Panama: America’s new hospital

Panama_relief_1995Medicine and medical care has become exorbitantly expensive in the United States. The federal government has created a cartel of drug companies that can run up drug prices whenever they want. And Obamacare is quickly making health insurance unaffordable.

800x800-SRC-circleThe Squirrel’s Self-Reliance Tip:

If you’re finding the cost of care too expensive, the solution might be medical tourism…that is, traveling to another country where the price is lower. And the go-to destination for medical tourism is an unlikely place: Panama is becoming something of a haven for American retirees, expatriates, and medical consumers. The economic advantages of Panamanian medicine include the fact that private health insurance is available and much less expensive than insurance in the United States because:

1) doctors’ fees and hospital visits are much cheaper;

2) malpractice insurance is very low, because the laws do not allow for frivolous lawsuits;

3) the median income is around $300 a month, so healthcare cannot be expensive or no one would use it;  and,

4) prices for prescription drugs are low because manufacturers price them for the market. In addition, many drugs that require a prescription in the States are available over-the-counter in Panama.

Needless to say, you will be incurring significant risks in some foreign, non-English-speaking environments, but if you’ve run out of options or money for U.S.-based treatment, then the risks may be worth it. You can mitigate the risks by going only to facilities run by expatriates who were trained in first-class American medical schools. For instance, there’s an organization Healthbase which offers the medical tourism services all over the world. In Panama, it’s Hospital Punta Pacifica, which is linked to Johns Hopkins Hospital here in the States, and it boasts top-class medical care on a par with American treatment centers. (We’re not recommending them as we have no personal experience, but their offering is typical of many new medical tourism destinations and is certainly worth looking at.)

Dental implants, for instance, while not a life-threatening requirement, are massively expensive in the USA but more affordable in Panama. You can take a vacation and have your teeth fixed at the same time! And Panama is considered to be less of a security risk for Americans than the border towns of Mexico right now.

You may find English-speaking local physicians who are willing to provide the same-quality services more cheaply, but great caution should be taken when choosing. Remember, the care will be cheaper, but its quality won’t always be guaranteed like here in America. Try and find a physician or dentist with a professional body behind him or her.