More Good News Regarding Panama’s Excellent Health Care Rates
By: Larke Newell
Panama is known for its affordable health care, whether it be the cost of health and medical care itself or that of medical insurance. But now, if you live in Chiriqui province, there have been even more developments and you can take advantage of even deeper discounts.
Two organizations, both based out of Boquete, are offering these savings and the only prerequisite is that you become members. They are both excellent, efficient entities and provide very valuable services to the ex-pat community.
The first one, Alto Al Crimen has been going strong for several years. As their name implies, they are Panama’s equivalent to a combination of Crimestoppers and Neighbourhood Watch. They also provide a hotline service for those ex-pats who do not speak Spanish and are in need of emergency assistance such as summoning an ambulance or the police. In order to become a member each household must pay a nominal yearly fee and it is well worth it.
The forward thinkers at the helm of this group have come up with a welcome addition to this membership. They have joined together with a hospital in David to offer discounts on medical care for their members. “What we targeted was an extremely affordable medical discount plan that will give people access to good medical care from good doctors and a good hospital. You can have a higher end medical insurance policy if you want it and can afford it. Or you can have a fully adequate plan with low prices and large discounts.”
Their hospital of choice is Hospital Cooperativo and the plan is Medicina Solidaria, which means people supporting medical care for themselves and others. This co-operative hospital charges low prices and operates on a non-profit basis. Year end profits, if any, are put back into the hospital in the form of creating better services and improving the hospital itself. This facility has an excellent reputation and has been in operation for thirty years.
Here is just a short list of a few of the available discounts:
-emergency room visit 50%
-operating room 30%
-hospital rooms 30%
-specialist consults 20%
-laboratory tests 30%
In order to put the discounts in context, the cost to a group member for emergency room visits are $7.50 and the daily hospital room costs are $42.00-$49.00.
The price for this plan and the outstanding hotline service is $150 per year for head of household and an additional $125 for each additional member of the household. There is no waiting period, there are no pre-existing condition restrictions, and there are no age limits.
Rodny Direct is the second organization whose goals are very similar. Its mission is “a combination of AAA and 911 but better than both.” It not only encompasses immediate family members but visiting
house guests and you would be covered anywhere you travel in Panama. In operation 24/7/365, they provide bilingual assistance with medical emergencies, traffic stops, and Panamanian bureaucracy. My husband and I had occasion to utilize this service when he fell and badly injured his hip. My limited Spanish flew right out of my head when faced with this emergency so thank heavens for Rodny Direct. When my situation was explained (in English) over the helpline Rodny dispatched the proper ambulance, described how to get to our house, and stayed on the line until we were on our way to the hospital. Then he did a followup call to make sure everything had gone well. The cost of this efficient, reliable service is $80.00 per year per household, and now includes their medical discount plan.
Their plan includes expert advice on navigating the Panamanian insurance industry, all in English. Their hospital of choice partner is the Hospital Mae Lewis in David. This is a well equipped and maintained hospital with English speaking staff. Their discounts apply to all hospital services including MRI’s, CAT scans, x-rays, lab work, and room rates and are at 20%. They also offer a 22% discount on pharmaceuticals, which is more than the pencionado discount and is available to non-participants in pencionado.
In addition, this membership provides discounts at the Alfa Clinic in Boquete which is a primary care clinic employing three very qualified doctors, each with their own special areas of expertise. One example of the available discounts through Rodny Direct membership is as follows: An appointment with the Internist there would cost $41.25, regularly priced at $55.00, a discount of 25%.
Those of us who reside in Chiriqui are very blessed to have the service of these two forward thinking organizations. They are a godsend to those of us living on relatively low pension incomes. It simply means that we also can take advantage of the state of the art medical care that Panama has to offer.