Clyde has been suffering from a cold, flu, cough thing for several weeks now, so today he decided to go to the doctor. In all of our research about Panama we learned that health care here was inexpensive and very good. Many of the doctors here are US trained and speak English. We had read about office visits that cost $15 to $20. Sounded good in theory but was this really the case?
In the little town of Capira that we live there is a clinic called Buena Vista that several people told us was very good. So Clyde got up early and left the house around 8am to head over to see the doctor. The clinic is just a few minutes drive from our house which also makes it convenient.
He walked into a one room lobby setup with folding chairs and a simple desk in one corner where a receptionist sat. She took his name and asked him why he was there then asked him to have a seat. There was one other patient ahead of him. When his turn came the women escorted him to a room that looked like the doctor's office. There behind the desk sat a tall, dark good looking middle aged Panamanian doctor. He asked Clyde a few questions and checked his vital signs all while Clyde was attempting to speak Spanish to the doctor. When Clyde asked about a Z-Pack or something similar the doctor spoke up in English. He explained that here in Panama they had even better antibiotics than Zithromax. He wrote Clyde several prescriptions which he was instructed to take over to the pharmacy connected to the doctor's office. Once back in the lobby Clyde was charged $6.00 for the office visit. He then went next door to the pharmacy to pick up three different medications for a cost of about $27.00.
Back in the US most people pay more than $6.00 for an office visit even with insurance. In fact co- pays for office visits are usually anywhere from $10 to $40 on top of the monthly insurance premiums. Health care in Panama is inexpensive since there are less lawsuits due to malpractice so doctor's don't have to carry high priced malpractice insurance. We've heard stories: someone is hospitalized for 7 days with round the clock care, on round the clock antibiotics in one of the best hospitals in Panana City and the total bill without insurance comes to less than $1000. Someone else told us that she had a baby via c-section, spent 3 days in the hospital and total cost for both mother and baby came to less than $6000. She said the care was so wonderful that she hated to go home.
We've seen ads for mammograms for $20 or digital mammograms for $40. My mammograms back in the US cost us $109.00 since our health insurance only paid $75.00 and the rest was our portion. We've heard that dental cleanings here are $15.00 and extractions and fillings are also very reasonable.
Health care was one of the major considerations for our move to Panama. Once Clyde retired from the fire department and the city no longer paid a portion of our health care our monthly premiums would have been around $1000. And since we're not eligible for medicare for many years we would have had to pay that much.
Onto other topics.....our stuff from the US has been on a boat now for over a month. We were told it's expected to arrive in the Port of Panama on October 13th which is this week. So we shall see how long it takes for it to make it's way to our door. We stopped for produce today at a roadside stand. Bought a pineapple, 4 bananas, 4 onions, lettuce, and a tomato all for $2.40. It always makes me smile when we spend so little on such good stuff! Then we went to one of the big grocery stores and while shopping the lights went out. Back in the US when that happened it became a security risk and everyone had to leave the store. Not here. Everyone kept shopping with only the emergency lights on. They eventually came back on and we checked out and came home.
Yesterday I had lunch with Angela, an ex-pat that moved here from Jamaica. She and her daughter are having a house built not far from our house. They lived in Costa Rica for three years before coming to Panama. She like many others found Costa Rica to be way too expensive and they don't offer ex-pats the benefits that they do here in Panama. Also sales tax in Costa Rica is up to 15%. Although Angela speaks only a little Spanish she's never found it to be a problem for her. She said that most people here do understand English but they don't want to speak it to sound stupid, just like we do when we speak Spanish. We had lunch at Buena Vista Restaurant, yes it's owned by the same family that own the clinic that Clyde went to today. I had a huge grilled chicken breast, coleslaw, plantain and a bottle of water for $2.80. The restaurant was big, clean with many choices of food and drink. It's so close to home it just might be our new favorite place to eat.
It's pouring here as we transition into what is supposed to be the most rainy month in Panama. But everyone tells us different stories about the rainy season so I guess we'll just have to wait and see for ourselves. But just like any rainy day here the kids are out playing in it, people are walking, men are working and life goes on as usual. Clyde is in the kitchen getting fish (corvina) ready for dinner.
Today life is quiet here......just working on our Spanish lessons as the rain dances on the tin roof of the house and thunder and lighting can be heard in the distance. It brings a sense of peace and laziness over me as I sit here embraced in the warm wetness of the tropical air.....here along the gringo trail.
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