2018 Expat Health Insurance Brief: Panama

For many expats, Panama offers a wonderful year-round climate and a very good standard of health care. Even so, choosing the right health insurance for you and your family is essential, so here are some tips to help with your decision.

Jan 31, 2018, 12:01 PM

Panama draws expats and retirees from many parts of the globe due to its tropical terrain and international business ties from the Panama Canal.

While the Central American nation has always been known for its travel industry, many do not know that Panama offers some of the best health care services in the region. Specifically, in Panama City, there are four major hospitals all renowned for their service and care. This access to quality health care is yet another reason why expats flock to Panama.

However, before you go ashore, you’ll want to make sure your health insurance is in order.

What Expats Need to Know About Health Insurance in Panama

Expats are not required to have health insurance in Panama, which means you can either pay out of pocket for all services or invest in a private health insurance plan before they leave for Panama. While Panama has been working for the past few years to implement a universal health care system for citizens and permanent residents, the coverage is very basic (if you are even eligible to enroll), so private insurance may be your best option.

Local insurance plans can provide short-term cost savings, but they may come with lower maximum limits and typically only offer coverage inside of Panama. For the true global traveler, or someone looking for additional worldwide coverage when traveling away from home, including emergency evacuation coverage or a higher maximum limit, international health insurance is the best option. Depending on the provider network, an international health insurance plan may also give you access to some of the top facilities in Panama.

4 Health Care Considerations for Expats Moving to Panama


  1. Health care expenses in Panama are significantly lower than they are in the U.S. Because of this, many expats believe they can get by without an insurance plan and pay out-of-pocket for their health care. This may be true for the short-term, but major procedures could be more than you can afford.
  2. While the majority of Panama’s hospitals and clinics are located in densely populated cities, the country itself is quite small, so you’re likely only a couple of hours from qualified care.
  3. Not only is Panama known for its quality health care, but many doctors in private institutions are bilingual (speaking Spanish and English), making it easier for expats to navigate the communication barrier.
  4. Public hospitals and clinics can be very crowded due to shortages in hospital personnel. Unless you have a plan that allows you to visit private health care facilities, expect long wait times (even if you have an appointment).

Ready to purchase coverage? Get a quote for IMG’s Global Medical Insurance plan.

These materials are for informational purposes only and do not contain legal advice. The laws and regulations regarding healthcare and the need or requirement to have health insurance in foreign countries are diverse and their application to your situation depends upon many facts. You should contact your attorney to obtain legal advice on any particular issue.

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