Healthcare in Panama
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Is Panama's Healthcare system good? - 2023 Guide Expats

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High-end Affordable Healthcare in Panama 

Look to Panama for high-quality, reasonably priced healthcare. The clinics and hospitals are situated in key locations around the nation.

Turquoise water in San Blas Islands, Panama

No matter where you choose to reside, you probably won’t be more than an hour from a contemporary hospital since the nation is so tiny. Also common are physicians who understand English since many of them continue their education overseas after completing the necessary training in Panama.

While Panama is ranked 96 in the world for healthcare according to WHO, its systems vary widely from region to region. Specifically, urban cities such as Panama City and David offer some of Latin America’s finest facilities that boast cutting-edge technology – giving expats, retirees and digital nomads an assurance of quality care. Therefore, relocating to these areas will provide a great sense of security concerning modern medicine services.

If you’re seeking to be located in close proximity to a hospital, Panama City or David are your best bet. Moreover, if you plan on paying out of pocket for healthcare costs, the public health system in Panama provides very affordable solutions.

beach in Boca del Toro Panamá

It is important to note that while major cities boast strong healthcare infrastructure, rural areas still suffer from inadequate options and outdated standards.

Panama’s Healthcare System

The Healthcare System in Panama

Three healthcare systems exist in Panama, two of which are managed by the government and one by a private company.

A three-pronged healthcare system exists in Panama.
Social Security Hospitals run by the Caja de Seguro Social (CSS) Public system of offices and clinics run by the Ministry of Health (MINSA). Greater cities like David and Panama City have private hospitals.

Both the public and private health care systems use the same physicians. According to Panamanian law, physicians must have regular office hours in both the public and social security hospitals. 

Individualized Medical Care

The private system will be mostly used by foreigners. Although the private system is more costly, it is much speedier and has a higher percentage of English-speaking physicians. Despite being more costly than health care in the US, the private system is nonetheless accessible.

If you don’t have Panamanian social security coverage, for example, you can’t go to the social security hospital in Panama City; instead, you have to go to a public or private hospital.

Your access to and choices for medical care in Panama will depend on where you live. Living off the main path and away from a big metropolis also means you have fewer access to high-quality medical care.

Panama City – The best healthcare in the country.

A good and developed healthcare system exists in Panama City. The second-largest city in Panama, David, has excellent health care that is always becoming better.

However, it is more probable that you won’t have rapid access to quality healthcare the farther you are from David or Panama City. Both private and public care fall under this category.

Health Care Costs

The cost of healthcare in Panama is much lower than in the USA and several other first-world nations. Many medical treatments cost half to a quarter as much as they would in the USA.

The topic of why health care is so costly in the United States should not be brought up at this time. However, a lot of the reasons that come to mind don’t apply in Panama. This explains why health care prices are so much lower here.

Which of the three systems you choose to use will determine how much your medical treatment will cost.

MRIs cost around $500 at a private institution. An average facelift costs $1,700. Both are much lower than in the first world.
In a private hospital, a visit to the ER may cost you roughly $100. 


Prescriptions that are more costly are often unavailable in the public and CSS systems. Remember that prescription medications may cost more in Panama than they would in the USA or other western nations. When visiting their own country, some individuals get their prescription.

Tips and Advice to navigate Panama’s Healthcare System

  • Appointments are meaningless. An appointment will be made for you by the receptionist. You arrive, then you wait. As more and more people arrive before you, you’ll get impatient. Despite what you may have been taught, Panama operates on a first-come, first-served basis. What time do you suggest I arrive is a nice thing to ask. Be ready to wait. Simply said, that’s how things stand. Although there are certain exceptions, it is better to be pleasantly surprised than to assume that you can depend on an appointment time. On the other hand, there are instances when you will be pushed to the head of the queue without any apparent reason, unless maybe you are an expat.
  • The development of sanitation and aesthetics is lacking. Health clinics and Social Security hospitals are where this is most often seen. There seems to be a fundamental lack of concern about the spread of pathogens.  In no aspect of the operation were gloves, plastic bags, or wipes utilized. Hot water is hard to come by, just as it is everywhere else in Central America. But at a hospital, the shortage of hot water is particularly unexpected. Be prepared for surprises.
  • The aesthetic is quite distinctive, much like the majority of Central America. Waiting rooms are often cluttered. Particularly in the public sector, the whole medical institution might sometimes appear a little run-down. It might be challenging to have faith that something is clean even if it seems a little filthy.
  • There are visiting hours in hospitals. They are rigorously upheld. Ita like traveling through time.
    Doctors are often regarded as demi-gods. This also implies that they may appear more confident in their ability to cure your problem than they really are.
  • Look into the educational background of your doctor. At the risk of coming off as bias, let me explain the standards by which doctors are chosen in Panama. Where a health care provider received their training is one consideration I make when choosing to engage with them. Steer clear of experts who have only received training in Panama. The educational system in Panama is appalling. I prefer medical professionals that have had at least some training in the USA, Mexico, Columbia, or other nations that provide quality education.
  • In Panama, several drugs that call for a prescription in the United States are sold without a prescription. Whether you are certain of the medication you need, ask the pharmacist if you may get it over-the-counter. You may avoid going to the doctor this way. Remember that the substance you are familiar with probably has a different name in Spanish.

Are health insurances necessary?

Health insurance is not required for many medical conditions. In Panama, medical treatment is quite reasonably priced. In fact, Panamanian healthcare is so affordable that some individuals choose not to get health insurance. Simply put, they pay out of pocket. What we have done is that. It is a slightly dangerous decision, however.

Anywhere is expensive if you need open heart surgery or extensive cancer treatments. Although it is less expensive in Panama, the cost will still be high. We would advise the majority of individuals to have health insurance given that it is reasonably priced.