Last Updated on by Talita
Interested in living in Panama and transforming your reality? Is health coverage in this new country something that worries you? So keep reading and we’ll tell you everything you need to know to stay safe in case you have a medical emergency!
But one thing that people forget that is just as important as the things mentioned above is acquired as good health.
As one of the safest countries in Central America, Panama is warm, has a good quality of life and a variety of job offers. Because of this, it is a destination that attracts a lot of attention from those who are looking for a new place to live.
Before giving tips on good international health insurance options for expats in Panama, let’s understand a little about how the country’s health system works, such as differences between health insurance or what the best protection is for you and other relevant information.
(Also, at the end of the article we are going to talk a little about the different types of visas you can use to live in Panama!)
Are you looking for a life change by moving to Panama? Do you want to know how to make sure you have good health coverage in your new home? Read on to learn all you need to know to make sure you’re protected in medical emergencies!
How does the health system in Panama?
In Panama there are two major health care systems to keep costs and waiting lines down, the Ministry of Health (MINSA), created in 1969 with the aim of guaranteeing access to public health care to the entire population of the country with its low costs for low-income Panamanians, and the Social Security Fund (CSS), financed by taxes and which has been acting as a universal health care system for all.
In addition to these two government systems, Panama has a private health care sector, which consists of four large facilities that serve mostly high-income Panamanians. The advantages are reduced waiting times compared to the public system, with the patient being able to schedule surgery up to two days in advance.
For expats, it is interesting to know that most doctors in the country are bilingual, considering that Panama’s main language is Spanish, but many of its citizens speak English.
You can find more specific information about Panama’s health care system at the CDC.
Do expats need to have health insurance in Panama?
Bottom line: yes! Citizens living in Panama have access to free health care. But being an expatriate or immigrant in the country, you will be required by law to have your own private health insurance.
So it is important to make sure you have health coverage like the ones I will mention below 🙂
Besides being mandatory, an international health insurance plan can make your stay in Panama a lot easier. Even more if you consider that you will be in a new country with different rules, laws, culture and language, as well as high health care costs in some cases.
This is why having international health insurance coverage will give you the assurance that you will not be caught off guard in unexpected or emergency situations. In addition, international health insurance gives you a number of other benefits.
As an immigrant in Panama, should you get an international health plan like the ones recommended on the list below? Or should you get a national plan?
As much as I give my opinion here, in the end this is entirely your choice, as it depends on what your specific medical needs may be or how long you will be staying in Panama.
An international health insurance plan should meet your requirements in Panama. If you choose to obtain an international plan, be sure to check with the Panamanian government embassies to see what the minimum required insurance coverage is.
Since I have never lived in Panama, so I don’t know enough about the domestic plans available to expats, so I can’t say much about them.
Below are some of the reasons why you should opt for an international health insurance plan instead of relying on public coverage:
- International health insurance may have cheaper monthly fees compared to other expenses you have;
- International health insurance can be easier to use if your stay in Panama is short, as you can choose how long you want your plan to be;
- International health insurance has more flexibility, as you can cancel or extend at any time;
- International health insurance offers coverage in other countries, not just Panama (this is why they are called “international” health insurance).
Who can an international health insurance plan cover?
The health insurance companies that I’ll list below are for the following citizens who live in Panama as expats, immigrants, workers, or even students:
- Citizens of the European Union (Portuguese, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Polish, Swedish, Belgian)
- Brits (English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish)
- Kiwis/New Zealanders
- And for citizens of just about any other country
Beyond expats/immigrants who reside in Panama, these insurance companies also work for residents who live in:
- The United States
- Europe (the European Union or the United Kingdom)
- And for expats who live in just about any other country in the world
In general, since all these plans and insurance companies are international, they can be used by practically any person in any place since they have worldwide coverage!
Why can’t I just get travel insurance for my move to Panama? What’s the difference between travel insurance and expat insurance?
Travel insurance is extremely important for any trip, as it not only covers unexpected problems with medical emergencies, but also travel problems such as flight cancellations or lost luggage.
It is important to note that this is not the ideal type of insurance for immigrants. There are ways to get travel insurance for longer periods, but it is only for travelers who are staying in a country temporarily. For someone who intends to stay long term in Panama, travel insurance coverage is not valid.
Also, travel insurance will not meet your health insurance coverage required by law to live in Panama.
So, you will definitely want to choose an insurance plan that covers expatriates. And that is what I will help you with the list below.
What are the 7 best health insurance options for expats and immigrants in Panama?
Finding the right insurance plan can be stressful, so we’ve created a comparison table with the best companies I recommend. This way you can see the pros and cons of each one more quickly and decide the best one for you!
After the table, I will do a more detailed description of each of the companies, their plans, main benefits, and other information!
That said, the biggest advice I can give is to quickly get a quote with each of the companies on this list before making your decision. It may take a while, but at the end of the day, you can save a lot of money!
Attention: This article and table are made for informational purposes as the information contained here is subject to changes and updates.
In my opinion, the best international health insurance companies for expats are:
- Now Health
- Global Underwriters
- Foyer Global Health
First up, we have Cigna, a large American insurance company that’s also widespread in Europe. Cigna is a great choice when we talk about international health insurance.
With more than 60 years of operating on the market, Cigna is well-known for its insurance and has more than 170 million clients around the world. My partner, Nikki, actually purchased a health insurance plan from Cigna in order to qualify for her residence card in Sweden.
Cigna has a wide range of plans for you to choose from, including plans made specifically for expats (and which work great if you’re going to be moving to Panama!), plus both individual and family plans).
One of the biggest advantages of an insurance plan with Cigna is that you can add benefits to your plan based on the specific medical care you need to have covered. You can choose from Cigna’s Silver, Platinum, or Gold plan, all of which include coverage in more than 200 countries and territories around the world.
If you’re looking for a cheap health insurance plan for Panama, a great option is Cigna’s Close Care plan. This plan is the most budget-friendly one that Cigna offers since it only includes coverage for your home country and the country you’re a resident of (Panama in this case).
Pros of an international health insurance plan with Cigna:
- Customer service available 24 hours 7 days a week
- Flexibility to make changes to and tailor the plan for your specific medical needs
- Includes coverage for Covid-19 and PRC tests
- No registration needed to get a quote
- They have a digital system that lets you easily find hospitals and clinics near you
- Normally, Cigna will pay health providers directly so you won’t need to request reimbursement
Cons of an international health insurance plan with Cigna:
- Some of their plans don’t cover maternity care
One more well-known company in the world of international insurance is IMG, which has more than 25 years of experience and 3 subsidiaries worldwide.
IMG has several types of plans for you to choose from, whether as an individual or as an entire family. They also have a variety of plans made specifically for various types of travelers, including expats. You’ll see that you’ll have the option for both long-stay plans of a year or more as well as for much shorter time periods.
IMG’s website is easy to use and search plans on since you can use filters for date, plan length, destination, and much more. Beyond these filters, you can also add in personal details like your age and specific medical needs before seeing your coverage options.
This way, IMG can get you a personalized and detailed quote that lets you easily compare your options for plans and coverage and figure out which is best for you.
Just keep the specific details of each plan in mind since some of them don’t cover certain age groups and not all of them cover Covid-19.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with IMG:
- Customer service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- Flexibility to customize your plan and coverage limits
- Ability to choose from more than 17,000 in-network doctors
Cons of an international health insurance plan with IMG:
- They don’t have Covid-19 coverage, depending on the plan
- They don’t offer coverage for individuals above 75
As implied by its name, the primary goal of Now Health International is to provide a service that is prompt, cost-effective, and easily accessible. The company places a strong emphasis on establishing a close connection with its customers. Detailed plan information is communicated in a transparent and efficient manner, and any inquiries or concerns are promptly addressed by the dedicated customer support team.
Now Health plans are specifically tailored to address the unique needs faced by individuals residing outside their home country. They aim to offer guidance and ensure access to high-quality healthcare services worldwide, catering to the daily challenges encountered by expatriates.
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Advantages of an international health insurance plan with Now Health:
- Customized plans according to your needs
- Clear information and excellent customer service team
- Provides coverage in 194 countries and territories
- Plans with high coverage routine maternity coverage
Disadvantages of an international health insurance plan with Now Health:
- You must wait a 12-month grace period to use maternity coverage.
- In some procedures, it is necessary to use the company’s reimbursement system, which means that you would have to pay for your care initially
4. Aetna (acquired by Allianz)
Aetna is a leader and award winner in the area of international insurance. If you’re in search of safety and credibility in your choice of insurance provider before your move to Panama, Aetna is a good company to consider.
Although they don’t have a large variety of plans on offer, the ones they do have give you the flexibility to adjust and add on complementary coverage (like dental care). Depending on the policy, some include coverage of up to 5 million USD.
You can choose from family or individual plans, as well as include coverage for repatriation and medical evacuations.
As an expat, I can recommend the Aetna Pioneer plan. This plan has basic coverage of up to 1.75 million USD. Just fill out the short form on their website to get an exact quote and detailed information about all of the available policies.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with Aetna:
- Maternity care is covered
- Aetna has a mobile app to help you easily find nearby medical services and providers
- Short-, mid-, and long-term plans to choose from
- Customer services available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- Pre-trip assistance available to help answer your questions on things like vaccines and accessing regularly-used medications while traveling
Cons of an international health insurance plan with Aetna:
- Few plans to choose from
- Cost of plans above the average of the other companies on this list
SafetyWing is a popular and well-known company particularly for insurance for digital nomads, given that they have insurance plans specifically for remote workers and companies, expats, and digital nomads.
One of the advantages of SafetyWing is that its policies are a little more accessible and easier to understand than the other options on the market. SafetyWing also covers children aged 2-10 for free if their caretakers have a plan with them.
Each plan has a specific price that depends on your age. The cheapest SafetyWing plan doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, but it does have coverage of up to 250,000 USD. Though you do have the freedom to add additional pre-existing condition coverage separately if you need to.
What I like most about SafetyWing is that they offer 30 days of coverage for free in your home country for every 90 days that you use it overseas, like in Panama or the EAU in general.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with SafetyWing:
- Modern, intuitive website that makes it easy to find policy info
- Customer services available 24 hours a day every day of the week
- 30 days of coverage given for free in your home country for every 90 days of coverage overseas
- They cover Covid-19 and treatments recommended by specialists
Cons of an international health insurance plan with SafetyWing:
- Plans aren’t quite as complete and tend to have lower coverage overall than some of the other options on this list
- The prices shown on the website don’t include taxes and fees
Global Underwriters is another well-known and very popular company when we talk about insurance. They have policies that serve immigrants, students, digital nomads, and expats with will be beginning a new life elsewhere in the world.
For anyone who is moving to Panama, I recommend the Diplomat long Term or the Diplomat International Plan. Both have very complete medical coverage that in general includes all that an expat may need in their new home.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with Global Underwriters:
- Up to 1 million USD in medical coverage is included in the plans cited above, plus 1 million USD in coverage for cases of accidental death or dismemberment
- Client support available 24 hours a day each day of the week
- The plans I mentioned include emergency dental coverage, medical evacuation, and repatriation of mortal remains
Cons of an international health insurance plan with Global Underwriters:
- The Diplomat Long Term plan doesn’t protect travelers in Iran, Afghanistan, or Cuba
- The Diplomat International plan doesn’t have Covid-19 coverage
- Global Underwriters doesn’t work with residents of Australia, Iran, South Dakota, Maryland, or New York
Foyer Global Health is renowned for its international health insurance plans for travelers, expats, digital nomads, and immigrants.
They are a company with many, many plans to choose from (probably more than any other company you’ll find out there), as well as being a trustworthy organization (they are part of the larger European Foyer Group).
Pros of an international health insurance plan with Foyer Global Health:
- All plans include coverage for dental surgeries, appointments, and treatments
- Customer service available online by email or by phone 24/7
- Includes pre-trip preparation support on vaccinations and in preparing a first aid kit
- Coverage available for evacuation and repatriation
Cons of an international health insurance plan with Foyer Global Health:
- The limits of their plans aren’t very clear
GeoBlue has spent 20 years providing insurance plans with international health coverage.
But GeoBlue only allows their plans to be purchased by citizens and residents of the United States. So if you aren’t an American citizen or green card holder moving to Panama, you can skip this option.
GeoBlue has health plans for all types of travelers, including immigrants. Their Xplorer Essential plan is the one I most often recommend since it’s made for long stays overseas and has unlimited coverage.
But if you’re looking for a shorter plan, take a look at GeoBlue’s Voyager option. Just fill out the form on their website or reach out to an insurance broker to get a quote and more detailed information about their plans.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with GeoBlue:
- They have an app with resources like telehealth
- 24/7 customer services
- All of their plans include unlimited coverage
Cons of an international health insurance plan with GeoBlue:
- Their plans are only available for residents of the United States or American citizens
- Not a lot of flexibility in their plans
- You need to fill out a form or contact an insurance broker to get more information and an exact budget for their plans
Types of visas you can apply for to live, work, and study in Panama
The most famous type of visa for those wishing to go to Panama is the Friendly Nations visa. There are 47 countries that can benefit from this type of visa, such as the United States, Brazil, Italy, Spain and Germany. All you need to get this visa is a clean criminal record. That way, you get an initial residential card in four weeks and a permanent one in three months.
This type of visa has several advantages, such as enjoying the rights of Panamanians, labor rights in Panamanian companies, driving, having a bank account, opening a business, not having a minimum stay requirement and others.
To apply for a friendly nation visa, the applicant must meet certain requirements, such as:
1. Employment contract with a company in Panama;
2. Health certificate signed by a physician;
3. Criminal background check;
In addition to these requirements, other basic things are requested, such as passport copy and 3×4 photos.
In addition, Panama also has a work visa, which requires a valid passport, filling in a visa form, four passport photos, an employment contract, proof of accommodation in Panama, medical certificate proving a good state of health and criminal records.
If you are going to marry a native of Panama, the country also has a marriage visa and, to apply for this type of visa, it is necessary that the marriage is valid under the laws of Panama.
Parents who had a child born in Panama can also apply for a permanent residency visa, where the only requirement is that the child is up to five years old.
There are other types of visas used in Panama, such as the Investor Visa, which requires investing at least US$300,000 in the country’s real estate market.
There is also the commercial investment visa, where you can get permanent residency in Panama by investing at least $180,000 in a new or existing local business. The country has several businesses such as in the areas of tourism, car repairs, fishing and chartering to encourage investors to become even more interested in the country, the Panamanian government determined tax exemption for businesses in the areas of agriculture, tourism and some others.
In Panama there is a list, recognized by law, of skills that are in short supply in the country. With that in mind, the government created the professional visa. To obtain this type of visa, all you need is an undergraduate degree in a course that lacks professionals in the country, such as hospitality, IT, agriculture, finance, among other areas of activity.
In order to help reduce the impacts caused by global warming, Panama also offers a reforestation visa, where it is possible to make an initial investment of between 20,000 and 80,000 dollars in a reforestation program to apply for a visa.
People who receive a private or government pension fund of at least $1,000 can also apply for permanent residency in Panama. There is no age restriction and the pensioner visa also allows discounts of up to 25% in pharmacies, cinemas, restaurants and others.
There is a lot of arable land and a huge demand for agricultural production in Panama. That’s why the government created the agriculture visa. To obtain this type of visa, an investment of at least US$180,000 in the country’s agriculture is required.
To learn more about types of visas used in Panama, just access Panama Residency.
Here are the 7 best health insurance companies for expats and immigrants moving to Panama:
- Global Underwriters
- Foyer Global Health
Deciding to start a life in the country of your dreams can be complicated… So I hope this article will help you to clear up many of your doubts and make the process easier! If you still have questions about purchasing health insurance for your move to Panama (or any country abroad), comment below and I will get back to you as soon as possible!
Planning your next trip?
Already reserved your hotel or hostel? If not, we recommend Booking.com. They have a huge selection of hotels and hostels all over the world. Plus, in most cases, you can cancel your reservation without any costs up to a few days before the check-in date!
Still haven’t booked your plane ticket and want to save big? Take a look at Momondo. It’s a flight aggregator that combines several other ticket search websites to make it easier for you to compare prices and make sure you are getting the best deal.
And finally, will you need to rent a car during your trip? Then check out Rentalcar.com to search and compare car rental companies from all over the world in a single website. Then, you can find the cheapest price for the best car!