the waiting list is several hours to get in to see him.

Dr. Ines said she had started using Dr. Miguel A. Molina, who is in Hospital Chiriqui. She called and set me up with an appointment for 3:00PM and told me to be there around 2:00PM.

A word on Dra. Ines Chang. I really like her. She is without a doubt one of the nicest and most caring eye doctors I have ever been to. She is thorough and will tell you straight if there is a problem she thinks needs to be attended to besides just adjusting your lenses.

I was also pleased with my initial visit with Dr. Miguel Molina. He also was thorough. I took a copy of the photos from my visit to Panama City in 2009. He found some cornea abnormalities and prescribed some drops he wanted me to take for two weeks and than return for another checkup.